WTA Finals: Jabeur loses opening match to Sabalenka as Sakkari beats Pegula

Tunisian world No 2 defeated in three sets as Sakkari avenges Guadalajara final loss

Ons Jabeur greets Aryna Sabalenka at the net after their match at the WTA Finals. Getty
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Ons Jabeur let slip a 5-3 lead in the second-set tiebreak to lose her opening match at the WTA Finals in Fort Worth, Texas to Aryna Salabenka as the Belarusian fought back to win 3-6, 7-6, 7-5 on Monday night.

Jabeur, the world No 2, cruised into a one-set lead by breaking Sabalenka's serve twice but her own serve abandoned her in the second set and the Tunisian trailed 4-1 after losing her first three service games. Jabeur responded well to level at 5-5 and took the set into a tiebreak, which she led 5-3, only for Sabalenka to reel off four straight points to level the match.

The two-time Grand Slam finalist bounced back to claim the initial advantage in the decider with a break to lead 3-1, but Sabalenka restored parity at 4-4, before claiming the crucial break in the 12th game to seal the win after almost two-and-a-half hours on court.

"I’m just trying to enjoy every second being here, and I’m just trying to do my best and see what the last week of the season can bring," Sabalenka, 24, said.

"I was just like, ‘keep trying, keep fighting, and make sure that if she wants to win this match, she has to do something great, not like an easy win.’ And I think that’s why I put a little bit more pressure on her and in the key moments, I was able to win it."

A resigned Jabeur said afterward: “I missed my chances.”

In the other contest in Group Nancy Richey, Greek world No 5 Maria Sakkari defeated world No 3 Jessica Pegula 7-6, 7-6 to record her first win over a top-five opponent this year and avenge her loss to the American in the Guadalajara final eight days ago.

The first set lasted 71 minutes - a minute longer than their entire Guadalajara final - and Sakkari secured it on her third set point of the tiebreak with a forehand passing shot.

The Greek raced out to a 3-0 lead in the second set before Pegula battled back, saving a couple of match points and holding serve to force another tiebreak. However, she was unable to send the match to a deciding set.

"It's never easy against Jess. She's an amazing player, she's very confident right now," Sakkari said. "I knew it was going to be extremely tough but I fought hard and trusted my game."

Sakkari next faces Sabalenka on Wednesday, while Jabeur takes on Pegula on the same day.

Players in Group Tracy Austin get their campaigns underway on Tuesday, with world No 1 Iga Swiatek against Russia's world No 8 Daria Kasatkina, and American world No 4 Coco Gauff against France's world No 10 Caroline Garcia.

Updated: November 01, 2022, 5:09 AM