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Aryna Sabalenka keeps pressure on Iga Swiatek for No 1 spot: What Swiatek needs to do to stay top

Aryna Sabalenka continued her barnstorming form in 2023 with another impressive display to reach the semi-final of the French Open with a two-set win over Elina Svitolina.

Sabalenka is now just two wins away from winning back-to-back Grand Slam titles following her success at the Australian Open at the start of the year while the world No 1 ranking is also still on the line.

Tuesday’s 6-4, 6-4 win over Svitolina saw her reach the last four at Roland Garros for the first time and she has done so without dropping a set. The Belarusian is now also 34-5 in 2023.

World No 192 Svitolina used her protected ranking to get into the main draw, but she reeled off a string of impressive performances – including a two-set win over ninth seed Daria Kasatkina – to reach the last eight.

Sabalenka, though, was in dominant form in the first set as she didn’t face a single break point and claimed the crucial break in game nine.

The Ukrainian had her chances early in the second set as after holding in the opening game, she broke to go 2-0 up. However, her joy was short-lived as the second seed broke back immediately and then claimed a second break in game five. From there it was straightforward as she wrapped up the win on her second match point.

Swiatek-Sabalenka permutations for No 1 spot in WTA Rankings
With Sabalenka reaching the semi-final at Roland Garros, it means Swiatek will need to reach at least the final to have any hope of keeping the No 1 spot in the WTA Rankings.

Swiatek will face sixth seed Coco Gauff in her quarter-final clash on Wednesday in what is a repeat of last year’s final.

But victory over Gauff will not be enough to keep her at No 1 as she will then have to defeat either seventh seed Ons Jabeur or 14th seed Beatriz Haddad Maia in the semi-final.

If Sabalenka comes through her semi-final against Karolina Muchova – who beat Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 7-5, 6-2 earlier in the day – then Swiatek can only remain No 1 if she defeats the second seed to successfully defend her title.

Swiatek is one of only five players to have beaten Sabalenka this year with the Pole’s victory coming in the final of the Stuttgart Open, although the world No 2 beat the three-time Grand Slam winner in the Madrid Open final a few weeks later.


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