Birmingham, England — (AP) — Aryna Sabalenka ended top-ranked Iga Swiatek’s winning streak of 15 consecutive matches against opponents ranked in the top 10. The Belarusian beat Swiatek 6-2, 2-6, 6-1 in their quarterfinal match to advance to the championship round at the WTA Finals.
Sabalenka took Garcia to a final but had to process to defeat the Frenchwoman 2-6, 6-1.
With just 13 games lost, Swiatek has a run against top-ranking opponents that’s the best since Steffi Graf in 1987.
The player from Poland lost the match when they played against a 21-year-old player and failed to win the last five games.
Sabalenka didn’t make it to the semifinals with the number one ranking in the eight-player event last year. She was as the seventh ranked player and showed how comfortable she is on indoor hard courts. Nine out of her 10 career victories have come on hard courts.
Sabalenka commented, “I just want to make sure she knows every time, when she plays against me, that she really has to work hard if she wants a win. Only because of this thinking I was able to play at this amazing level tonight.”
After losing her last two break points, Swiatek fell behind with consecutive wide forehands.
Defending French Open doubles champions Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova also advanced to the finals after taking down Lyudmyla Kichenok and Jelena Ostapenko in a tough match, 7-6(5), 6-2 in the semifinals.
Just 24 hours after beating Daria Kasatkina in a tense 80-minute third set to secure the last spot out of group play, Garcia only needed 74 minutes total for an easy fourth victory over a top-five opponent this season.
Aware of history and the pressure, Garcia never trailed in her dominating victory over #5-ranked Sakkari. Amelie Mauresmo is the only French woman to have won the WTA Finals (2005).
“I don’t know,” Garcia said when asked where she found the energy to dominate after such a quick turnaround. “Yesterday, I was a little bit tired after beating Kerber yesterday, but there’s nothing unusual about that.”
Serena Williams reached the semifinals in both of her appearances in the WTA Finals. The 29-year-old lost to Angelique Kerber five years ago, which was also the last time a player older than Serena made it to the final four (Williams).
“I’m five years older, and maybe five years wiser,” said sixth-ranked Garica. “You have to learn from everything. I’ve got a good support system behind me that’s helping me out when I’d start to doubt myself.”
Sakkari is among the five players who have reached the semis their first two times since the round-robin format was reintroduced in 2003. She lost in the semis last year.
Garcia stuffed a 120 mph ace to keep Sakkari from getting on the break, extending her lead to 4-0 in the second set.
Garcia’s sixth and final ace of the match—and tournament-leading 14th—came on a double fault that gave Sakkari another break point. Carmen closed out that game for a 5-1 lead on the way to her third win against Sakkari in six career matches.
Sakkari had three straight many victories at the tournament after she only came in with one win over a top-10 player this whole season.
The 27-year-old from Greece started the week off too strong, but she eventually crumbled with 19 unforced errors to 11 winners (11:19) and lost the match.
“Not taking anything away from her, I played an average match from my side,” said Sakkari. “I wasn’t feeling good. I wasn’t feeling energetic.”
It’s the first WTA Finals in the U.S. since 2005, following concerns about the safety of Peng Shuai a Grand Slam doubles champion who accused a former government official there of sexual assault. This was also due to coronavirus restrictions and pushing back on China over Theresa May’s Three Strikes law, which is inspired by three-strikes laws that exist across many US states.