Paula Badosa started off slowly but won 10 games in a row to upset top seed Aryna Sabalenka 6-4, 6-0 in their opening match at the WTA Finals.
World No. 2 Sabalenka dominated early in the match to take a 4-2 lead, but Badosa recovered and won four games in a row to win the first set and then controlled the second with three breaks.
Sabalenka, who won titles in Abu Dhabi and Madrid this season, is the first seed in Mexico because World No. 1 Ash Barty of Australia decided not to defend her WTA Finals title due to continuing COVID-19 travel and quarantine restrictions.
Badosa is having a breakthrough season after starting the year ranked at 70. The Spaniard will play her next match against Maria Sakkari, who used her strong first serve to extend her dominance over former French Open champion Iga Swiatek with a 6-2, 6-4 win earlier on Thursday.
The 26-year-old Sakkari, who is also having a breakout year, had also defeated Swiatek in straight sets in the French Open quarterfinals and Ostrava semifinals this year.
Sakkari became the first Greek woman to qualify for the WTA Finals.
Swiatek, who won titles in Adelaide and Rome in 2021, is also making her debut at the season-ending tournament.
“Yeah, I think it was a very solid match from my side. Obviously my serve really helped my game. I felt quite good with the altitude. I could control my shots pretty well. I think every day I’ll feel even better,” said Sakkari.
Sakkari won 26 of the first 27 points on her first serve and broke her opponent in the third and seventh games of the first set. She then broke again for a 4-3 lead in the second.
“I think finding the right way of serving here, it’s probably the key. You set up a point the way you want to. Definitely, I mean, having a percentage like that helps your game so much,” added Sakkari.
The results: Maria Sakkari bt Iga Swiatek 6-2, 6-4; Paula Badosa bt Aryna Sabalenka 6-4, 6-0.