Earlier this week, No. 1 ranked Aryna Sabalenka said she felt disrespected by the WTA. The organization had not committed to a location for the year-end tournament until September. Then the courts in Cancun, Mexico where the WTA Finals are being held weren’t ready for play until just a few days before the tournament was about to begin.
Sabalenka had real issues with everything surrounding the Finals. And normally when a player enters an event already having negative thoughts, that doesn’t lead to great success. The Belarusian looked fantastic in her match at the Finals, though, as she nearly blanked Maria Sakkari 6-0 6-1. But on Tuesday night, a different story was told.
And it should be noted that while the Belarusian said she feels completely safe playing on the courts, her opponents are also clearly playing on the same surface. So while the conditions are far from perfect, at least it’s fair as no singular player is playing on a better-made court.
Aryna Sabalenka loses to Jessica Pegula at the WTA Finals
Playing against fifth-seed Jessica Pegula, Sabalenka seemed tired or just off. Pegula normally takes advantage of opponents in those situations. The American does nothing at an elite level except remain calm and hit like a metronome. She doesn’t beat herself, and that’s a talent in itself.
Pegula defeated Sabalenka 6-4 6-3 on Tuesday. She served with excellence, seemingly placing the ball wherever she wanted. She won 66 percent of her first-serve points and got 5 aces. She also got early breaks against the top-ranked player which caused the Belarusian to always play from behind.
Sabalenka didn’t ever quit, though. After getting down 2-5 in the first set, she fought back to 405. In the second set, she fell behind 1-5 and got it back to 3-5. But in neither case could she ever completely catch up.
The win was Pegula’s first over Sabalenka in five tries, and she hadn’t won a set against her opponent. That made her straight-set victory even more surprising. After the match, Pegula said, “It’s tough against her. You don’t know whether to put the ball in the court, she could hit a winner, she could miss it.” On Tuesday, Sabalenka missed much more than her share.
In Tuesday’s other match, Maria Sakkari lost to Elena Rybakina. Rybakina took the match 6-0 6-7(4) 7-6(2). Sakkari has now lost both her match at the WTA Finals while Rybakina is now 1-1.