Fixture: (1) Aryna Sabalenka vs (7) Paula Badosa
Date: 11 November 2021
Tournament: Akron WTA Finals 2021
Round: Round robin (Group Chichen Itza)
Venue: Guadalajara, Mexico
Category: Year-ending championships
Prize money: $5,000,000
Match timing: Not before 7.30 pm local time, 1.30 am GMT, 7 am IST
Live telecast: USA - Tennis Channel & ESPN | UK - Amazon Prime Video
Aryna Sabalenka vs Paula Badosa preview
Sabalenka has put together her best-ever season this year, winning titles in Abu Dhabi and Madrid. More importantly, she reached a couple of Grand Slam semifinals for the first time in her career. Her exploits this season catapulted her to a career-high ranking of No. 2 in the world, making her the highest-ranked player in the Guadalajara field.
The Belarusian was laid low by a positive COVID-19 test a few weeks ago and her comeback in Moscow didn't prove successful, with the 23-year-old managing to win just one match.
Sabalenka has not played much tennis of late and she will be hoping she can hit the ground running in Guadalajara and end her stellar season on a high.
Much like Sabalenka, Paula Badosa is also enjoying the most memorable season of her career. Badosa toppled three Grand Slam champions -- Victoria Azarenka, Angelique Kerber and Barbora Krejcikova -- en route to winning the BNP Paribas Open, her biggest title.
The Spaniard also made the quarterfinals at Roland Garros as well as the Olympics and won the title in Belgrade.
With a strong 41-15 win-loss record for the year, Badosa enters the WTA Finals brimming with confidence and perched at a career-high No. 10 in the world rankings.
Aryna Sabalenka vs Paula Badosa head-to-head
Paula Badosa leads Aryna Sabalenka 1-0 in the head-to-head, having won their solitary meeting 5-7, 6-2, 7-6(4) at Cincinnati earlier this year.
Aryna Sabalenka vs Paula Badosa prediction
Although Sabalenka is the higher-ranked player, her fitness remains a concern after her battle with COVID-19. The high bounce at Guadalajara will also not suit the Belarusian, who likes to bludgeon her way past her opponents.
Badosa, in contrast, has a game that is more suited to these conditions; her heavy topspin forehand could make life especially difficult for the Belarusian. Having beaten Sabalenka in their only meeting so far, Badosa will be confident of toppling the top seed once again.
Badosa enters this clash boasting a six-match winning streak and it will take a monumental effort from Sabalenka to overcome the red-hot Spaniard.
Prediction: Paula Badosa to win in three sets.