Aryna Sabalenka outlasted Elena Rybakina 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 to reach the WTA Finals last four in a win-or-bust group match on Friday that was halted on Thursday due to stormy weather in Cancun.
Under bright sunshine but still unrelenting winds, world number one Sabalenka unleashed an ace out wide on match point to send fourth seed Rybakina packing from the year-end tournament.
“I didn’t really think a lot about this match,” Sabalenka told Tennis Channel. “I was just like, whatever. I’m going to go out there and do everything I can and if I win, I win and if I lose, I go home on vacation,” she said with a laugh.
“I was just trying to play as good as I can.”
Belarusian Sabalenka joins American group winner Jessica Pegula in the semi-finals of the event between the world’s top eight players. Kazakhstan’s Rybakina and eighth-seeded Greek Maria Sakkari were eliminated from the group stage.
In the first match of the other four-player group, Coco Gauff came from a set and 5-6 down to eliminate Marketa Vondrousova and reach the doorstep of the semis.
The U.S. Open champion shook off her dispiriting straight sets loss to Iga Swiatek on Wednesday and showed great heart to turn the tables on Wimbledon champion Vondrousova amid pauses in play due to rain and swirling winds.
With the Czech serving for the match, the American teenager dug deep, walloping a forehand at the net to break serve and send the second set to a tiebreak that she won with conviction.
In the decider Gauff, seeded third, broke Vondrousova at love for a 3-2 lead she would not relinquish, pumping her fist and letting out a scream when her opponent’s forehand sailed long on match point.
Second-seed Swiatek breezed past Tunisian Ons Jabeur 6-1, 6-2 in the final match of the night, finishing 3-0 in the round-robin stage. The 22-year-old Pole will next face Sabalenka in the semis.
“I wanted to thank all the fans for coming. The conditions are so tough that without you, I don’t know if we’d find the motivation to play,” Swiatek said after the match.
“I know these games aren’t the most beautiful, but we’re really trying our best to give you guys the best show possible. Thank you for coming and please come tomorrow and for the final as well.”
Sabalenka and Swiatek are in contention for the year-end number-one singles ranking. The Australian Open champion overtook the four-time major winner Swiatek and captured the top spot after the U.S. Open.
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