Aryna Sabalenka cruised past Maria Sakkari 6-0 6-1 in their WTA Finals opener in Cancun, beginning the prestigious round-round tournament in style.
Sabalenka will hope to become the first player to reach back-to-back finals at the year-end championships since Serena Williams in 2013 and 2014, and has the job of holding off Iga Swiatek to finish the year as world No. 1.
The Belarusian made light work of the Greek here, after breaking her serve three times in the opening set and twice more in the second.
Sakkari staved off three match points for Sabalenka to take a hold at 5-1, but it only prolonged the inevitable, as the 25-year-old prevailed on her fourth.
This win moves her alongside Jessica Pegula at the top of the group, after the American overcame Elena Ryabakina 7-5 6-2.
“It’s just another tournament, yet in a different format. You just have to focus on yourself and try to do your best.”
Then, when reflecting on the match as a whole, she added: “The score looks really easy, but it wasn’t an easy match.
“I’m super happy to win this match, especially against Maria, someone who was such a big fighter and all these tough matches against her.”
Meanwhile, it was a sobering defeat for Sakkari, as Sabalenka won the first set in a mere 37 minutes before concluding the match with just an hour and 16 minutes on the clock.
“I wasn’t nervous before the match to be deadly honest, I was pretty relaxed,” Sakkari explained.
“I just haven’t been feeling my game so well, maybe because I had too much time off after China and not too many days on the court since I came back. Maybe that’s a factor. I don’t know.”
“I think it was pretty obvious that I was not feeling my game, not feeling comfortable out there. Just a very, very bad day in the office, and hopefully it’s going to get better for Tuesday.”
Attention now turns to two matches on Monday evening, as Swiatek faces Wimbledon champion Vondrousova, while reigning US Open champion Coco Gauff comes up against Wimbledon finalist Ons Jabeur.
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