WTA Finals: Which semi-finalist is favourite to win the competition?

WTA FINALS

The semi-finals are set for this year’s WTA Finals but who will end the season victorious in Guadalajara?

While a number of the world’s top names have been absent from the competition, including Ashleigh Barty and Naomi Osaka, the Mexico crowd have still been treated to some thrilling tennis.

None of the eight qualified players have ever won the tournament before, meaning we are guaranteed a first-time winner.

The first semi-final is an all Spanish affair as Paula Badosa meets Garbiñe Muguruza. Remarkably, the two players have never faced each other before but the two have become close friends after bonding as Olympic teammates in Tokyo this summer.

Badosa entered the Finals in the better form, coming off the back of her triumph at Indian Wells. Having won her first two group stage matches to qualify for the last four, her eight-match winning streak came to an end against Iga Swiatek.

ENTER GIVEAWAY

ENTER GIVEAWAY

The 24-year-old has enjoyed a stunning rise to the top of the women’s game in 2021 –– starting the year ranked 70th in the world and climbing into the top 10.

One of the main reasons for this has been an improvement in mentality. The Spaniard says this is an aspect of her game she has worked on a lot and believes she is one of the best at handling this now.

“[A] few years ago, mentally I was a typical player,” she said on Saturday. “‘Oh, she can play good, but mentally she's so far away. She needs to improve a lot on that.’ I listened to that a lot.

“Now I think I'm maybe one of the best ones, or that's what I try. ... Of course, I improved on my tennis and physically. That's tough. But I think the toughest part to improve is on the mental game.”

As a two time major champion, Muguruza also has a strong mentality. The former Wimbledon champion has benefitted from playing in the Finals before and bounced back from an opening game defeat to win her next two matches.

In the other semi-final, Greece’s Maria Sakkari takes on rising star Anett Kontaveit.

Sakkari beat top seed and world number two Aryna Sabalenka to make it to this stage – having also beaten Swiatek in her opening match.

Sakkari

The Greek star will face Estonia’s Anett Kontaveit, who is in outstanding form at the moment. The 25-year-old won back-to-back tournaments at the Kremlin Cup in Russia and then followed this up with victory at the Transylvania Open.

Kontaveit then beat the Czech pair of Barbora Krejcikova and Karolina Pliskova to extend her winning run to twelve matches, before losing to Muguruza in her final round-robin game.

The main question for the Estonian is her fitness. In her match against Muguruza, she looked understandably tired and her coach, Dmitry Tursunov, says he’s unsure how she’ll fare physically in the semi-finals.

“I wish had a way to measure it,” he said. “Definitely, I would agree that she looked a little more tired. But when your back is against the wall, you play different tennis. We’ll see tomorrow.”

However, Sakkari may also be struggling physically, after her epic encounter with Sabalenka lasted almost three hours.

Off the court, the two are great friends and kept each other entertained on daily FaceTime calls during their quarantine in Melbourne.

Now though, they must put their friendship aside and face off for the biggest final of their careers.

Iga Swiatek

In truth, both semi-finals are almost impossible to call at this stage. No players left in the draw are undefeated, which suggests that anyone is capable of beating anyone.

Muguruza is the only Grand Slam champion out of the four competitors, which may perhaps give her a mental advantage. But equally, it wouldn’t be surprising to see any of Badosa, Kontaveit or Sakkari claim the title. One way or another, a new winner will be crowned.

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