Home Love Compatibility Sabalenka holds off Swiatek in three sets to keep WTA Finals hopes...

Sabalenka holds off Swiatek in three sets to keep WTA Finals hopes alive


GUADALAJARA, Mexico — World No.2 Aryna Sabalenka kept her hopes alive to qualify for the semifinals at the Akron WTA Finals Guadalajara, mounting an inspired comeback to defeat No.5 seed Iga Swiatek 2-6, 6-2, 7-5.

The win moves Sabalenka to 1-1 in the Chichén Itzá group and eliminated Swiatek’s chances to advance. Sabalenka will face No.4 seed Maria Sakkari in the final round-robin match Monday, with the winner joining group winner Paula Badosa in the semifinals.

In the first meeting between the two tournament debutantes, both women came into Saturday night’s encounter with hopes of putting aside their disappointing opening matches. On Thursday, Swiatek lost her third match of the season to No.4 Maria Sakkari, 6-2, 6-4, while Sabalenka dropped 10 consecutive games to lose 6-2, 6-0 against No.7 seed Paula Badosa.

Tale of the match: Sabalenka and Swiatek held five straight times in the opening set before either player saw her first break point. That came as Sabalenka served at 2-3 and played a disastrous game to get broken at love. The Belarusian opened with an overhead miss and a double fault. Swiatek then earned triple-break point with a strong second serve return and then Sabalenka struck her second double fault of the game to fall behind 4-2.

With Sabalenka struggling to find her range, Swiatek stayed steady to reel off the last four games of the set. While Sabalenka served at just 42%, Swiatek won 79% of her second-serve return points in the first set, punctuated by a second break to seal the set in 34 minutes.

Turning point: Serving at 1-2 in the second set, Sabalenka connected on a crisp 1-2 punch on her opening point, pounding a forehand winner that seemed to settle the top seed. After holding to 2-2, she began to engage with the otherwise non-partisan crowd, and as the boisterous crowd rallied around her, Sabalenka’s game quickly elevated.

After serving well under 50% in the first set, Sabalenka served at 62% in the second set, losing just two points behind her first serve. Off the ground, she successfully pushed Swiatek well behind the baseline to defend, opening up the angles as her powerful shots landed more consistently.

Riding the momentum along with the crowd, Sabalenka broke Swiatek twice to build a run of her own. Serving to close out the set, Sabalenka gamely faced down three break points, acing Swiatek on two of the three to seal the set, running off the last five games to force the match into a decider.

How the match was won: Sabalenka continued her surge early in the third set, breaking Swiatek with a big forehand winner to lead 2-1. But the lead was short-lived, as Swiatek broke back immediately to level at 2-2.

Sabalenka and Swiatek proceeded to coolly exchange holds over the next six games. Serving at 4-5, Sabalenka found herself two points from the loss, but served her way out of a 30-all jam with a kicking second serve that Swiatek could not control and then an eighth ace on the night to level the match at 5-5.

After surviving a tight service game, Sabalenka earned a 0-30 lead in her next return game and broke Swiatek when the Pole misfired on back-to-back forehands from deuce. With a 6-5 lead, Sabalenka served out the win in a thrilling 2 hours and 17 minutes.

More to follow …


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