On Friday, world number one Aryna Sabalenka defeated Kazakhstan’s Elena Rybakina (No. 4) 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 to qualify for the semi-finals of the WTA tournament in Cancun, Mexico. Thus, the Belarusian player, who finished second in her group behind American Jessica Pegula, maintains her chances of maintaining her lead as world number one at the end of a match that was stopped on Thursday due to rain while she was trailing in the second group.
When the match resumed, about 16 hours later, Rybakina equalized a set before Sabalenka won the third set and the match. Then, Swiatek, ranked second in the world, defeated Ons Jabeur (No. 7) 6-1, 6-2 in just 67 minutes to finish top of his group with a perfect score of 3-0.
Goff-Pegula in the other half
Defending US Open champion Coco Gauff finished her group matches with a 5-7, 7-6 (7/4), 6-3 win over Wimbledon winner Marketa Vondrousova to advance to the semi-finals – with her place secured after Swiatek’s victory. Gauff will face her compatriot Pegula in the semi-finals, but it is the confrontation between Sabalenka and Swiatek that will be in the spotlight.
If Sabalenka wins, she will end the year as world No. 1, but a defeat would open up the possibility of Swiatek reclaiming the throne, which she had already held for 75 weeks leading up to the US Open. This is a rematch of last year’s semifinal in Fort Worth, Texas, where Sabalenka won 6-2, 2-6, 6-1.
The two players tied after their two confrontations this season, both on clay courts. Swiatek, the defending French Open champion, won the final in Stuttgart, while Sabalenka won in Madrid.
The showdown between Gauff and Pegula will be the first semifinal between two All-Americans at the event, which brings together the season’s top eight players, since the reintroduction of a two-group-of-four format in 2003.
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