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WTA Finals in Cancun – This Week in Tennis

by Alex Mann

There are lots of tennis going on right now like the WTA Finals in Cancun, the Masters in Paris, and more. Here is “This Week in Tennis”.

WTA Finals in Cancun

Before we get into the WTA Finals in Cancun, let’s look at what happened last week.

Maia, one week, two titles

Beatriz Haddad Maia won the biggest two titles of her career the same weekend as she lifted the singles and doubles Elite trophy. The Brazilian remained undefeated all week, topping her group with impressive wins over Madison Keys, Caroline Garcia, and Daria Kasatkina. In the final, Maia came through a marathon match to defeat local favourite Qinwen Zheng,7-6 (11) 7-6 (4). Maia then partnered with Veronika Kudermetova in the doubles to win her second Elite Trophy in Zhuhai, China.

To remain undefeated in a competition stacked with players in the world’s top 20 is very impressive. It’s especially impressive, given Maia’s lack of form leading into the tournament. I always find it hard to predict how well the Brazilian will do at any tournament. Leading up to last year’s Wimbledon, she’d won two grass-court tournaments in a row and reached the semi-final of a third. A week later, she lost in the first round on the courts of SW19.

Her unpredictable results continued this season, where she reached the French Open semi-final without much previous form.

This year, Maia has ended her season on a high. Can she carry this winning tennis into the new year?

Sinner continues fine form

Jannik Sinner continued his impressive end-of-year form on the ATP tour to win the Vienna Open. The Italian outclassed Daniil Medvedev for the second time in three weeks to win his 10th ATP title and cement himself as the world number 4.
In the last few seasons, few have been able to create a winning formula against Medvedev on a hard court and replicate it successfully.

Djokovic has done it on multiple occasions, but outside of him, few players’ve been able to crack Medvedev’s code. Zverev and Tsitsipas have beaten the Russian on a handful of hardcourts on occasion and even Alcaraz has only managed to beat him once on his favorite surface.

Now, I’d like to add Sinner to the list. Before this month, Sinner had never beaten Medvedev in 6 attempts. Now he’s done it twice. Medvedev didn’t play poorly, Sinner just played exceptionally well. Sinner always had the crushing groundstrokes, but he’s struggled consistently under pressure in the past.

This wasn’t the case in this final. Sinner served brilliantly, saving a set point in the first set with an ace, and kept Medvedev on his toes by changing the direction of the ball and hitting down the line.

It will be interesting to see how Sinner can bring this level of tennis he’s shown in the past few weeks to the ATP Finals in Turin.

FAA is back in biz

Over in Switzerland, Felix Auger Aliassime has re-announced himself on the tour.

The Canadian won his first title of the year, defeating top seed Holger Rune and my favorite for the title Hubert Hurkacz in the final.

It’s been a tough year for Aliassime. He lost in the first round of three out of the four majors and had only won twenty-two matches all season before his title run in Switzerland. A pretty bad record, considering this time last year, Aliassime accumulated a 16-match winning streak over four tournaments.

This win should give him hope he can claw his way back into the world’s top ten come the start of 2024 and once again challenge for the biggest titles.

Time to go to Cancun

For the top 8 women in the world, this week signals the beginning of the WTA Finals in Cancun, Mexico.

The world number 1 Aryna Sabalenka has already got off to a flying start, defeating Maria Sakkari in her first group stage match, 6-0, 6-1.

Jessica Pegula began her quest for the WTA Finals trophy with a straight-set victory over 2022 Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina, winning 7-5, 6-2.

This year’s groups are as follows;

Bacalar Group

1. Aryna Sabalenka
2. Elena Rybakina
3. Jessica Pegula
4. Maria Sakkari

Chetumal Group

1. Iga Swiatek
2. Coco Gauff
3. Ons Jabeur
4. Marketa Vondrousova

All players face everyone in their respective groups. The two players with the most match wins in each group head to the semi-final stage, where the tournament becomes a knockout format.

Predictions – Sabalenka and Pegula to reach the knockout stage. Swiatek and Gauff to reach the knockout stage.

Sabalenka to win the title.

Paris Masters

Novak Djokovic returns to competition for the first time since his US Open triumph and leads the field at the Paris Masters. The Serb will look to win a record-extending 40th Masters title and seventh in Paris.

Defending champion Holger Rune is entering this year’s tournament with little form but did manage to put together a solid run at last week’s Swiss Indoors, reaching the semi-final, so has an outside shot of defending his title.

Rune also holds the last spot in the Race to Turin and will need a solid run here to guarantee his place at this year’s ATP Finals.

The already qualified Carlos Alcaraz will be this year’s second seed. Given his recent injury woes, seeing how the Spaniard’s tennis looks a week out from the ATP Finals will be interesting.

Jannik Sinner is the most in-form player on paper, but can he continue this back-end form for another week? The last Masters tournament of the year has provided shock wins in the past, with the likes of Jack Sock and Karen Kachanov lifting the trophy.

Could there be another surprise winner this time? I’m not sure.

As long as Djokovic’s name is in the draw, it’s hard to bet against him, so I think he has to be the favorite for the title.

Prediction – Djokovic to win

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