Sabalenka, Kasatkina seal WTA Finals spots

Oct 20 (Reuters) - Aryna Sabalenka and Daria Kasatkina secured qualification for the WTA Finals on Thursday while a faceoff between Maria Sakkari and Veronika Kudermetova in Guadalajara will decide the final spot at the season-ending event on the women's tour.

The WTA Finals, featuring the world's top eight singles players and doubles teams, will start in Fort Worth, Texas on Oct. 31.

Kasatkina, who was beaten 6-3 2-6 6-3 by Anna Kalinskaya on Thursday, will make her debut in the season finale after winning in San Jose and Granby, while fourth-ranked Sabalenka will make her second appearance.

Greek fourth seed Sakkari kept alive her hopes of making the Finals by surviving an early scare and fighting back from a set down to beat American Danielle Collins 5-7 6-3 6-3.

With the deciding set level at 3-3, Sakkari, who had squandered a set point in the first set, dug deep to win three straight games against Collins and progress to the quarter-finals of the WTA 1000 event.

Sakkari will face Kudermetova, who beat Latvian Jelena Ostapenko 6-4 6-4, and the winner of that match will snap up the last qualification spot on offer at the Finals.

"It was meant to be. It was meant for me and Veronika to be in that spot, fighting each other to get that last spot," Sakkari told reporters. "I believe we're both going to be very motivated to get it."

Earlier on Thursday, two-time former Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka battled past Madison Keys 6-4 6-7(4) 6-1, ending the American's hopes of qualifying for the Finals and setting up a quarter-final showdown with Coco Gauff, who rolled past Italian Martina Trevisan 6-0 6-3.

It will be the first meeting between the 33-year-old Azarenka and the American 15 years her junior, after overcoming second-set blunders to dispatch Keys in a tense two hours and 14 minutes.

Gauff booked her ticket for Fort Worth a day earlier. read more

Third-ranked American Jessica Pegula kept her impressive 2022 on track to down former U.S. Open winner Bianca Andreescu 6-4 6-4 and will next face compatriot Sloane Stephens, who dispatched France's Caroline Garcia 7-6(6) 7-5.

Pegula, a quarter-finalist at the Australian Open, Roland Garros and U.S. Open this year, looked in trouble as the Canadian broke her to love in the second game of the first set but quickly found her form, winning slightly more than 70% of her first-serve points across the entire match.

Reporting by Amy Tennery in New York, additional reporting by Aadi Nair; Editing by Christopher Cushing & Shri Navaratnam

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