Tennis-Sabalenka, Swiatek lead first set of qualifiers for WTA Finals

Sep 9, 2023; Flushing, NY, USA; Aryna Sabalenka reacts after winning a point against Coco Gauff of the United States (not pictured) in the women's singles final on day thirteen of the 2023 U.S. Open tennis tournament at USTA Billie Jean King Tennis Center. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports/File Photo

(Reuters) - World number one Aryna Sabalenka will make her third consecutive appearance at the WTA Finals in Cancun, Mexico, as the governing body of women's tennis announced its first set of qualifiers for the season finale.

The tournament, which features the top eight singles players and doubles teams in the world, will return to Mexico after a gap of one year. The 2021 edition took place in Guadalajara.

Australian Open champion Sabalenka will be joined by four-times Grand Slam champion Iga Swiatek, whom she leapfrogged to claim the top ranking for the first time after the U.S. Open earlier this month, the WTA announced on Friday.

The 25-year-old Belarusian is enjoying her best season on the WTA Tour with three titles and three more finals, including one at Flushing Meadows. She will look to improve on her runner-up finish at last year's WTA Finals in Fort Worth.

U.S. Open champion Coco Gauff booked her place in both the singles and doubles competitions. The 19-year-old will partner fellow American Jessica Pegula.

Former Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina rounded off the initial set of entrants for the tournament as she became the first player from Kazakhstan to qualify in singles.

The WTA Finals run from Oct. 29 to Nov. 5.

(Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by William Mallard)

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