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Iga Swiatek sinks Aryna Sabalenka to reach WTA Finals final

Swiatek sinks Sabalenka to reach WTA Finals final
© Reuters
Iga Swiatek sets up a WTA Finals Championship match with a 6-3 6-2 win over world number one Aryna Sabalenka in Sunday's rain-affected semi-final.

Iga Swiatek will battle for glory against Jessica Pegula in the showpiece match of the WTA Finals courtesy of a straightforward semi-final win over Aryna Sabalenka on Sunday.

The world number two - who will usurp Sabalenka at the top of the rankings and finish as the year-end number one with victory over Pegula - prevailed 6-3 6-2 after a lengthy rain delay to reach the final in Cancun for the very first time.

Amid widespread criticism of the WTA's choice of location for the year-end Championships, play was suspended after just three games as another downpour began, forcing the duo to reconvene a day later than planned.

The hiatus did Swiatek the world of good, as she roared to the first break of the match in the fourth game and beat away a break-back point for Sabalenka to hold for a 4-1 lead, before missing the opportunity for a double break herself.

A pair of love holds would see the Pole take the opener with consummate ease, though, and after unrelenting pressure on the Sabalenka serve in the third game of the second, the French Open champion moved a set and a break up.

Winning 86% of points behind her first serve, Swiatek kept Sabalenka at arm's length from thereon in, and the writing was on the wall for the world number one when she lost her serve again in the seventh game.

Jessica Pegula in action at the Washington Open on August 1, 2022© Reuters

Serving for a place in the Championship match, Swiatek's powerful serve on match point was met with a tired forehand from Sabalenka, who netted for the final time to send the 22-year-old through to the final.

Swiatek now has six wins to show from her nine top-level meetings with Sabalenka, gaining revenge for losing to the Belarusian in the 2022 semi-finals, but she admitted that the year-end number one ranking still feels "a long way away".

"It hasn't been easy during the whole week so I'm happy that today I could get even better and for sure it was tough even though it says 6-3, 6-2. Every point was important and every game was tight," Swiatek told the media after the match.

"I feel like it's still a long way away because I feel like tomorrow's match will be the toughest one. We can talk about it tomorrow after the match. I'm just going to continue doing what I've been doing in [recent] days."

Standing in the 22-year-old's way of a maiden WTA Finals crown is an in-form Pegula, who followed up group-stage wins over Sabalenka, Elena Rybakina and Maria Sakkari with a 6-2 6-1 beating of US Open winner Coco Gauff.

The American could now become the first WTA Finals competitor to defeat all of the four top-ranked players in one tournament, and she overcame Swiatek during their most recent contest in this year's Canadian Open semi-finals.

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Poland's Iga Swiatek and Russia's Liudmila Samsonova pose with the trophies after the Women's Singles final match on October 8, 2023
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