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Maria Sakkari advances to semis at WTA Finals

Sportsnaut
Nov 2, 2022; Forth Worth, TX, USA; Maria Sakkari (GRE) returns a shot during her match against Aryna Sabalenka (BLR) on day three of the WTA Finals at Dickies Arena. Mandatory Credit: Susan Mullane-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Susan Mullane-USA TODAY Sports

A year after becoming the first Greek player ever to reach the knockout stage of the WTA Finals, fifth-seeded Maria Sakkari did it again on Wednesday, beating seventh-seeded Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus 6-2, 6-4 in Fort Worth, Texas.

The match was the second for both players in the Nancy Richey Group after each won her opener.

The other Wednesday match featured two players who had dropped their initial match in the Nancy Richey Group. Second-seeded Ons Jabeur of Tunisia rallied past third-seeded Jessica Pegula of the United States 1-6, 6-3, 6-3.

Sabalenka and Pegula will square off on Friday, as will Sakkari and Jabeur. Sabalenka, Jabeur and Pegula all still have a chance of joining Sakkari in the semifinals.

Sakkari came through in the big moments against Sabalenka, winning five of her seven break opportunities and saving five of Sabalenka’s seven break points.

The season’s eight top players were divided into the Nancy Richey Group and the Tracy Austin Group for round-robin play. The winner of each group will play the runner-up from the opposite group in the semifinals Sunday, with the victor in those two matches heading to the final on Monday.

The prize pool is $5 million, and an unbeaten champion would earn $1.68 million.

Jabeur lost the last six games of the first set against Pegula and dropped a break in the fourth game of the second. However, the Wimbledon and U.S. Open finalist took the last four games of the middle set to pull even.

In the third set, neither player broke serve until Jabeur broke at love to take a 5-3 lead. She served out the match in the following game.

“After the first set, she was playing really well and really fast,” Jabeur said on Tennis Channel. “The balls were tough, very low — I know she likes to play the balls like that. And I just had to find that click to just change up the rhythm and impose my game.”

Jabeur said in a press conference of her chances in the event, “You never know. I lost my first match, and now I’m back in the game. One more match left. It’s tricky and everyone’s trying to give 100 percent. You don’t have many opportunities, so you really have to focus.”

The Tracy Austin Group resumes action on Thursday. No. 1 Iga Swiatek of Poland will face No. 6 Caroline Garcia of France in a matchup of 1-0 players, and No. 4 Coco Gauff of the United States will oppose Daria Kasatkina of Russia in a matchup of 0-1 players.

WTA Finals group standings
Nancy Richey Group
1. Maria Sakkari, 2-0
T2. Aryna Sabalenka, 1-1
T2. Ons Jabeur, 1-1
4. Jessica Pegula, 0-2
Tracy Austin Group
T1. Iga Swiatek, 1-0
T1. Caroline Garcia, 1-0
T3. Coco Gauff, 0-1
T3. Daria Kasatkina, 0-1

–Field Level Media