American Jessica Pegula powered into the semi-finals of the season-ending WTA Finals in Cancun on Thursday, beating Maria Sakkari 6-3, 6-2 to complete an unbeaten run through the group stage.
Pegula, the oldest player in the field at 29, had already clinched her spot in Saturday’s semi-finals and Sakkari was already out of contention before the match on the Mexican outdoor hardcourts.
World number one Aryna Sabalenka and fourth-ranked Elena Rybakina were fighting to move through as second in the group when their weather disrupted match was halted for the night with Sabalenka leading 6-2, 3-5.
Rybakina will be serving to level the match when play resumes on Friday.
Pegula, who went winless last year in her WTA Finals debut, seized control early, leading 4-1 in the opening set on the way to a dominant victory in difficult, windy conditions.
She took full advantage of 35 unforced errors from Greece’s Sakkari, including eight double faults, Pegula reaching the last four without dropping a set.
Pegula was pleased to keep things rolling in the unfavorable conditions, saying she tried to play to the middle of the court and keep down mistakes.
“It’s so tough to play in these conditions,” she told Tennis Channel. “You’re trying to do your best and as soon as you get some momentum, you still feel like you could lose it.
“If you just stop moving your feet for one second, you get one unlucky shot. So you’re very on edge.
“It was crazy out there today,” added Pegula, the first American to reach the final four since Sloane Stephens made the final in Singapore in 2018.
Pegula’s brisk run through her group matches included an upset of Sabalenka, whose clash with Rybakina was a rematch of the Australian Open final.
Sabalenka, of Belarus, triumphed in three sets for her first major title in Melbourne, pushing her career record against Rybakina to 4-0 before the 24-year-old from Kazakhstan won two straight, in the Indian Wells final in March and in the quarter-finals at Beijing last month.
Sabalenka, who is one of several players who have complained about the condition of the court at this week’s tournament, is not only gunning for the prestigious title.
She’s also aiming to take the year-end number one ranking, which could still be claimed by Poland’s reigning French Open champion Iga Swiatek.
Swiatek will be in action on Friday closing out group play against Ons Jabeur. US Open champion Coco Gauff takes on Marketa Vondrousova with all four players in that group still technically in the hunt for semi-final berths.