Caroline Garcia rallied from a set down to beat Daria Kasatkina 4-6, 6-1, 7-6 (7/5) on Saturday in a winner-take-all clash that sent the French player into the WTA Finals knockout phase.
The clash for the last semi-final berth was tense and action-packed, Garcia shaking off the frustration of the first set then holding on in the tightly contested third to line up a meeting with fifth-ranked Greek Maria Sakkari.
Round-robin play concluded later Saturday with world number one Iga Swiatek, already assured of her semi-final berth, beating American teenager Coco Gauff 6-3, 6-0. Gauff had already been eliminated from semi-final contention.
Garcia ranked sixth, became the first player in 30 attempts this season to beat Kasatkina after dropping the first set.
After rolling through the second set, she had a chance to break in the 13-minute ninth game of the third, but Kasatkina saved six break points to hold as they went to a tiebreaker.
Garcia gave herself two match points with a gutsy rally, sending Kasatkina wide with a swinging forehand volley then firing a backhand volley cross-court.
Kasatkina saved one match point, but dropped a volley into the net on the next.
"It's definitely a great achievement," Garcia said of reaching the semis in the season finale open to the top eight players in the world. "I was already really proud to be in the top eight.
"I don't really know if I realize that this is the semi-final tomorrow."
Garcia said the victory vindicated her aggressive style in a high-stakes contest.
"Every match we say you have to give it all and no regrets, go for it and it's always true, but in this tournament even more – it's the last one (of the season)."
Garcia said her success this week "proves that this was definitely a good year.
"I started very far from the top 10, the top eight, and I made my way to it," added Garcia, who at the age of 29 is enjoying a resurgence.
She won titles this year in Bad Homburg and Warsaw before her triumph in Cincinnati and also reached the semi-finals of the US Open.
"Today, it's one more thing that proves my game style is working and I have to keep going that way," she said.
Garcia takes a 2-0 career lead over Sakkari into the semi-final, including a victory at Cincinnati this year on route to the title.
Swiatek, winner of the French Open and US Open this year, will face seventh-ranked Aryna Sabalenka in the semis at Dickies Arena in Fort Worth.
The event was moved to Texas due to continuing pandemic-related issues with the Chinese city of Shenzhen, which was initially due to host, as well as the WTA's dispute with China over the status of player Peng Shuai.