World No.2 Aryna Sabalenka mounted an impressive comeback in Mexico to keep her hopes alive to qualify for the semifinals at the Akron WTA Finals Guadalajara. Top-seeded Sabalenka fought back impressively from a set deficit to beat No.5 seed Iga Swiatek 2-6, 6-2, 7-5. Despite losing the opening set 2-6, Sabalenka did not lose confidence, as she won the next set by the same margin before edging out Swiatek in the decider. The win moves Sabalenka to 1-1 in the Chichen Itza group and eliminated Swiatek’s chances to advance. Next up Sabalenka will face No.4 seed Maria Sakkari in the final round-robin match on Monday, and the winner will join group winner Paula Badosa in the semifinals.
Going into the clash, both women were eager to put aside their disappointing opening matches behind. On Thursday, Swiatek lost her third match of the season to No.4 Maria Sakkari, 6-2, 6-4. Meanwhile, Sabalenka dropped 10 successive games to lose 6-2, 6-0 against No.7 seed Paula Badosa. “After the first match I just didn’t want to do the same mistake. I just didn’t want to give up again,” Sabalenka said. “I just kept saying to myself, You have to put this ball in somehow. If you don’t feel well, doesn’t matter, you just have to fight and you just have to try your best.”
On the other hand, Swiatek, after the match, said, “I worked pretty hard the past two days to understand a little bit more of why I felt so bad during the match against Maria. I don’t want to make excuses or something. It’s pretty hard to talk about that because I know in sports it’s not that often. But like PMS really hit me that day. I’m telling this for any young girl who doesn’t know what’s going on. Don’t worry, it’s normal.”
“I think I played really good, but for sure I didn’t have a lot of rhythm because also Aryna is that kind of player that doesn’t let you get that rhythm. I hit a lot of frames, I’m aware of that. But looking at how I felt when I came here, two days ago, also yesterday, I feel like I kind of won today, 2-1 maybe, because I won against my stress and a little bit of fear, but I lost against Aryna. In the end, I’m going to think this is a positive day, and also I can get experience from all that stuff.”
Meanwhile, Sabalenka has spoken about the lessons learned from the US Open. She said, “I remember on that match against Leylah [Fernandez in the US Open semifinals], close to the end of the match I was really not like disappointed, but I was really sad about the atmosphere. It’s not against me, they were just supporting her. I was kind of like asking them to support [me].”
“After that I felt like maybe sometimes you just have to ask for support, it’s nothing bad. I had a lot of situations when people were supporting my opponent more than me. So, yeah, this time I felt so good when people are supporting you.”
Sabalenka will next face No.4 seed Sakkari. She owns a 4-1 record against Sakkari, with their last meeting coming in January in Abu Dhabi. Sabalenka won 6-2, 6-3 en route to her first title of the season.
“I’m really happy that I have this chance to get through this group,” Sabalenka said. “Maria is a tough opponent. She’s a great fighter. It’s always great matches against her. It’s always big battles. I’m just really looking forward. I’m really happy that I have this chance.
“I’ll just do my best. I’ll just bring everything I have on the court. No matter what, I will fight. I’ll not do the same mistake like I did in the first match. This time I will never give up again.”