Aryna Sabalenka stunned Iga Swiatek in the last four of the WTA Finals in Fort Worth, beating the top seed in three intriguing sets.
It was a topsy-turvy encounter, with Sabalenka taking the opening set 6-2 with some fierce baseline hitting, stifling the Pole's ability to get a decent foothold in the rallies. But Swiatek is the runaway World No. 1 for a reason, and the three-time Grand Slam champion responded in typical style in the second stanza, flipping the scoreline from the first to win it 6-2.
But it was the Belarusian who rose to the occasion in the final set, returning to the aggressive power hitting she'd implemented at the start of the match and ultimately accelerating away from Swiatek to take the third set 6-1. With it, came the match and a debut appearance in the championship match at the WTA Finals.
Speaking after the match, Sabalenka said, "Overall, I was really calm on the court. The mindset was just I wanted to make her work for it. I didn't want to give her another easy win like she got [in the] first three wins. That's the mindset I had during this match. I think that's why I wasn't really going for all those winners, all those aces, but I think because of the mindset, I made it a lot".
Prior to this match, Swiatek had won all four of their meetings this year, something that Sabalenka was more than aware of.
"I gave her a lot of easy matches this season, and I think that’s enough for her,” she said. “I wanted to make sure that, every time she plays against me, she knows she has to work hard to get a win. It was only because of this thinking that I was able to play such an amazing level tonight".
Sabalenka will face World No. 6 Caroline Garcia in tonight's final, a match that is guaranteed to produce a first-time WTA Finals champion.