Aryna Sabalenka maybe wanted a little bit of revenge. While she now holds the head-to-head advantage of Maria Sakkari at 7-3, Sabalenka had never beaten the Greek at the WTA Finals. She had lost twice before to Sakkari in the tournament. That changed on Sunday.
Sakkari may have only had one small chance to make the match close. Down 0-2 in the first set, Sakkari had four chances to break the Belarusian. Instead, Sabalenka held and then whitewashed Sakkari in the first set. She almost did it again in the second set, too. Sakkari finally managed a service hold but was already down 0-5.
Sakkari hadn’t gone without at least winning one game in a set since the Adelaide tournament which was in early 2022. To get a double bagel in the first match of the year-end tournament would have been embarrassing. But there is also no shame in losing to the top-ranked player, and most consistent in the biggest tournaments.
Sabalenka trounces Sakkari and Pegula survives on Day 1 of the WTA Finals
Sabalenka could have played even sharper as well. She finished with 6 aces but also had 5 double-faults. Her biggest advantage was she dominated the games when Sakkari was serving as Sabalenka won 8 of 19 first serves from Sakkari and 14 of 21 second serves. Sakkari was simply overpowered on Sunday.
Sunday’s other match at the WTA Finals was much closer but still decided in two sets. Jessica Pegula is a bit of a wonder. No part of her game is truly elite, but she does everything fairly well and she stays consistent.
For instance, fifth-seed Pegula only had 2 aces proving she isn’t overpowering, but she had zero double-faults against fourth-seed Elena Rybakina. Pegula simply doesn’t beat herself. While not booming a ton of aces, she still won 24 of her 30 first serves. She was better defensively as Rybakina was only able to win 20 of her 36 first serves.
Pegula is likely going to be a top-ten player on the WTA tour for some time to come because she doesn’t try to overdo anything. She is also unlikely to ever win a Grand Slam, though. Her peak simply isn’t as high as Sabalenka’s, for instance. But now watch Pegula move on and win the WTA Finals.