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WTA Finals Previews: Caroline Garcia vs. Maria Sakkari; Iga Swiatek vs. Aryna Sabalenka
With round robin in the rearview, world No. 1 Iga Swiatek and Maria Sakkari aim to maintain their unbeaten runs against two in-form challengers in the semifinals.
Published Nov 06, 2022
WATCH: Swiatek clinched her 3-0 round-robin record against Coco Gauff on Saturday.
Caroline Garcia vs. Maria Sakkari
At the beginning of this tournament, I wondered if Sakkari was the WTA equivalent of the Philadelphia Phillies, the baseball team that snuck into the playoffs at the last minute and nearly ended up running the table and winning the whole thing. The Phillies’ improbable run came to an end on on Saturday night in Houston, but Sakkari is very much alive a few hundred miles to the northwest in Fort Worth. So far she has also run the table, winning each of her round-robin matches in straight sets. That includes a 6-2, 6-3 victory over world No. 2 Ons Jabeur on Friday.
If Sakkari is going to continue her positive run in the semis, she’ll have to reverse a negative one: She’s 0-2 against Garcia. The second of those defeats came in three sets in Cincinnati in August, when Garcia was in the midst of her own hot streak. This week the Spanish woman has been more up and down; she lost badly to Iga Swiatek, but then turned her form around in time to edge Daria Kasatkina, 7-6 in the third set, in the match that sent her into the semis.
All of which means it’s hard to say who has more momentum right now. Is it the player who is 3-0, or the player who survived a winner-take-all round-robin match by the skin of her teeth? I’ll say Sakkari, because she has looked a little better with each win so far.
Iga Swiatek vs. Aryna Sabalenka
We have some bad news and some good news for you, Aryna. Let’s get the bad out of the way first, because it’s pretty bad: You’re 0-4 against Swiatek this year; three of those losses were in straight sets; and in the one that wasn’t, at the US Open, you gave away a third-set lead.
Is there any good news that can compete with that? Probably not. But: You did take that set in New York, and you basically played evenly with Iga over the course of an important match; second, you recorded your lone win over Swiatek at this tournament, 12 months ago, 7-5 in the third set; maybe most important, you’ve already pulled off one upset this week, over Ons Jabeur, in another close match.
After a slow start to 2022, Sabalenka must feel like she’s getting closer to Swiatek’s level. She’s one of the few players who can trade offensive ground strokes with her, and even overpower her. The problem is, we have one more bit of bad news for Aryna: Judging by Swiatek’s three one-sided wins in Fort Worth so far, her own level is still rising, too.