Seventh seed Aryna Sabalenka beat third seed Jessica Pegula 6-3 7-5 in a thrilling
upset at the WTA Finals in Fort Worth on Friday night. The win for Sabalenka means
the 24-year-old remains in contention – along with second seed Ons Jabeur – for the
last qualifying spot in the Nancy Richey Group.
Any other result – a Sakkari victory or Jabeur winning in three sets – sees Sabalenka
through for the first time.
Fifth seed Sakkari, 27, is already assured of progressing as group winner.
The season-ending event sees the world’s eight best players this season split into two
groups of four.
After the round-robin matches, the top two in each group move through to Sunday’s
French sixth seed Caroline Garcia and Russian eighth seed Daria Kasatkina meet on
Saturday, with the winner finishing runner-up in the other group and playing Sakkari
in the last four.
Poland‘s world number one Iga Swiatek has already won that group and faces
Sabalenka or Jabeur.
Sabalenka produced three double faults as she tried to serve out the match against
Pegula at 5-4 in the second set, but recovered to hold for love at the next attempt and
clinched victory when the winless American was unable to hold her serve.
The WTA Finals is taking place in Fort Worth, Texas, after the event was moved from
usual host city Shenzhen, in China, for the second successive year.
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In December last year, the women’s governing body announced the immediate
suspension of all tournaments in China amid concern for Chinese tennis player Peng
Peng, 36, disappeared from public view for three weeks after accusing a top Chinese
official of sexual assault.