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WTA Finals preview: Swiatek and Sabalenka tussle for top spot

The WTA Tour is nearly finished for another season but the battle for top spot in the women's rankings is far from over with the WTA Finals getting underway in Mexico this week.

The Plaza Quintana Roo will host the world's best eight female players in the finals this week, although Karolina Muchova misses out, having been forced to withdraw due to a wrist injury, and she is replaced by Maria Sakkari.

WhatWTA Finals 2023
WherePlaza Quintana Roo, Cancun, Mexico
When29th October - 5th November, 2023
How to watchAmazon Prime Video

Sabalenka and Swiatek go head to head for top spot

The biggest talking point heading into the season-ending event in Cancun is the battle for top spot in the world rankings with Aryna Sabalenka looking to hold off second seed Iga Swiatek.

Thanks to her run to the tournament's final in Fort Worth last season, Sabalenka has a pretty sizeable advantage over Swiatek in pursuit of the world number one ranking.

Sabalenka lost the US Open final to Cori Gauff back in September but the runner-up position was enough to lift her to top spot in the WTA rankings with Swiatek relinquishing her grasp for the first time since April last year.

The ball is in Sabalenka's court but Swiatek can yet regain top spot and both players find themselves in different groups.

The WTA Finals begin with a round-robin group format with the eight players involved divided across two sections - the Bacalar Group and the Chetumal Group.

The top two in each group will then progress to the tournament's semi-finals with Sabalenka and Swiatek expected to be in the mix.

Cancun finals set to feature all four Grand Slam winners

Sabalenka won the US Open at the start of the year while Swiatek managed to defend her French Open crown and the pair are joined by the season's other two Grand Slam winners in a strong WTA Finals draw.

Marketa Vondrousova was the unlikely winner of Wimbledon earlier this year and is preparing for her WTA Finals debut - she will be only the sixth left-handed player to feature in the WTA Finals singles this century.

It has also been a big year for young Gauff, who secured her first Grand Slam title in the form of the US Open earlier this season, taking down Sabalenka 2-6 6-3 6-2 in the final on home turf.

That represented a sixth career title for Gauff, who becomes only the fourth teenager to take part in the WTA Finals in successive years.

Rybakina and Pegula among outside dangers in Mexico

Last year's WTA Finals were won by the event's sixth seed Caroline Garcia, who defied expectations to beat Sabalenka 7-6 6-4 in the final, and there are a few outsiders looking to make their mark in Mexico.

While Sabalenka, Swiatek and Gauff will draw most attention, the draw is strong throughout and nobody should be dismissed.

Elena Rybakina failed to pick up a Grand Slam title this season but it was only just over a year ago that she rose to the occasion at Wimbledon while she was runner-up at the Australian Open at the start of the year.

Renowned for her destructive serve, Rybakina has also beaten the WTA world number one four times in 2023 - beating Swiatek three times and Sabalenka once - and she is more than capable of mixing it with the big guns.

Jessica Pegula crashed out of the WTA Finals in the round-robin stage last year but has come on a lot this season, having achieved her best ever run at Wimbledon (quarter-finals) earlier in the year.

Completing this year's WTA Finals draw is Greek ace Sakkari, who was a semi-finalist in 2022, and experienced Tunisian Ons Jabeur, who was runner-up at Wimbledon.

The WTA Finals in Cancun have a prize pool of $9 million and there are up to 1,500 points available if a player is able to go undefeated en route to winning the singles title.

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