Maria Sakkari is yet to lose a set through two WTA Finals games, defeating Aryna Sabalenka 6-2 6-4 on Wednesday to advance through the Nancy Richey Group into the final-four.

The first set was relatively smooth sailing for the Greek, taking advantage of Sabalenka's errors to break twice.

Belarus' Sabalenka did create some chances herself, with two break opportunities compared to Sakkari's four, but could not take either. She also committed the only two double faults of the opening frame, and had 13 unforced errors with her seven winners, while Sakkari had an even four unforced errors and four winners.

The second set was more of the same, with Sabalenka committing 16 unforced errors with only eight winners as Sakkari collected an early double-break to go up 3-0, seemingly coasting to victory.

But Sabalenka fought back, winning the next four games in a row to briefly take the lead in the set. Unfortunately for her, the see-sawing contest saw Sakkari rattle off the next three games to close out the win.

Sabalenka is still a chance to advance to the next round after defeating Ons Jabeur in her opening fixture.

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS

Sakkari - 15/16

Sabalenka - 15/29

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS

Sakkari - 1/1

Sabalenka - 0/4

BREAK POINTS WON

Sakkari - 5/7

Sabalenka - 2/7

World number two Ons Jabeur kept her chances of WTA Finals success intact as she came from behind to defeat Jessica Pegula.

Having lost to Aryna Sabalenka in her opening match in Fort Worth, US Open and Wimbledon runner-up Jabeur was staring down a group-stage exit from the tournament when she found herself 1-6 2-3 down halfway through the second set on Wednesday.

Yet the 28-year-old hit back to triumph 1-6 6-3 6-3 over her American opponent, the world number three, who has now lost both of her matches in the Nancy Richey group.

Jabeur reeled off four straight games to take the momentum and, after fending off four break points to hold serve in the first game of the deciding set, did not look back, clinching a decisive break to nose 5-3 ahead.

A stray Pegula cross-court forehand wrapped up Jabeur's comeback win, and the Tunisian, who is aiming to become the first African player to reach the semi-finals at the season-ending tournament, can now turn focus to her final group game against Maria Sakkari, who she has faced three times previously, losing twice. 

Jabeur's victory was her third against a top-three opponent, after beating Simona Halep in 2018 and Karolina Pliskova in 2020, while only world number one Iga Swiatek has won more matches this season (47).

BREAK POINTS WON

Jabeur - 4/10

Pegula - 4/9

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS

Jabeur - 27/29

Pegula - 11/16

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS

Jabeur - 1/2

Pegula - 0/5

Tennis great Billie Jean King believes it is "important" for people to go to the World Cup in Qatar and "be an influencer" amid ongoing concerns over the country's human rights record.   FIFA's decision to allow Qatar to host the World Cup has faced persistent criticism, with concerns cited over the human rights standards in a country where same-sex relationships are prohibited.   England captain Harry Kane will be among eight skippers to wear a distinctive heart-adorned armband at the tournament, raising awareness for the OneLove campaign against discrimination   King has been a regular promoter of equality, helping to secure equal prize money at tennis' four majors, and outlined her support for Qatar, where she would not be against hosting the WTA's Billie Jean Cup.   "I probably would be because, first of all, the WTA went there years ago," the 78-year-old responded when asked if she would allow her tournament's finals to be held by the World Cup hosts.   "I get a lot of different people coming to me saying 'why would you play there the way they treat women?' But personally, I think it's important to show up and be an influencer.   "I think it's delicate, no question. But I think it's important to go if you get the opportunity and everything else fits too, not just go there for money or whatever."

Qatar faced more scrutiny after an Amnesty International report in 2021 alleged thousands of migrant workers were exploited, with the country's government denying those claims but acknowledging problems.

King is no stranger to the Middle East either, having supported the WTA Finals being played in Doha, where she said the tournament created opportunities for female tennis players.

"We were there four or five years and I think it helped," the American added. "When I went there I did a clinic for the kids but only for the girls.

"Somebody was left-handed, which is sinister to them, and this mother was saying she hoped her left-handed daughter could one day become a champion and get rid of that stigma.

"These are the kind of discussions you can have when you're physically there. So I'm big on going actually, even if I know it's a fine line of how you do it."

The World Cup starts in 18 days when Qatar face Ecuador at Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor.

Caroline Garcia is off to a perfect start in her first WTA Finals appearance since 2017, collecting a straight-sets win over Coco Gauff to share top spot of the Tracy Austin Group with Iga Swiatek.

Garcia won 6-4 6-3 in one hour and 18 minutes in Fort Worth, proving slightly better with her return game throughout, creating four break point opportunities in both sets while Gauff could only muster one in each.

Gauff was the one to strike first, securing a break in the opening game of the match, but Garcia got it back instantly to tie things at 1-1, and then when leading 5-4, Garcia broke again to wrap up the first set.

Things could have spiralled for the 18-year-old American when she fell down a break in the second set, but she responded well, breaking back in the next game.

But Garcia kept the pressure on for a second break before serving it out safely. It is her second consecutive win over Gauff after also eliminating her from the US Open quarter-final, and evens their head-to-head ledger at two apiece after Gauff took the first two meetings.

BREAK POINTS WON
Garcia - 4/8
Gauff - 2/2

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS
Garcia - 1/3
Gauff - 1/2

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS
Garcia - 20/23
Gauff - 12/14

Aryna Sabalenka fought from a set behind to come back and defeat Ons Jabeur 3-6 7-6 (7-5) 7-5 in their first match of the WTA Finals on Monday.

Sabalenka, 24, has now won her past three matches against Jabeur, and this time around it was her ability to limit the effectiveness of the Tunisian's serve that turned the tide.

Jabeur's serve dominated the opening set, winning 73 per cent (16-of-22) of her service points while not allowing Sabalenka a single break point opportunity.

The second set was a different story, as some double faults crept into Jabeur's game and her success rate on her service points dipped to 51 per cent (24-of-47), allowing Sabalenka to break three times before forcing a decider with a close tiebreaker.

Sabalenka finally got on top in the third set, narrowly edging the total points count 37 to 31 in the frame while converting both of her break point chances to finish off the victory.

She now sits second in the Group B standings, trailing Maria Sakkari due to the Greek winning her match in straight sets.

BREAK POINTS WON

Sabalenka - 5/8

Jabeur - 6/10

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS

Sabalenka - 21/26

Jabeur - 37/29

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS

Sabalenka - 1/6

Jabeur - 7/5

Maria Sakkari defeated Jessica Pegula 7-6 (8-6) 7-6 (7-4) in the opening match of the WTA Finals on Monday in Fort Worth.

It was a highly anticipated first match after the same two competitors faced off in the Guadalajara Open final just eight days ago, with Pegula taking that contest 6-2 6-3 in convincing fashion.

That final lasted just 71 minutes, but the rematch would be a far more gruelling affair, with the first set alone reaching 73 minutes.

Illustrating the even nature of the contest, both players won exactly 52 out of 104 total points played in the opening set, with both players converting three of their five break point opportunities.

Sakkari created a slight edge in the second set, winning 52 per cent of the points (42-of-81) and creating four break point opportunities to Pegula's one.

Pegula took her only chance to break, and then saved two match points to force a tiebreak, but Sakkari would not be denied as she secured the victory and moved to the top of the Group B standings.

BREAK POINTS WON

Sakkari - 4/9

Pegula - 4/6

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS

Sakkari - 3/1

Pegula - 3/4

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS

Sakkari - 22/22

Pegula - 22/28

There will be one racing certainty when the WTA Finals gets under way: a new champion will be crowned.

Iga Swiatek heads the list of contenders to carry off the trophy in Fort Worth, Texas, having enjoyed a spectacular season.

Ascendant Americans Jessica Pegula and Coco Gauff will be chasing a home victory, while Tunisia's Ons Jabeur has reached finals at Wimbledon and the US Open so loves the big occasion.

Ahead of the tournament getting under way on Monday, Stats Perform has taken a look at the eight-player field.

Swiatek still the player to beat

With no past winner in the line-up, there is every reason to look to the world number one, Swiatek, as favourite.

The 21-year-old Polish player has eight titles this year, lifting trophies at Doha, Indian Wells, Miami, Stuttgart, Rome, the French Open, the US Open and San Diego.

Indeed, she is the only grand slam singles winner in the draw, with Ash Barty having retired and Elena Rybakina absent after no ranking or race points were awarded at Wimbledon, where she was a surprise champion.

Rybakina's absence calls into question the meritocracy of this year's tournament, which is intended to showcase the top performers on tour, yet there can be no doubt the season's premier performer is in the draw.

French Open and US Open winner Swiatek's remarkable run of 10 straight-sets victories in finals (dating back to the 2020 French Open) was finally ended by Barbora Krejcikova, who sprang a shock by winning in Ostrava in early October.

But by getting back to winning ways a week later in San Diego, scrapping for a three-set victory over Donna Vekic in the title match, Swiatek produced a typically impressive response, beating Qinwen Zheng, Gauff and Pegula on her way through the draw to improve to 64-8 in her win-loss record for the year.

Here is a measure of her dominance this season: Swiatek headed the 'Race to the WTA Finals' rankings with 10,335 points, with the players in second (Jabeur) to eighth place (Daria Kasatkina) having tallies ranging between 4,555 and 2,935 points.

Is Pegula the chief rival to Swiatek?

She might not have been the player that would have sprung to mind even a month ago, but Pegula's victory at the Guadalajara Open this month was an eye-opener.

Beginning by saving match points in a thrilling three-setter against Rybakina, Pegula took down grand slam winners Bianca Andreescu, Sloane Stephens and Victoria Azarenka before swatting aside Maria Sakkari in the final.

Pegula has reached quarter-finals at the Australian, French and US Opens in 2022, and she has a tour-high 39 wins in WTA 1000 events since the beginning of last year.

She is up to third in the WTA rankings, one ahead of Coco Gauff, with the United States now having two women in the top five for the first time since October 2010, when Serena Williams was number two and sister Venus sat fourth.

As Pegula said after the Guadalajara final: "I'm definitely a very ambitious person. A little bit of a perfectionist, as well. I don't think you could win if you weren't ambitious, especially at this level.

"I feel like it's going to give me more motivation going forward knowing I can win these big titles. I think it will give me a lot of confidence ending the year, going into next year."

These are spirited words. She heads into the tournament with a 0-4 record against Swiatek in 2022, however.

Who's in, who's out, what's it all about?

As well as Swiatek and Pegula, the field for the eight-day tournament includes Caroline Garcia, Aryna Sabalenka and Sakkari, who have all featured at the WTA Finals in the past.

Four players make their debuts, including Pegula, who is joined as a newcomer by Jabeur, Gauff and Daria Kasatkina.

Gauff, 18, has become the 14th player aged under 19 to reach the WTA top five since the rankings were introduced in 1975.

She would not be the youngest WTA Finals champion, were she to lift the title, as Monica Seles has a tight grip on that record, having triumphed at the age of 16 years and 11 months at the 1990 edition.

Last year's champion Garbine Muguruza is absent. The Spaniard was expected by many to push on and enjoy a stellar 2022 season, but it did not play out that way, with the former French Open and Wimbledon winner sliding to 57th in the world rankings after a dismal campaign.

It goes to show that whoever prevails in Fort Worth, we should be cautious about treating the outcome as an indication of what to expect in the new year.

Emma Raducanu has pulled out of next month's Billie Jean King Cup, citing a wrist injury.

The former US Open champion had been named as part of Great Britain's team for the tournament, which will take place at Emirates Arena in Glasgow between November 8-13.

Raducanu was selected alongside Harriet Dart, Katie Boulter and Heather Watson, with a fifth member to be added at a later date, and made her Billie Jean King Cup debut in April's qualifier against Czech Republic.

However, after pulling out of the Transylvania Open earlier this month with the same right-wrist issue, the 19-year-old confirmed on Friday she had been told by doctors she will not recover in time.

"It's disappointing to get the news from the doctors that I won't be ready in time, particularly with it being on home soil," Raducanu said.

"I tried to do everything possible to get it ready in time. 

"Since my last tournament I've been working every day on physical training and rehab. I've got confidence in my team-mates and look forward to playing next year."

Great Britain will be one of 12 teams participating in Scotland, and have been drawn in a group with Kazakhstan and Spain.

Emma Raducanu has been urged to slow down the churn of coaches by her side as Russian Dmitry Tursunov claimed he walked away from the British player because of "red flags".

Tursunov, a former top-20 player and seven-time title winner on the men's tour, said Raducanu needs to listen to "one voice" and see where that takes her, after he became the latest coach to part ways with the former US Open winner.

It emerged in early October that Tursunov had called a halt to working with Raducanu, and he has taken up a role with Swiss player Belinda Bencic instead.

Tursunov told tennismajors.com how "emotionally" he had wanted his trial period with Raducanu to become permanent, insisting he saw rich potential in the 19-year-old, but he suspected there would "be problems later".

Former Davis Cup winner Tursunov did not specify who or what he saw as being a stumbling block to working with Raducanu on a permanent basis.

"I was walking away from Emma regardless of whether there was another [player] available or not," Tursunov said. "We didn't agree on the terms and there were some red flags that just couldn't be ignored."

Raducanu turns 20 in November. As well as Tursunov, in the past 18 months she has worked with Nigel Sears, Andrew Richardson, Torben Beltz and the Lawn Tennis Association's Iain Bates.

Her growing list of former coaches is notable and the focus on that factor could influence those Raducanu wishes to work with in the future.

Tursunov said Raducanu was "minimum a one-year project but... probably a two-and-a-half-year project to be on the safe side", and reasoned that her game remained "very raw".

"It’s going to take some time, but as I said to her and to pretty much everyone on her team: I think you just need to have one voice and just try that for a bit," Tursunov said

He said he "stuck around" after a trial around the US Open and was looking for assurance that, if taken on, he would be given time to work towards long-term goals.

"But of course, with her coaching situation, there's now a thought going through every coach's mind," Tursunov added.

Raducanu has not reached a final since her dazzling Flushing Meadows victory, but Tursunov has no doubt about the talent of a player he describes as "absolutely great" and "hungry to improve".

There have been just four quarter-final runs in the wake of her September 2021 triumph in New York, with Raducanu only converting one into a semi-final appearance

Tursunov, 39, says Raducanu "has a tremendous upside", but he also issued a warning, adding: "The ingredients are very good, but you can still mess it up."

Jessica Pegula will rise to third in the world rankings after defeating Maria Sakkari 6-2 6-3 in the final of the Guadalajara Open on Sunday.

It is surprisingly only the second singles title of Pegula's career on the WTA Tour, and the 28-year-old's first WTA 1000 title.

Against Sakkari, the American showcased her complete game, controlling the opening set with her serve before using her powerful returning ability to close things out.

In the first set, Pegula converted 10 of her 11 accurate first serves into points, winning 76 per cent of her total service points while facing no break opportunities. She only had two break point opportunities herself, and she took both.

Her success rate on service points dropped to 60 per cent in the second set, but she made up for it with her returns, winning 55 per cent of the points on Sakkari's serve while breaking three times to pull away.

It caps off a remarkable week for Pegula, who collected straight-sets wins over top-50 opponents Victoria Azarenka, Sloane Stephens and Bianca Andreescu in her three matches leading to the final.

While it was the last tournament of the season, both Pegula and Sakkari finished in the top-eight for world ranking points this season and therefore have qualified for the WTA Finals, beginning on October 31.

Simona Halep's former coach Darren Cahill has jumped to the Romanian's defence after the former Wimbledon and French Open champion failed a drug test.

Cahill said Halep's "integrity is faultless" and insisted there was "no chance" she would have deliberately or wittingly taken a banned substance.

It was made public on Friday that 31-year-old Halep tested positive for roxadustat while competing at the US Open in August.

Halep, who has been provisionally suspended, said she felt "confused and betrayed" by the news. She has not explained why, or by whom, she senses a betrayal.

She now risks a ban from tennis and faces a battle to clear her name, which she has said she is determined to achieve.

Cahill was Halep's coach when she landed her first grand slam title at Roland Garros in 2018, and he pointed to his experience of an athlete who was meticulous about checking anything she ingested.

He wrote in a statement posted on Instagram: "Firstly, and most importantly, there is NO chance Simona knowingly or purposely took any substance on the banned list. None. Zero.

"She is an athlete that stressed about anything prescribed to her by a medical professional [which was rarely], or about any supplement that she used or considered. Simona wore out the words 'please double check this, triple check this to make sure it’s legal, safe and permitted. If you are not sure, I'm not taking it.'"

Australian Cahill has also worked with players including Lleyton Hewitt, Ana Ivanovic, Andy Murray and Andre Agassi. He rates Halep as a player and person of the highest order.

When they stopped working together in September 2021, Halep thanked Cahill "for making me a better tennis player and a better person".

Cahill wrote on Sunday: "Simona's integrity is faultless, she respects her peers, she loves the game and she always has her feet firmly planted on the ground as a humble, approachable champion.

"Honesty has always been her greatest strength and her biggest weakness. We would often laugh about the fact that she can't act and can't tell a little white lie.

"She wears her mood on her shoulder for the world to see, for good and for bad. That is Simo. What you see is what you get. She built an amazing career and legacy by doing things the hard way. The right way.

"Due process will now follow to reveal answers to many questions. As Simona said, the hardest match of her life starts now. I believe in her. I always have and can honestly say never more than right now on this particular issue. I stand with Simo."

World number five Jessica Pegula clinched a berth in her second WTA final of the year with a straight-sets victory over Victoria Azarenka at the Guadalajara Open on a rainy Saturday.

Pegula defeated the former world number one Belarussian 7-6 (7-3) 6-1 in one hour and 29 minutes, having fought back from a 4-1 first-set deficit.

The American will need to wait until Sunday to learn her opponent, with rain forcing Maria Sakkari and Marie Bouzkova's semi-final to be suspended and eventually postponed with the Greek leading 7-5.

Pegula's triumph was her 40th win of the season, becoming the 10th American woman to achieve that feat.

The victory also made it four successive Grand Slam winners that Pegula has overcome to reach the final in Guadalajara, knocking off Sloane Stephens, Bianca Andreescu and Elena Rybakina along with Azarenka.

Pegula converted three of eight break points, while Azarenka took her only break point of the match to help her open up the 4-1 first-set lead.

The American proved better on her second serve, while she managed to win 15 of 26 points on Azarenka's second serve.

Sakkari and Bouzkova's semi-final will resume at 1pm local time on Sunday, with the fourth seed leading 7-5 after an epic first set that lasted 84 minutes.

The Greek showed off her grit after fluffing an early 3-1 lead by taking her eighth set point, winning a 22-shot rally - the longest of the first set - to break Bouzkova in the 12th game.

The final is due to commence no earlier than 6pm local time on Sunday, meaning it will be a physical test for the victor.

Maria Sakkari secured the eighth and final place at the WTA Finals after defeating Veronika Kudermetova 6-1 5-7 6-4 to reach the semi-finals at the Guadalajara Open on Friday.

The WTA Finals – which is contested by the women who finish top-eight for the season in ranking points – already had seven entrants locked in, with the eighth to be decided by the winner between world number six Sakkari and world number 12 Kudermetova.

Sakkari's ability to fight her way out of tough situations proved to be the difference as she saved 14 of the 15 break points she faced, while converting three of her nine chances. In the deciding third set, Sakkari made the most of her only break point, while saving all five of Kudermetova's chances to get back into the contest.

She will play Marie Bouzkova in the semi-final after the unseeded Czech was the beneficiary of Anna Kalinskaya's injury retirement in the first set, with Bouzkova leading 5-2.

It continues a terrific run of form for the 24-year-old Bouzkova, who is 19-3 in her past 22 matches, with her only losses in that span coming against world number 20 Karolina Pliskova, Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina and world number two Ons Jabeur.

On the other side of the draw, Jessica Pegula breezed through the challenge of Sloane Stephens to win 6-2 6-2, which would have set up a tantalising all-American matchup against her doubles partner and rising star Coco Gauff, but she could not hold up her end of the bargain.

Gauff fell 7-6 (7-2) 4-6 6-3 to Victoria Azarenka, giving the Belarusian her third consecutive top-20 win after earning her spot in the quarter-final with victories over world number eight Paula Badosa and world number 15 Madison Keys.

Simona Halep said she felt "confused and betrayed" after being handed a provisional suspension for failing a drug test.

The International Tennis Integrity Agency announced on Friday the 31-year-old had tested positive for roxadustat, a prohibited substance, after providing two samples while competing at the US Open in August.

She was notified of a rule violation on October 7 and now faces a fight to avoid a ban from the sport.

In a statement, the ITIA said: "While provisionally suspended, the player is ineligible to compete in or attend any sanctioned tennis event organised by the governing bodies of the sport."

Swiftly responding, former French Open and Wimbledon champion Halep denied all knowledge of taking the substance and said the sanction was the "biggest shock" of her life.

"Today begins the hardest match of my life: a fight for the truth," she posted on social media.

"I have been notified that I tested positive for a substance called roxadustat in an extremely low quantity, which came as the biggest shock of my life.

"Throughout my whole career, the idea of cheating never even crossed my mind once, as it is totally against all the values I have been educated with. Facing such an unfair situation, I feel completely confused and betrayed.

"I will fight until the end to prove that I never knowingly took any prohibited substance and I have faith that sooner or later, the truth will come out.

"It's not about the titles or the money. It's about honour, and the love story I have developed with the game of tennis over the last 25 years."

The 31-year-old former world number one announced in September she would miss the rest of the season after undergoing nose surgery, with it unclear how long her recovery would take.

American teenager Coco Gauff showed why she deserves to be at this year's WTA Finals with a commanding 6-0 6-3 victory over Martina Trevisan at the Guadalajara Open.

The fifth seed clinched her maiden spot at the season-ending WTA Finals on Wednesday and backed that up by securing her third WTA 1000 quarter-final on Thursday.

Gauff reeled off the first nine games of the match against Trevisan, where she triumphed in one hour and one minute. The 18-year-old came under pressure from Trevisan, who generated nine break points for the match but Gauff saved all bar one of them.

World number one Iga Swiatek (47) is the only player to have won more matches this year in straight sets than Gauff (32).

Gauff will face Victoria Azarenka in the quarter-finals after the Belarusian toppled 13th seed Madison Keys 6-4 6-7 (4-7) 6-1 in two hours and 13 minutes.

Two-time Australian Open winner Azarenka swept aside Keys in 32 minutes in the third set after a titanic battle in the opening two frames, winning 26 of the 37 final-set points. Azarenka's quarter-final appearance is her 34th since 2009, with only four players having more during the span; Agnieszka Radwanska (42), Simona Halep (39) and Caroline Wozniacki (36).

Third seed Jessica Pegula advanced to the last eight with a 6-4 6-4 victory over former US Open champion Bianca Andreescu. 

The American, who survived three match points against Elena Rybakina on Wednesday, trailed early against the Canadian but took control of the match. Pegula will face Sloane Stephens in the quarter-finals after she toppled 2022 US Open semi-finalist Caroline Garcia 7-6 (8-6) 7-5.

On the day her WTA Finals berth was confirmed, seventh seed Daria Kasatkina lost 6-2 2-6 6-3 to Anna Kalinskaya in two hours and 14 minutes.

Fourth seed Maria Sakkari fought back to win 5-7 6-3 6-3 over 14th seed Danielle Collins, while Marie Bouzkova copped a bagel before triumphing 0-6 7-5 6-3 over Liudmila Samsonova.

Sakkari will next meet eighth seed Veronika Kudermetova who beat Jelena Ostapenko 6-4 6-4. Bouzkova will take on Kalinskaya in the last eight.

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