Sabalenka downs Rybakina to reach WTA semifinals
World number one Aryna Sabalenka beat Elena Rybakina 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 in a rain-affected group match on Friday to reach the -reach the finals of the WTA finals.
The Belarusian, who finished second in her group behind American Jessica Pegula, maintained her bid for year-end number one on the track with a victory that took two days to complete.
She had won the first set but was trailing in the second when play was stopped on Thursday night after several rain delays.
About 16 hours later, she and Rybakina returned to the outdoor hard courts in Cancun, where fourth-ranked Rybakina of Kazakhstan calmly cruised out the second set to clinch the match. balance in a few minutes.
Australian Open champion Sabalenka dug deep to stop Rybakina’s move in the opening game of the third set, surviving nine deuces and two break points to hold serve.
She used a pair of vicious forehands to break Rybakina in the fourth game.
If Sabalenka wins her semi-final match on Saturday, she is guaranteed to finish the year at number one.
If she falls, she will open the door to Poland’s Iga Swiatek – who topped the rankings for 75 weeks but fell from the top after the US Open.
Swiatek, 2-0 in group play, faced Tunisian Ons Jabeur later in her final group game, but was already assured of a place in the semi-finals.
With a win by Jabeur, Tunisia would see the group and Swiatek advance in second place.
US Open champion Gauff, who closed out group play with a 5-7, 7-6 (7/4), 6-3 win over Wimbledon winner Marketa Vondrousova in another water-damaged match, could still advance with Swiatek’s victory over Jabeur.
In windy conditions, Vondrousova won 12 of the first 13 points and broke twice for a 3-0 lead before Gauff rallied to 3-3.
They traded breaks over the next four games to 5-5 before rain stopped the game. When they resumed, Gauff conceded a break on a double fault before her Czech rival sealed the first set with a dominant overhead.
After being broken to start the second set, Gauff moved to a 4-1 edge. But Vondrousova fought back to 5-5 and they exchanged breaks to reach the tiebreaker.
Gauff’s aggressive approach paid off in the tiebreaker and she continued in the third set, breaking Vondrousova at love for a 3-2 lead and cruising to victory.