WTA Finals Daily Preview: Sabalenka and Swiatek Fight for the No.1 Ranking - UBITENNIS
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WTA Finals Daily Preview: Sabalenka and Swiatek Fight for the No.1 Ranking

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Iga Swiatek on Friday in Cancun (twitter.com/wta)

It’s Semifinal Saturday in Cancun, with the year-end World No.1 ranking on the line.

The semifinalists are four of the top five players in the world, and three of the four Major singles champions of 2023.  The first semifinal is a battle between close friends and doubles partners: Jessica Pegula and Coco Gauff

The second semifinal is one of the biggest WTA matches of the year, between the year’s two best players: Aryna Sabalenka and Iga Swiatek.  If Sabalenka wins, she secures the year-end World No.1 ranking.  If Swiatek wins, and also goes on to win Sunday’s final, she’ll end the season as No.1 for the second straight year.  It’s a huge day of tennis on Saturday in Cancun.


Jessica Pegula (5) vs. Coco Gauff (3) – Not Before 5:00pm local time

It will be a very busy day for both Pegula and Gauff, as they’re also still alive in doubles, and are yet to finish their last round-robin match.  And based on that result, they could advance to the semifinals in doubles, which will also be played on Saturday.

A year after both Jess and Coco each went 0-6 between singles and doubles at this event, they’ve completely turned things around in 2023.  Pegula went 3-0 in singles round-robin play, taking all six sets she played.  Gauff went 2-1, coming back from a set down on Friday night against Marketa Vondrousova to clinch her semifinal spot.

Pegula leads their head-to-head 2-1 overall, and 2-0 on hard courts.  Gauff’s only victory came earlier this season on grass in Eastbourne.  They played an extremely tight contest this summer in Montreal, with Jess prevailing 7-5 in the third, making her the only player to defeat Coco this summer on a hard court. 

Based on their history, as well as their form this week, Pegula should be favored to advance to Sunday’s final.  Her victories this week over Sabalenka, Rybakina, and Sakkari were clinical, while Gauff’s serve has broken down significantly in the windy conditions.


Aryna Sabalenka (1) vs. Iga Swiatek (2) – Not Before 6:15pm local time

Much like Pegula, Swiatek swept through round-robin play with a 3-0 record, and a 6-0 record in sets.  Sabalenka crushed Maria Sakkari in her first match, then lost to Pegula before outlasting Rybakina in three. 

Sabalenka is 55-13 on the year, compared to Swiatek’s record of 66-11.  But despite winning 11 more matches, Iga trails Aryna by 630 points in the rankings, as Sabalenka performed extremely well at the Majors.  That means Swiatek must win this event to overtake Sabalenka as the year-end No.1.

Swiatek leads their head-to-head 5-3 overall, but they are 2-2 on hard courts.  And Sabalenka’s two hard court triumphs came in the past two years in this tournament, with Aryna winning in three sets each time.  They split two meetings this year, though they were both on clay.  Their highest-profile encounter was in the 2022 US Open semifinals, where Iga came back from a set down to prevail 6-4 in the third.

With so much on the line in this semifinal, I give Swiatek the slight edge.  She’s been the much more consistent player this week amid tough conditions in Cancun.  Plus, being the World No.1 is still rather new territory for Sabalenka, so she’ll surely be nervous as she tries to defend her ranking against the former No.1.


Saturday’s full Order of Play for the WTA Finals is here.

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Stefanos Tsitsipas Saves Two Match Points To Extend Winning Streak In Barcelona

Stefanos Tsitsipas survived a scare to reach the Barcelona semi-finals.

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Stefanos Tsitsipas saved two match points to defeat Facundo Diaz Acosta 4-6 6-3 7-6(8) in Barcelona.

The former finalist saved two match points against the inspired Argentinian as Tsitsipas reached the semi-finals.

It means Tsitsipas is 9-0 in the clay court season and has the chance to set up a potential rematch with Casper Ruud in the final.

The duo met in last week’s Monte-Carlo final where Tsitsipas claimed his third title in Monaco.

Speaking after the match Tsitsipas admitted it was difficult to sustain his level, “I was coming close [to losing] at certain moments in the match. It seemed like a mountain,” Tsitsipas stated to the ATP website.

“I reminded myself that I have a headband that I wear here that has a mountain and that I need to climb it, so it kept me going. It was difficult. It was extremely difficult to sustain the same level throughout the entire match and I think he played incredible.

“I think he left everything out there. He is a good clay-court player. He has a title on the ATP Tour for a reason and today it was a level he was able to bring out on the court that made it quite obvious.

“I got a little bit tense on my serve, I won’t lie. I think I started decelerating a lot, but once I got a hold of that I was conscious of that, it went back to where it belonged and helped me a lot in the tie-breaker because if I didn’t figure it out, I don’t know. It was very mental in general. I really had to go to uncomfortable places mentally and go over the limit at some point.”

Tsitsipas is currently seven in the world in the live rankings as the Greek is looking to claim his first title in Barcelona.

Next up for the Greek will be either Dusan Lajovic or Arthur Fils while Tomas Martin Etcheverry takes on Casper Ruud in the other semi-final.

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Elena Rybakina Looking To Adapt To Clay, Reaches Stuttgart Semi-Finals

Elena Rybakina has admitted it takes time to adapt to clay as she prepares for the semi-finals in Stuttgart.

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Elena Rybakina is into the semi-finals in Stuttgart after a 6-3 5-7 6-3 win over Jasmine Paolini.

After surviving a three set match against Veronika Kudermetova in her first round, Rybakina continued to struggle on the clay against the Italian.

However the former Wimbledon champion produced some big tennis in vital moments in order to reach the last four in Germany.

Although she has had success in the past on the clay, Rybakina knows that it will take time for her to adapt on the surface.

Speaking after her win over Kudermetova Rybakina explained the reasons why it is difficult to have immediate success on clay, “Well, I always believed that I can play good on clay. My first win on the WTA was on clay,” Rybakina was quoted by tennis365 as saying.

“It’s just the season is quite short, and of course me, for example, I need a bit more time to get used, to adapt, to play some matches. But overall I think that I can play well on all the surfaces. Last year it was a great tournament in Rome, and then the French Open, I actually feel also well there.

“I like the courts. It’s just I was unlucky with sickness, so I think I’m doing pretty well for now. I like a faster surface, and I think in Madrid it’s quite fast. For now I was not successful there, but I think that’s a great tournament for me.

“Rome was nice. As I said, French Open, I like the courts. It’s just the question of good preparation and being healthy. And then it all depends on you and of course on the opponent.”

Last year Rybakina claimed the title in Rome and was one of the favourites for Roland Garros.

However the Kazakh had to withdraw in the third round due to illness which hampered her progress throughout the season.

Now Rybakina will look to make amends for that as she is into the semi-finals in Stuttgart where she will play either defending champion Iga Swiatek or Emma Raducanu.

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Rafael Nadal Takes Positives From Barcelona Exit Against Alex De Minaur

Rafael Nadal exited the tournament in Barcelona in the second round to Alex De Minaur.

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Rafael Nadal believes that he can be competitive for Roland Garros despite his 7-5 6-1 defeat to Alex De Minaur in Barcelona.

The 12-time champion suffered a straight sets defeat to the in-form Australian in the second round.

There was a valiant comeback from Nadal in the opening set as he recovered from a break down to get back onto level terms.

However De Minaur was too strong for Nadal as the world number eleven won nine of the last ten games to set up a third round meeting with Daniel Altmaier or Arthur Fils.

After the match Nadal congratulated De Minaur on the victory and analysed his own performance, “I mean Alex is a great player but honestly no, in terms of tennis today he’s in better shape than me so he is playing at a really high level since the beginning of the season, I think he made a really important step forward in his level of tennis,” Nadal told reporters in Barcelona.

“So just happy for him and congratulate him for the level he played today. And I think I was able to show myself most important to show the world and show myself when I was really trying and showed a high percentage of intensity, my level was there to compete.

“And I didn’t practice a lot so that encourages me to keep going and tells me that if I spend the day on the tour and keep practicing with the players on this surface, I really hope and really believe that I can keep being competitive and my body will allow me to push the way that I know.”

The defeat to De Minaur was Nadal’s third match all season having struggled with injury with the Spaniard hinting this could be his last time playing in Barcelona.

Despite the loss Nadal admits he feels happier and more comfortable than he did a couple of weeks ago, “I feel much more comfortable and much more happier today than one week and a half ago,” Nadal explained.

“I managed to play two matches, playing against great players and I mean when I was able to play I was not very far without a doubt. And I feel myself that if I’m able to keep practicing days on the tour and if my body allows me to spend hours on court and have the practices the way that I need.”

Now the next goal for Nadal is to try to reclaim his Roland Garros title, a tournament he has won on 14 different occasions.

As for Roland Garros Nadal just hopes he can be competitive for the second Grand Slam of the season as he intensifies his preparations over the next few weeks, “I hope to be competitive, that’s the truth and I hope and believe that I can be competitive in a few weeks,” Nadal stated.

“That’s the way I need to perceive today and my final goal is to give myself a chance to be realistically competing at Roland Garros. In my tennis career I was able to compete at the highest level at every single tournament, trying to win tournaments and I was not able to do it today.

“But I hope to be ready in a few weeks.”

Before Roland Garros, Nadal will hope to play in Madrid which starts on the 25th of April.

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