HIGHLIGHTS: Badosa roars past Sabalenka

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Saturday’s matchups at the WTA Finals offer up a pair of first-time meetings in Guadalajara.

In the day session, No. 4 seed Maria Sakkari and No. 7 seed Paula Badosa will jostle to take control of Group Chichén Itzá. At night, top seed Aryna Sabalenka and No. 5 seed Iga Swiatek hope to avoid potential elimination having dropped their openers.

Sakkari and Badosa rolled on their event debuts Thursday—the Greek moving to 3-0 against Swiatek with a 6-4, 6-2 victory and Badosa improving to 2-0 over Sabalenka after claiming the final 10 games of their clash for a 6-4 6-0 win.

“I think finding the right way of serving here, it's probably the key,” Sakkari assessed after enjoying a 26 for 27 success rate on her first serve.

While Sakkari owns a WTA-leading eight Top 10 wins this season, Badosa has stepped up to the challenge when facing higher-ranked opponents by compiling a 19-8 mark. She is on a seven-match win streak dating back to her maiden 1000 triumph at Indian Wells.

“Now I have another tough one. I'm ready for it,” Badosa said. “I'm enjoying on and off court. As you can see, guys, I'm working really hard.”

Both Badosa and Sakkari are bidding to become the first players from their respective countries to lift the singles crown at this event.

Both Badosa and Sakkari are bidding to become the first players from their respective countries to lift the singles crown at this event.

If Sakkari defeats the Spaniard, a win from Swiatek in the evening would clinch the group for her. But if she loses and Sabalenka gets into the win column tonight, the group belongs to Badosa.

Sabalenka is hoping to halt a recent event trend. In three of the past five editions of the season finale, the No. 1 seed has failed to advance out of the round-robin stage. The world No. 2 has plenty of areas she can clean up: against Badosa, she went just one for seven on break points, hit eight double faults after making just 41 percent of her first serves and finished with a -16 differential (31 unforced errors). “Hopefully I can bring myself back,” Sabalenka said.

Likewise, Swiatek will also look to shake off her opening performance. The 20-year-old sprayed 29 unforced errors and went away mentally against Sakkari, admitting afterwards, “I was really stressed and it was hard for me to maybe understand because I was playing pretty well in my practices. When I got broken in the first set, [my] vibe on court totally changed.”

Of note, Sabalenka has gone three sets on 22 occasions this year (9-13), while Swiatek has been involved in just nine deciders (5-4).