Second-ranked Iga Swiatek defeated world number one Aryna Sabalenka 6-3, 6-2 on Sunday to reach the WTA Finals title match, where she will face unbeaten Jessica Pegula.
By knocking off the Australian Open champion, Sviatek denied Sabalenka a victory that would have clinched the top of the year-end rankings for the 25-year-old from Belarus.
Conversely, reigning French Open champion Swiatek of Poland can claim the year-end world number one for the second straight season by defeating American Pegula in Monday’s championship match.
“I feel like it’s still a long way off because I feel like tomorrow’s race will be the hardest,” Swiatek said. “We can talk about it tomorrow after the game. I’ll just keep doing what I’ve been doing.”
Sabalenka overtook Swiatek for the top spot two months ago, but would only retain it if Pegula wins.
Pegula beat compatriot Coco Gauff 6-2, 6-1 in an hour on Saturday to reach the WTA Finals championship match, extending her overall winning streak to nine matches.
Swiatek holds a 5-3 career lead over Pegula in their rivalry, but the American has won two of their three meetings this year, in the United Cup and an August semi-final on the hard courts of Montreal. Swiatek beat Pegula in this year’s final in Doha.
“I can’t really tell you the keys to tomorrow,” Swiatek said. “I’ll work on it.”
The final was postponed until Monday because of rain that marred the week’s schedule on the outdoor courts in Cancun, Mexico — including stopping Swiatek and Sabalenka in just three games in their semifinal Saturday night.
Swiatek led 2-1 on serve when play resumed on Sunday and the Pole grabbed the only break of the first set.
Swiatek broke early in the second set and broke again for 5-2 with an overhead smash, then held serve to win on her first match point with a service winner.
Sabalenka had defeated Swiatek in last year’s WTA Finals semifinal and had split two previous meetings this year, both on clay.
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