GUADALAJARA, Mexico (AP)Sixth-ranked Maria Sakkari defeated Veronika Kudermetova of Russia 6-1, 5-7, 6-4 on Friday night to advance to the semifinals of the Guadalajara Open 1000 and clinch a place in the WTA Finals.

Sakkari, seeded fourth, will take on Marie Bouzkova, who advanced after Anna Kalinskaya of Russia retired with the score 5-2 in favor of the Czech in the first set.

Sakkari will play in the WTA Finals in Fort Worth, Texas, for the second straight year. The 27-year-old from Greece advanced to the semifinals in Guadalajara a year ago.

”Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think it’s a lot tougher to do it twice in a row than just do it once. That’s what I’m mostly proud about,” Sakkari said. ”As bad as my season, like, after Indian Wells was, I still just gave myself this chance to finish the year strong. I think that’s the best gift I can give to myself, just making it to Fort Worth.”

Top-ranked Iga Swiatek and Ons Jabeur secured their berths with their efforts at the U.S. Open, and Jessica Pegula arrived in Mexico after punching her ticket last week in San Diego.

Others who qualified included Coco Gauff, Caroline Garcia, Aryna Sabalenka and Daria Kasatkina.

Gauff, who secured her place with two wins this week, lost to Viktoria Azarenka 7-6 (2), 4-6, 6-3.

The 33-year-old Azarenka, from Belarus, reached her first semifinal since last October, when she advanced to the final at Indian Wells.

”She’s a young player, but she’s had quite a few already experiences on the tour. I love watching Coco play,” Azarenka said. ”I believe that she’s going to do great things in the sport. I feel like she just needs a little bit more to kind of take that one step forward.”

Azarenka, a former No. 1-ranked player in the world, will face off against third-seeded Pegula, who cruised to a 6-2, 6-2 win over former U.S. Open Champion Sloane Stephens.

With the win, Pegula has 37 victories in WTA 1000 tournaments, the most since 2021. She broke a tie with Swiatek (36).

”I saw the stat that I have the most wins over the last two years,” said Pegula, who is having a breakthrough season. ”It’s awesome. When I was younger, I never thought that I could string two wins together. It’s going to be a special stat for the rest of my career.”

AP tennis: and