Anett Kontaveit defeated Jelena Ostapenko in straight sets, while Iga Swiatek overcame Maria Sakkari to secure her place in the Qatar Ladies Open final.

Swiatek advanced to the Doha showpiece for the first time after managing her first win over Sakkari in four attempts with a 6-4 6-3 triumph on Friday.

The Pole was in imperious form as she delivered 20 winners to overcome sixth seed Sakkari in an hour and 28 minutes, collecting her seventh top-10 win and second straight such win after defeating Aryna Sabalenka in the quarter-finals.

The seventh seed will now meet Kontaveit, who continued her impressive streak with a 6-1 6-4 win over Ostapenko in just 68 minutes.

Ostapenko headed into the clash on a career-best nine-match winning run, but succumbed to her fourth loss in five meetings with the fourth seed in Qatar.

Ostapenko did have back-to-back break points at 5-5 in the final set, but Kontaveit managed to hold on for victory.

"She can outplay anyone, and then she might not find the consistency sometimes, so you have to be ready for that," Kontaveit said of Ostapenko.

"I was trying to play a consistent match and just do my best on my serve and hold on to it, especially in the second set when I was a break up.

"Sometimes when she's on fire, her returns are unplayable and it's just very difficult.

"But I kept repeating to myself, 'I'm really good at serving it out, I'm really good at serving it out,' and eventually managed to do that.

"How you approach the match, how you're approaching the service games, I think if you're trying to be aggressive [...] that has a lot of effect on the serve."

It will be the seventh final that Kontaveit has contested since last August, converting those appearances into five titles so far. Kontaveit and Swiatek share a pair of wins apiece in previous clashes.

Anett Kontaveit remained on course for a sixth title in seven months, progressing to the Qatar Open semi-finals after defeating Ons Jabeur in straight sets.

Champion in St Petersburg two weeks ago, Kontaveit extended her winning run to eight matches following a 6-4 6-1 success.

The opening set was neck and neck until Kontaveit won 15 out of 16 points from 30-30 at 4-4 to draw first blood and establish a 2-0 lead in the second.

The Estonian, who registered just 12 unforced errors throughout the contest, then took 12 of the last 15 points to advance to the last four. 

"At times, it was just kind of fun because I felt like the level was really good, and I was playing really well," said Kontaveit, who has won nine of her last 13 matches against top-10 opposition.

"I think I have this confidence that I can go deep every week that I'm playing, and I'm not setting these mental barriers to myself that I used to do. 

"I'm very happy with being in the semi-finals, but I also feel like I can still go deeper, I can still do more. So, I'm not too satisfied yet with this result. I feel like if I play well or if I'm consistent, I have a chance with anyone.

"I'm really happy that I'm bringing a good level of tennis consistently every tournament. I think that's something that I'm just most pleased with."

In the semi-finals, Kontaveit will face another in-form player in Jelena Ostapenko, who saw off Garbine Muguruza in straight sets.

Having triumphed in Dubai last week, the 15th seed has now recorded nine successive victories for the first time in her career after prevailing 6-2 6-2.

Ostapenko struck 39 winners and claimed 15 of 18 points on her opponent's second serve as she moved a step closer to a maiden title in Doha, having reached the final six years ago.

Meanwhile, Iga Swiatek is through to her first WTA 1000 semi-final on a hard court after a 6-2 6-3 win over Aryna Sabalenka.

The former French Open champion won seven out of eight breakpoints, while reeling off six successive games in the second set to secure a comfortable victory.

Next up for her is Maria Sakkari, who recorded her third win against Coco Gauff in four meetings after prevailing 6-3 6-3.

The sixth seed is through to her sixth semi-final at WTA 1000 level or above – and targeting her first such title.

Defending champion Garbine Muguruza, 2021 finalist Barbora Krejcikova and top seed Aryna Sabalenka were all eliminated from the Dubai Tennis Championships on Wednesday.

A day of upsets left Ons Jabeur, the eighth seed, as the top remaining player in the draw.

Some big names helped deliver the shocks, though, with world number two Sabalenka usurped by two-time Wimbledon champion and 2013 Dubai winner Petra Kvitova in straight sets.

Muguruza did not look like being one of the scalps as her title defence continued against Veronika Kudermetova.

But after taking the first set, the reigning WTA Tour Finals champion went down 3-6 6-4 6-4.

French Open champion Krejcikova, beaten by Muguruza in the final last year, also exited the tournament at the hands of Dayana Yastremska 6-3 7-6 (7-3).

Iga Swiatek let a set lead slip to Jelena Ostapenko, while two-time Dubai champion Elina Svitolina collapsed to lucky loser Jil Teichmann 7-6 (7-0) 6-2.

Jabeur, a winner against Jessica Pegula, was the only seed to win in a ruthless round of 16.

However, her reward in a still stacked quarter-final draw is a meeting with Simona Halep, another who has twice won in Dubai.

Iga Swiatek, Simona Halep and Barbora Krejcikova had little difficulty progressing to the second round of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Monday. 

The unseeded Halep, who was champion in 2020, needed just an hour and 11 minutes to see off Alison Riske 6-2 6-4 as she looks to climb back up the rankings. 

The two-time grand slam winner went into this week ranked 23rd in the world after a difficult 2021 that was ravaged by injury, but she was in fine form against Riske. She showed good spirit to dig herself out of a hole in the second set and save two break points – the American's only ones in the entire match – in the fourth game. 

Swiatek, seeded sixth, was even more comfortable against Daria Kasatkina, defeating the Russian 6-1 6-2 in just 65 minutes. 

Kasatkina had no answer to Swiatek in the first set and, by the time she started to gain some form of momentum, she was already a set and a break down. 

Swiatek had few issues closing out the match and was joined in the second round by Petra Kvitova, who dropped just two games en route to an emphatic 6-2 6-0 defeat of Camila Giorgi. 

Krejcikova was the highest seed in action. The Czech, who lost to Garbine Muguruza in last year's final, was given a tougher examination than some of her rivals, with wildcard Caroline Garcia putting up a solid fight. 

Krejcikova came through 6-4 7-6 (7-0) in the end, blowing the Frenchwoman away in the second-set tie-break, though she will surely have to sharpen up if she is to go one better than 2021 – the 26-year-old hit just 12 winners to 28 unforced errors. 

There was also a victory for Jessica Pegula in an all-American affair with Coco Gauff that included 10 breaks of serve – the former won 6-4 6-4. 

 

Danielle Collins is relishing a "spectacular" Australian Open showdown with home favourite Ash Barty after outclassing Iga Swiatek to reach her maiden grand slam final.

Collins was imperious in her second major semi-final on Rod Laver Arena, taking just an hour and 18 minutes to beat Swiatek 6-4 6-1.

The 28-year-old American's emphatic victory was her second over a top-10 opponent in a grand slam.

Collins was relentless as a struggling Swiatek had no answer to her aggressive approach, and the 27th seed will attempt to tear up the script by denying Barty a first Australian Open title on Saturday.

It was only last April that the Florida native underwent emergency surgery for endometriosis, an extremely painful condition in which tissue similar to that which lines the uterus grows outside of it.

Collins was also diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in 2018, but she has broken new ground for her career at Melbourne Park, dropping only two sets en route to the final.

She said in an on-court interview following the win over Swiatek: "It feels amazing. It's been such a journey, and it doesn't happen overnight. So many years of hard work and hours at an early age on court.

"Yesterday I was talking about all the early mornings my dad would get up with me and practise before school. It's just incredible to be on this stage and especially with the health challenges. I'm just so grateful, and I couldn't be happier."

Collins beat world number one Barty to reach the Adelaide International quarter-finals last year, having lost their previous three meetings, and the world number 30 will embrace such a big occasion this weekend.

She said: "We've had some incredible battles over the years. It's going to be really spectacular, with the energy the fans bring, whether they are for me or for my opponent.

"I think we're just so grateful after everything with COVID to have incredible energy and people here supporting us."

Danielle Collins will face home favourite Ash Barty in her first grand slam final at the Australian Open after dispatching Iga Swiatek in straight sets.

Playing in only her second major semi-final at the age of 28, an assured Collins rose to the occasion to win 6-4 6-1 in dominant fashion on Rod Laver Arena.

The 27th seed from the United States was beaten by Petra Kvitova in the last four of the first grand slam of the year at Melbourne Park three years ago, but she was not to be denied on this occasion.

Swiatek was unable to become the first Polish woman to reach the final of this tournament, struggling with her serve from the start as her bid to win a second grand slam title came to a halt and Collins booked a showdown with world number one Barty on Saturday.

Collins capitalised on a shaky start from the 2020 French Open champion, breaking when the seventh seed sprayed a forehand long after double-faulting in a poor first service game.

An aggressive Collins was a double-break up at 3-0 after her out-of-sorts opponent drilled a backhand wide, but Swiatek sprung into life, winning back-to-back games to reduce the deficit to 4-2.

Swiatek trailed 5-2 after being broken for a third time as she struggled with her second serve and although Collins failed to serve out the set at the first attempt, she made no mistake second time around after firing down two aces.

The Florida native was in the zone, staying on her feet during changeovers, and she struck another blow by breaking in the first game of the second set with a cross-court backhand winner.

Swiatek's frustration mounted as her service woes continued, Collins near flawless with her backhand a potent weapon as she broke again to lead 3-0.

The ice-cool world number 30 showed not a hint of nerves, finishing off the job with another break after earning two match points with a glorious forehand winner and forcing a backhand error from Swiatek to move into the final.

 

DATA SLAM: Imperious Collins a class apart as Swiatek is let down by her serve

While Collins was at her very best in a brilliant performance, Swiatek looked like she did not know what had hit her.

Swiatek won only three of the 21 points behind her tentative second serve after landing only 60 per cent of her first serves in, and the 20-year-old fell into the trap of feeding Collins' dangerous backhand far too often.

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS

Collins – 27/13
Swiatek – 12/13

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS

Collins – 7/4
Swiatek – 1/4

BREAK POINTS WON

Collins – 6/10
Swiatek – 2/3

Iga Swiatek came through a huge battle against Kaia Kanepi to advance to the Australian Open semi-finals on Wednesday.

Swiatek, the Polish seventh seed, made her second grand slam semi after a 4-6 7-6 (7-2) 6-3 victory over Kanepi on a warm day on Rod Laver Arena.

The 2020 French Open champion held off Kanepi, who suffered a seventh defeat in as many grand slam quarter-finals.

Swiatek fought hard and needed three hours, one minute to progress to a meeting with American 27th seed Danielle Collins.

The steadier start was made by Swiatek, with Kanepi saving break points in each of her opening three service games.

But the Pole was having some trouble with her serve, a fifth double fault giving Kanepi a break point in the seventh game, the Estonian converting with a fine forehand return winner.

Swiatek held after a gruelling 16-minute ninth game, saving four set points as the Rod Laver Arena crowd started to come to life.

Kanepi had won only one set in her six previous grand slam quarter-finals, but she eventually served out the opener against Swiatek, converting her ninth set point.

After Kanepi broke in the opening game of the second set, Swiatek – who was starting to move the veteran around the court – reeled off four straight games.

However, Kanepi responded, a pair of Swiatek double faults helping her break back in the seventh game on the way to a tie-break.

Swiatek was the more consistent of the two players in the tie-break to send the quarter-final into a deciding set.

After the players traded breaks early in the third set, Swiatek took a 3-2 lead after Kanepi sent a forehand narrowly wide before managing a tough hold in the sixth game.

Swiatek charged into a 5-2 lead and while her attempt at serving it out did not go to plan, she sealed her win with another break after a tremendous defensive point.

 

DATA SLAM: Swiatek hard to beat at majors

It takes a fair bit to beat Swiatek at a grand slam.

The 20-year-old is now 30-2 at majors against opponents ranked outside the top 30 after getting past world number 115 Kanepi.

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS
Swiatek – 31/50
Kanepi – 35/62

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS
Swiatek – 5/12
Kanepi – 5/4

BREAK POINTS WON
Swiatek – 6/13
Kanepi – 5/13

Kaia Kanepi surprised even herself by holding her nerve to eliminate second seed Aryna Sabalenka in a final-set tie-break and reach Australian Open quarter-finals for the first time.

The world number 115 edged a topsy-turvy battle 5-7 6-2 7-6 (10-7) on Margaret Court Arena to set up a meeting with Iga Swiatek in the final eight.

With Monday's impressive comeback win, Kanepi has now completed a clean sweep of reaching the quarter-finals of all four majors, making her the 15th active player to do so.

But after squandering four match points in the 10th game of the deciding set, Kanepi admits she struggled to keep her nerves in check when the match went the distance.

"I thought I was going to lose it after the match points I had on my serve," said the 36-year-old, who finished with 30 winners and 30 unforced errors.

"It was really difficult to come back. I don't know how I managed to do it.

"I was really tight. My hand was shaking when I started serving. I didn't make any first serves in, and that added to the pressure.
 
"It was quite crazy. I think I would be more happy if I won after two, three match points. It was really close that I lost the match. I feel a bit exhausted right now.

"The Australian Open was the only quarter-final grand slam I was missing. Given my age, I didn't actually believe I was going to do it. I'm really happy."

After sealing a 14th career victory over a top-10 opponent, with her second win in a row against Sabalenka, Kanepi is now relishing Wednesday's battle with Swiatek.

That will pit the youngest and oldest remaining players left in the draw against each other, with 20-year-old Swiatek having earlier defeated Sorana Cirstea in three sets.

"I haven't watched her, I never played her, and I don't know how her ball feels, so we'll see when I play her," Kanepi said of her next opponent. "What I expect is to play good."

Kanepi is one of six Australian Open quarter-final debutants remaining, with top seed Ash Barty and Madison Keys the only two to have previously reached this stage.

Ash Barty moved a step closer to a second Adelaide International title in three seasons as she crushed defending champion Iga Swiatek's hopes in the semi-finals.

Competing as a stepping stone towards her principal goal of challenging for the Australian Open title later in the month, home favourite Barty sped to a 6-2 6-4 win over the 2020 French Open winner.

She served fewer aces than Swiatek – five to the seven fired down by the 20-year-old Pole – but Barty's powerful forehand proved decisive as she made snappy work of ending the contest.

Barty will face Elena Rybakina in Sunday's final, after the Kazakh beat Japan's Misaki Doi 6-4 6-3. Queenslander Barty beat Dayana Yastremska in the 2020 final.

Having won the French Open and Wimbledon already in her career, Barty will be the favourite at the Australian Open, which begins on January 17 in Melbourne.

The world number one, by seeing off ninth-ranked Swiatek, boosted her win-loss record against top-10 WTA rivals to 8-1 since the beginning of last year.

Barty said, quoted on the WTA website: "It is exciting to be able to play well here in Australia. This is where I want to play my best tennis. I want to give myself an opportunity to play for titles in Australia.

"It's something really exciting to start the year off as an Aussie player in front of our home fans."

Reflecting on a positive performance, Barty, who has also reached the doubles final with Storm Sanders, said: "I felt like on Iga's service games I was able to get into most of them, which is important when you're playing someone who can dominate with that first ball and first strike.

"I felt like I was able to build pressure over time, making her play a lot of balls on her service games, not giving her too many cheapies."

Swiatek is entered into next week's Sydney Classic and learned on Saturday that she faces a testing opener there, having been drawn to face Great Britain's US Open champion Emma Raducanu in a standout first-round match.

At the Melbourne Summer Set 2 tournament, Russian third seed Daria Kasatkina suffered a shock 6-2 6-0 semi-final defeat at the hands of American world number 78 Amanda Anisimova.

Anisimova goes on to face fellow unseeded player Aliaksandra Sasnovich for the title, after the Belarusian beat American Ann Li 7-6 (7-4) 2-6 6-3.

Ash Barty set a new personal best for aces in a match as she rifled 17 past Sofia Kenin on the way through to the Adelaide International 1 semi-finals.

Reigning Wimbledon champion Barty won 31 of 32 points on first serve in a ruthless 6-3 6-4 victory over the 2020 Australian Open winner.

It sets up a tantalising last-four clash with Poland's defending champion Iga Swiatek, who is a frequent practice partner for Australian home favourite Barty.

Explaining her stunning serving performance, Barty said: "I think towards the end Sofia was kind of leaning one way or the other, and I was able to kind of get up and hit my spots."

Facing former French Open winner Swiatek will be a major early-season test for the world number one, with the Warsaw-born 20-year-old fending off former grand slam winner Victoria Azarenka 6-3 2-6 6-1 in Friday's quarter-final.

The other semi-final in Adelaide will see Misaki Doi take on Elena Rybakina after both won in three sets to get there, seeing off Kaja Juvan and Shelby Rogers respectively.

Melbourne Park is staging two tournaments this week, and there is the prospect of a starry final in Melbourne Summer Set 1, with Naomi Osaka and Simona Halep both through to the last four.

Top seed Osaka beat experienced German Andrea Petkovic 6-1 7-5, while second seed Halep had to scrap for a 6-2 5-7 6-4 win against Viktorija Golubic of Switzerland.

Osaka took inspiration from Petkovic's fight in the second set of their contest. Quoted on the tournament website, she said: "It was really cool how she didn't give up for any point, so I just felt like I should do the same thing and see what happens."

Halep said her encounter with Golubic had been "really difficult", adding: "I didn't really trust that I can win this match, but I fought to the end, and I'm very proud of this."

Saturday's semi-finals of Melbourne Summer Set 2 will seed Daria Kasatkina take on Amanda Anisimova, while Ann Li plays Aliaksandra Sasnovich.

World number one Ash Barty will start her 2022 season at the Adelaide International along with eight of the other current 10 top players in the world.

Barty has held top spot in the women's rankings since September 2019 and collected five titles – including Wimbledon – in the 2021 season but missed the French Open with a hip injury.

She also opted to not play in the season-ending WTA Finals in Mexico due to coronavirus-enforced quarantine concerns that could disrupt her preparation for the following campaign.

The Women's Tennis Association (WTA) confirmed on Friday that Barty would begin her 2022 season in Adelaide on January 2, along with defending champion Iga Swiatek, WTA Finals victor Garbine Muguruza and Roland Garros winner Barbora Krejcikova, as the world's elite players prepare for the Australian Open.

The entry list for the WTA 500 tournaments also includes Tokyo Olympics gold medallist Barbara Bencic, who finished runner-up to Swiatek in 2021, former world number one Karolina Pliskova and US Open runner-up Leylah Fernandez.

The field boasts 12 major trophies between them, but three grand slam winners will kick-start their seasons in Melbourne the day after.

Naomi Osaka, who is aiming to defend her title at the Australian Open, gets her preparations underway in the Melbourne Summer Set.

Two-time major winner Simona Halep and reigning US Open champion Emma Raducanu will play in the Melbourne Summer Set.

The trio are among 20 of the top 50 ranked players in the world for the two WTA 250 tournaments starting on January 3, with the entry list split between the competitions the week before matches start.

Raducanu will feature in just her eighth Tour-level event, and her fourth tournament since winning her first major, while Osaka will be appearing for the first time since an early defeat in the third round of the US Open to Fernandez.

Paula Badosa's winning start at the WTA Finals came to an end as she prepared for her semi-final with a straight-sets defeat to Iga Swiatek in a group-stage dead rubber.

Badosa, playing on her 24th birthday, was already assured of a last-four meeting with fellow Spaniard Garbine Muguruza, while two defeats had seen Swiatek eliminated.

A low-stakes encounter allowed both women to play with a little freedom, although Swiatek was a deserving 7-5 6-4 winner.

The pair traded early breaks in the opener, with Badosa immediately ceding her initial lead and finding herself on the back foot for the remainder of the set.

The semi-finalist survived a set point on her serve at 5-4 but had no answer when Swiatek went on the offensive again two games later, stepping forward with a stunning backhand to create her opportunity before retreating to the back of the court to put her forehand to good use and leave Badosa rooted once more.

Badosa again broke first in the second and this time looked to have control when she fought off seven break points to this time consolidate her lead in a gripping 12-minute game.

But Swiatek would not relent, breaking at the first attempt next time with powerful hitting from the centre of the court. Then a wayward Badosa backhand teed up match point for the 20-year-old, whose smart return completed the job.

 

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS 

Swiatek– 16/20
Badosa – 18/33

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS 

Swiatek – 0/3
Badosa– 5/5

BREAK POINTS WON 

Swiatek – 4/13
Badosa – 2/2

Top seed Aryna Sabalenka bounced back from a disappointing defeat in her opening match at the WTA Finals to rally past Iga Swiatek in Guadalajara. 

Sabalenka steadied herself after dropping the opening set and prevailed 2-6 6-2 7-5 Saturday to keep alive her hopes of reaching the semi-finals in her maiden appearance at the event. 

Swiatek, the youngest player in the field at age 20, broke Sabalenka in her final two service games of the first set but could not maintain the momentum as the Belarusian returned the favour in the second. 

Sabalenka entered Saturday with a 9-13 record in three-set matches compared to 35-4 in two-setters but maintained her nerve after the pair traded breaks early in the decider. 

The world number two broke Swiatek to take a 6-5 lead, then served the final game out at love for the victory. 

With Sabalenka's win, Paula Badosa advances to the semi-finals as winner of the group, while the winner of Monday's match between Sabalenka and Maria Sakkari also will advance. Swiatek is out of contention for the semis. 

History is not necessarily on Sabalenka's side, as the top seed has failed to advance from the group stage at three of the past five WTA Finals. 

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS 

Sabalenka – 16/27
Swiatek – 15/18

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS 

Sabalenka – 8/16
Swiatek – 2/3

BREAK POINTS WON 

Sabalenka – 4/7
Swiatek – 3/7

Maria Sakkari was merciless as she began her WTA Finals campaign with a comfortable 6-2 6-4 win over an Iga Swiatek who became visibly emotional towards the end.

It was Sakkari's eighth win over a top-10 opponent this season, the most of any player on the WTA Tour, while the victory took her to 3-0 against Swiatek this year.

Sakkari, with her trademark intensity and feistiness, appeared to adjust to the conditions and altitude of Guadalajara much better than her opponent, who looked lethargic during the first set.

This was particularly evident in the 20-year-old's second service game, as Sakkari converted the second of her break points to get the early advantage.

Swiatek showed the occasional flash of quality, such as an awesome out-of-the-blue cross-court forehand in the fifth game, but she soon found herself 5-2 down as Sakkari broke to love, the decisive point gifted to her by a sloppy volley at the net that the Pole inexplicably put beyond the sideline.

Sakkari quickly wrapped up the set but Swiatek was able to dig a bit deeper in the second, showing great determination to eventually hold serve during the 10-minute third game.

But her body language at the change was hardly indicative of a player convinced she could level the match, as she sat there with a towel draped over her from head to knees.

Swiatek held out for another few games but Sakkari got the decisive break to go 4-3 up, and the match ultimately went with serve from there.

Sakkari finished her opponent off by serving to love, with a tearful Swiatek given a code violation for turning her back as she attempted to regain her composure before facing triple match point, ultimately putting her return into the net.

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS

Sakkari – 15/22
Swiatek – 8/29

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS

Sakkari – 2/5
Swiatek – 2/6

BREAK POINTS WON

Sakkari – 3/8
Swiatek – 0/2

The 2021 WTA Finals look set to be a fitting end to a fascinating season on the Tour.

The 50th year-ending championships, which will take place in Guadalajara instead of Shenzhen due to coronavirus restrictions, will see eight of the top-10 ranked players come together in two round-robin groups, with four semi-final places up for grabs.

Six of the eight competitors will make their debuts at the event, while only two grand slam finalists from this year – and just one champion – will be present. With world number one Ash Barty withdrawing because of concerns around possible quarantine issues, it really does feel like an open draw.

Stats Perform looks at the eight Finalists and the key data you need to know before the action gets underway...

Group Chichen Itza

Aryna Sabalenka (1)

World number two Sabalenka is the top-ranked competitor in Guadalajara, with 44 match wins this year and titles in Abu Dhabi and Madrid, where she beat Barty.

The Belarusian boasts formidable weapons: Sabalenka has won 71.1 per cent of first-serve points and has an average of 8.4 forehand winners per match on the Tour this season, both of which are best figures among the eight Finalists.

She has only played two matches since losing to Leylah Fernandez in the US Open semi-finals, though, both of which were at last month's Kremlin Cup in Moscow.

Did you know? Since the start of 2018, Sabalenka has won the joint-most matches (three) in WTA Tour main draws after losing the first set 0-6. At the same time, she is 9-13 in three-set contests in 2021.

 

Maria Sakkari (4)

The nearly-woman of 2021, Sakkari has reached more semi-finals this year (seven) than anyone else on the WTA Tour, including at two of the four slams, but made it to just one final (in Ostrava, where she lost to Anett Kontaveit).

Still, this has been a historic year for the 26-year-old, who became the first Greek woman to reach a major semi-final, enter the top 10 and qualify for the season-ending championship.

Since the start of the US Open, Sakkari has lost only four of 14 matches, a run that includes the semi-final of the Kremlin Cup where she retired due to dizziness.

Did you know? Nobody has won more Tour-level matches against top-10 opponents this year than Sakkari (seven, level with Barty and Jessica Pegula). Before 2021, her record in such matches was 10-13.

 

Iga Swiatek (5)

Swiatek, the 2020 French Open champion, is the youngest competitor at these Finals at 20 years and 170 days old (as of the tournament's end). She is just the second player born this century to reach this event, after Bianca Andreescu in 2019.

Although unable to get beyond the quarter-finals of a major this year, Swiatek did win titles in Adelaide and Rome, where she inflicted a double bagel on Karolina Pliskova in the final.

Her success in Australia was her first on a hard court, a surface on which she won 19 of 28 matches this year.

Did you know? Swiatek has won 58 per cent (28 of 48) of her matches this season in straight sets, the highest ratio among the Finalists.

 

Paula Badosa (7)

A successful year for Badosa has been built on clay: she won a Tour-leading 17 matches on the dirt in 2021, reaching the French Open quarter-finals, the last four in Madrid and Charleston and winning the title in Belgrade.

This has been a breakthrough season for the 23-year-old across all surfaces, though, one that culminated in a record-breaking three-set win over Victoria Azarenka in the final at Indian Wells last month.

Badosa clinched that match after a third-set tie-break. She has won four deciding sets in that fashion this year, the most of anyone on the WTA Tour.

Did you know? Badosa has won seven matches (excluding the Olympics) after dropping the first set in 2021. Nobody else has as many come-from-behind victories among the Finalists.

 

Group Teotihuacan

Barbora Krejcikova (2)

The only major singles champion from 2021 at these Finals, Krejcikova has enjoyed a remarkable rise this year.

Along with success at Roland Garros, where she also triumphed in the doubles, the Czech won titles in Strasbourg and Prague; only world number one Barty (five) and Kontaveit (four) have won more this year.

Among the eight finalists, Krejcikova boasts the highest break-point conversion ratio (49.7 per cent, or 142/286) and break-point saved figure (66.4 per cent, or 150/226) for this season. She has become a clutch competitor and will be hard to stop in Mexico, both in the singles and the doubles.

Did you know? Krejcikova has won six matches against top-20 opponents in her career. All six of those wins were in 2021.

 

Karolina Pliskova (3)

Pliskova boasts impressive experience of the year-ending event: she is only the fourth player to qualify for five or more WTA Finals since the current format was introduced in 2003 (after Agnieszka Radwanska, Petra Kvitova and Azarenka).

Beaten in her three Tour finals this year, including Wimbledon, the 29-year-old will be desperate to go at least one better than her three consecutive semi-final appearances at this event.

Pliskova begins against Garbine Muguruza, a player she has beaten twice before at the season-ending tournament.

Did you know? Pliskova leads the Tour for aces this season with 364, hitting a year-best 21 in her round-of-16 match with Jelena Ostapenko in Stuttgart. It's the fourth time in the past six seasons Pliskova has been top of the aces standings.

 

Garbine Muguruza (6)

This is the first time since 2000 that two Spanish players have contested the Finals. Back then, it was Conchita Martinez and Arantxa Sanchez Vicario at Madison Square Garden in New York.

Muguruza, champion in Dubai and Chicago this year, has won more matches on hard courts (34) than anyone else in 2021 aside from Kontaveit. She also boasts the best average for successful net approaches this year (3.0) among the Finalists, which will make her a challenging obstacle in what will be her first Finals since 2017.

The former world number won made a career-high four Tour finals this year and won more than one trophy in a season for just the second time, sending her back into the top 10 for the first time since 2018. 

Did you know? Muguruza boasts a 10-1 record in WTA tournaments in Mexico, winning back-to-back titles in Monterrey in 2018 and 2019.

 

Anett Kontaveit (8)

With a Tour-leading 37 hard-court wins this year and on a formidable run of form, Kontaveit could spring a surprise at her first Finals.

After losing her fifth match in a row to Ons Jabeur on August 17, the Estonian went on a run of 26 wins from 28 matches, lifted four titles and broke into the top 10 for the first time. It was Jabeur she edged out for a place at this tournament after she won her fourth title of the year at Cluj-Napoca.

Along with Barty, Kontaveit is the only player to reach six Tour-level finals this year, while nobody at the season-ending tournament has won more titles (four).

Did you know? Kontaveit has hit the most backhand winners (293) on hard courts on the WTA Tour in 2021, averaging nearly six per match.

 

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