EDITOR'S NOTE: Garbine Muguruza has advanced to the final round of the WTA Finals with a 6-3, 6-3 win over Paula Badosa. Watch the match point below, and stay tuned for Steve Tignor's report on the result.
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Semifinal Preview, WTA Finals: Kontaveit and Sakkari to meet for 12th time, with a title match against Muguruza on the line
Published Nov 16, 2021
Garbiñe Muguruza vs. Paula Badosa
This will be the first meeting between Spain’s top two women players, and it will happen in a propitious location. Not in Spain, but in what has felt like the closest thing to it this week. Badosa and Muguruza have been the crowd favorites in Guadalajara; Muguruza in particular has ridden the wave of raucous support she has received in her last two night-session victories, over Barbora Krejcikova and Anett Kontaveit, two players she had lost to recently. The fans seemed to re-inject some of the belief that Muguruza had been lacking in her last couple of events, in Indian Wells and Moscow. Badosa, by contrast, hasn’t needed any help in the belief department of late. Champion in Indian Wells, she has won her last eight matches, and hasn’t dropped a set in her wins over Aryna Sabalenka and Maria Sakkari this week.
Muguruza, 28, has long been at the top of Spain’s WTA heap. But with her stellar 2021, the 24-year-old Badosa looks poised to challenge her for that spot, and for major titles, in 2022. A win for Muguruza on Tuesday will postpone that changing of the guard for another day; a win for Badosa may make it feel a little more inevitable. Muguruza is still the bigger hitter of the two, and for now her game would seem to have the higher ceiling. But Badosa is the better mover and defender, and the more consistent competitor at the moment. Muguruza has looked rejuvenated in her last two matches, and I’d guess she’ll have the crowd on her side again. But Badosa looks too dialed in to let it bother her. Winner: Badosa
Maria Sakkari vs. Anett Kontaveit
The Greek and the Estonian know each other remarkably well. Since 2016, they’ve played 11 times, and have split those meetings almost evenly. Sakkari currently leads 6-5, but the balance of power between them has shifted back and forth with virtually every match they’ve played. In 2021 alone, they’ve already met three times. Sakkari won in Madrid and at the Olympics; Kontaveit won their most recent showdown, in the Ostrava final in September. That tournament marked the beginning of Kontaveit’s drive down the stretch, which has netted her three titles, her first spot in the WTA Finals, and a 12-match win streak that came to an end on Sunday night against Garbiñe Muguruza. Not that Kontaveit minded all that much; by then she had clinched a place in the semifinals.
So who will have the edge when Sakkari and Kontaveit meet for a 12th time? From a stamina perspective, it’s probably Kontaveit. She’ll be coming in with a day of rest, while Sakkari will be playing roughly 24 hours after fending off Aryna Sabalenka in three long and exceptionally hard-fought sets on Monday night. What Sakkari gives up in physical readiness, though, she may make up for in momentum. Right now Kontaveit is the steadier, more solid, and probably more confident competitor, while Sakkari is the one who can best harness the crowd’s energy, which has been a factor in a number of matches this week. Sakkari came to fight last night, and it’s a safe bet she will again tonight. Winner: Sakkari