WTA Finals: Top seeds Aryna Sabalenka and Iga Swiatek thrashed by Paula Badosa and Maria Sakkari


Paula Badosa stunned world number two Aryna Sabalenka 6-4, 6-0 after winning the last 10 games, while Sakkari secured a comfortable 6-2, 6-4 win over Poland’s Swiatek. Badosa was 2-4 down in the first set but the Spaniard withstood Sabalenka’s early power to take the opening set.

The 23-year-old, who lifted the Indian Wells title last month, closed out the match with a bagel in the second set as she celebrated a win under the lights on her WTA Finals debut. Asked how she bounced back from her shaky start, Badosa said, “I said to myself, okay, now you have to be at her level, aggressive because she was being very aggressive…I said, ‘Now you have to change, stop waiting for her miss and go for it and that’s what I did.”

Earlier, Greece’s Sakkari got an early service break to take a 2-1 lead and grabbed the first set when Swiatek sent a forehand into the net when returning a second serve. Swiatek improved in the second set but Sakkari converted her third break point opportunity for a 4-3 lead that looked decisive given Sakkari’s dominant serving.

The Greek won 26 of 27 first-serve points and was never broken in the contest played on the purple court in the high-altitude Mexican City. Before the match point, Swiatek appeared to start crying and after clinching victory Sakkari comforted her at the net with a hug.

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“I saw that she was struggling. It wasn’t a nice thing to see from the other side of the net,” Sakkari said of her 20-year-old opponent, who won last year’s French Open. “She’s a very, very nice girl. We always have great practices and great chats. It was something natural,” she said of the hug.

Sakkari improved to 3-0 against Swiatek, with all of those wins coming this year. The powerful Sakkari is enjoying a breakthrough year, having reached the semi-finals of the French Open and U.S. Open to secure a career-high world ranking of number six. The WTA Finals divides the players into two groups of four to play in a round-robin format, with each player competing in three matches.

The top two from each group will advance to the semi-finals. The WTA Finals were not held last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic and were originally scheduled to take place in Shenzhen before being moved because of pandemic-related travel restrictions in China.

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Sagar Biswas

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