2021 WTA Finals wrap – Day 2: Badosa blitzes top seed Sabalenka
THE second day of 2021 WTA Finals action has seen two more huge singles clashes, with tight results in tow as the Chichén Itzá group got underway in Guadalajara, Mexico. While Maria Sakkari improved her head-to-head against 20-year-old Iga Swiatek to 3-0, Paula Badosa fought hard throughout every moment of her clash with top seed Aryna Sabalenka to claim a huge upset.
Maria Sakkari vs. Iga Swiatek
Sakkari put out a stellar performance to continue her strong run of late, collecting a 6-2 6-4 victory over Swiatek, requiring 86 minutes to defeat the young talent. While neither player was especially effective on serve, both running at less than a 60 per cent clipand registering five and six double faults apiece, it was Sakkari’s ability to win points off her serve regardless that got her over the line.
A whopping 96.3 per cent winning rate (26 points of 27) off her first serve was the kicker, outclassing Swiatek who stepped up on her second serve, but it was not enough. Both players registered two aces, however Swiatek only won a combined 11 points off Sakkari’s serve throughout the match, compared to the Greek talent who won 12 return points in the first set alone.
“I think it was a very solid match from my side,” Sakkari said in her post-match press conference. “Obviously my serve really helped my game. I felt quite good with the altitude. I could control my shots pretty well. I think every day I’ll feel even better.
“I actually have a good game to play against [Swiatek]. All three times I played her, I played one of the best matches of the season. Like even today, I think I was very solid in these conditions.
“I’m very proud that I can be the first woman, Greek woman, to actually represent my country into the Top 10 and of course in this tournament. It feels amazing to be able to travel around the world playing these tournaments, being one of the best players, and being from my country. I’m very, very proud of that.”
It was not an entirely disappointing match for Swiatek, who put in the hard yards throughout the second set to soften the blow, but errors at costly moments made it tough for the Pole to make use of Sakkari’s minor missteps.
Aryna Sabalenka vs. Paula Badosa
A huge debut WTA Finals effort from Badosa set the tone in the evening session, blitzing past Sabalenka to join Sakkari atop the Group Chichén Itzá table at this early stage. Despite holding an early first set lead, Sabalenka was unable to hold strong losing a 4-2 advantage to drop the first set 6-4 overall, with Badosa rallying hard to claim the ascendancy. The Spaniard then won six consecutive games to claim the bagel second set, well and truly tearing the Belarusian’s game apart in the process.
Badosa led all of the statistical categories throughout, forcing errors from the usually calm and composed Sabalenka who won just three points throughout the second set blitz. Badosa won 70.6 per cent of her first serve points off a 56.7 per cent clip, and backed it up with a 53.8 per cent win rate off her second serve, hitting five aces in the process. Comparatively, Sabalenka won just 13 points off her first serve overall, with 12 of those coming in the first set all but proving Badosa’s overall dominance. Badosa also saved six of seven break points, with Sabalenka’s only break point conversion coming early in the first set before her lead dissipated.
While not necessarily an outstanding game on the stats sheet, Badosa’s excellent form was undeniable as 31 unforced errors undid the usually clean Sabalenka. The Belarusian hit 15 winners to Badosa’s 14, but could not stop the Spaniard in her stride as she won 12 unanswered games to storm from behind and clinch the win in 76 minutes.
WTA FINALS DAY 2 RESULTS:
 Paula Badosa (ESP) defeated  Aryna Sabalenka (BLR) 6-4 6-0
 Maria Sakkari (GRE) defeated  Iga Swiatek (POL) 6-2 6-4