WTA Race to Shenzhen Update - UBITENNIS
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WTA Race to Shenzhen Update

Who has already qualified for the WTA Finals, and who is in position to claim the remaining spots?

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We’re just one month away from the debut of the WTA Finals in Shenzhen, where a substantially increased purse of $14M US dollars will be at stake.  This week’s Premier Mandatory event in Beijing is one of the WTA’s most prestigious non-Majors of the year, and the last opportunity for players to accumulate considerable rankings points ahead of the WTA Finals.  The winner gets 1,000 points, with the runner-up receiving 650 points, and semifinalists getting 390 points. The only other remaining Premier-level event is the Kremlin Cup in Moscow, where the winner garners 470 points.

 

Here’s a look at the current year-to-date standings heading into the China Open, starting with the players that have already officially qualified for the WTA Finals, along with the points they’ve accumulated this season (their 2019 titles are in parenthesis).

1) Ash Barty, 5,836 points (Roland Garros, Miami, Birmingham)

2) Karolina Pliskova, 5,315 points (Rome, Brisbane, Eastbourne, Zhengzhou)

3) Simona Halep, 4,907 points (Wimbledon)

It’s worth noting Halep was forced to withdraw from the Wuhan Open this past week due to a back injury, putting her WTA Finals participation in question for the second straight year.

The following players have not officially qualified, but almost certainly will.

4) Bianca Andreescu, 4,737 points (US Open, Indian Wells, Toronto)

5) Naomi Osaka, 4,256 points (Australian Open, Osaka)

6) Petra Kvitova, 4,196 points (Sydney, Stuttgart)

At No.7 in the race rankings is Serena Williams, but it would be quite surprising if she ends up playing the WTA Finals.  She is the only top 10 player not entered into the China Open this week, and hasn’t played the WTA Finals since 2014.  Assuming she does not play, that will open up a spot for the player in ninth place.

Now here are the remaining players with a strong chance of claiming the last few qualifying spots, along with a look at their current form and their chances of qualifying.

8) Elina Svitolina, 3,790 points – Svitolina was the champion of the WTA Finals a year ago, but is in danger of not even qualifying this year.  Though she reached the quarter-finals or better at three of the four Majors in 2019, including her first two Slam semifinals, she’s won no titles this year.   Elina has played every week since the US Open, but has gone just 4-3 during that time, and retired from one of those matches due to right knee pain. In this week’s China Open, she has a tricky opening round against Anastasija Sevastova, and is in a tough eighth of the draw that includes recent Guangzhou champion Sofia Kenin and Osaka finalist Anastasia Pavlyuychenkova.

9) Belinda Bencic, 3,595 points (Dubai) – Bencic has returned to the top 10 for the first time in over three years with 42 match wins this season.  She’s coming off her first Major semifinal in New York, but lost her only match since the US Open to Veronika Kudermetova this past week in Wuhan.  Belinda is vying to make her WTA finals debut. In Beijing, she already defeated Su-Wei Hsieh in the opening round, but shares a section of the draw with Petra Kvitova and Venus Williams.

10) Kiki Bertens, 3,490 points (Madrid, St. Petersburg) – Bertens will need to gain some points over the next few weeks to return to the WTA Finals for the second straight year, unless multiple people ranked above her withdraw from the event.  But Kiki is not currently playing with a lot of confidence. After a strong first half of the season, she’s just 5-6 since August. In Beijing, she already outlasted Donna Vekic in a third set tiebreak, and will play either Caroline Garcia or Dayana Yastremska in the next round.  Neither of those players are normally easy outs, so Bertens will need to up her level to get herself into qualifying position this week.

Beyond these top 10 players in the race, it will take a huge late-season surge, or some unexpected withdrawals, for any other women to qualify for Shenzhen.  Johanna Konta is currently in the 11th position, but is more than 600 points behind Bertens.  And the British No.1 isn’t even playing this week in Beijing due to knee pain.  With no other players anywhere near 3,000 points, it will likely be eight of the current top 10 players in the race playing at the WTA Finals.

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Dominic Thiem and Jannik Sinner grab the headlines in Vienna

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Dominic Thiem beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-4 7-6 (7-2) to reach the second round at the Erste Bank Open in Vienna.

 

Thiem rallied from 0-40 down to break Tsonga in the seventh game of the first set and held his next service games to win the opening set 6-4. Tsonga saved four break points in the first, third and ninth games of the second set, which came down to the tie-break. Thiem pulled away to win the tie-break 7-2. Thiem did not face a break point and won 80% of his first serve points.

Thiem will face Fernando Verdasco, who came back from one set down to beat Nikoloz Basilashvili 4-6 6.2 6-1

Italian Next Gen star Jannik Sinner beat Phillip Kohlschreiber 6-3 6-4 in his ninth career ATP match setting up a second round match against either Gael Monfils or Dennis Novak. Sinner beat Monfils last week in Antwerp en route to becoming the youngest ATP semifinalist since Borna Coric at the 2014 Swiss Indoors in Basel.

Sinner earned his first break in the fourth game to take a 3-1 lead. The Italian 18-year-old player saved three break points at 4-2, but he held his serve. Sinner sealed the opening set 6-3 on his first set point.

Sinner got the decisive break in the seventh game to take a 4-3 lead and held his final two service games to seal the second set 6-3.

Hyeon Chung fought off a late come-back from Milos Raonic to take a confidence-boosting 6-4 7-5 win in 1 hour and 44 minutes. Chung set up a second-round match against either Andrey Rublev or Felix Auger Aliassime.

Chung broke serve in the opening game of each set. The Asian player built up a 4-2 lead in the second set, but Raonic came back by winning three consecutive games. Raonic did not convert a set point at 5-4 on Chung’s serve, when Chung hit a forehand winner. Chung reeled off 10 of the next 14 points.

 

 

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Taylor Fritz upsets Alexander Zverev in Basel first round

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Taylor Fritz upset last year’s Alexander Zverev 7-6 6-4 after 1 hour and 24 minutes in the first round of the Swiss Indoor Open at the St. Jakobshalle in Basel.

 

Zverev earned a break point chance in the third game of the opening set, but Fritz saved it with an ace. Both players stayed neck and neck until the tie-break, where Zverev went up a 4-1 lead. Fritz clawed his way back by winning his next two points on serve. Zverev saved a set point at 5-6 and earned his own set point, when Taylor missed a forehand. Fritz drew level to 7-7 with a smash winner. The Californian player got another mini-break before sealing the opening set with an ace after 49 minutes.

Zverev did not convert his last break point chance in the second game of the second set when he netted his return. Fritz got his only break of the match in the third game to take a 2-1 lead after a loose forehand from Zverev.

Fritz never looked back in his next service games to clinch his 29th win of the season.

Fritz, who lost eight of the last matches after reaching the final at the Los Cabos last August, hit 37 winners to 27 unforced errors. The young US player earned the only break of the entire match.

“I played really solid, so it feels good to get that win, instead of him getting me for the third time in a row. I got out there today and the sliders on my serve were working well”, said Fritz.

Stefanos Tsitsipas beat Albert Ramos Vinolas 6-3 7-6 (8-6) in a hard-fought match. The Greek Next Gen star won his only break of the first set in the sixth game to take a 4-2 lead and held on his next service games to close out the first set 6-3.

Tsitsipas earned another break in the fifth game of the second set to take a 3-2 lead. Ramos Vinolas broke straight back in the next game to draw level to 3-3. The Spanish player saved two match points at 4-6 in the tie-break. Tsitsipas forced Ramos Vinolas to a forehand error before closing out the match after 1 hour and 44 minutes.

“I knew it was going to be a difficult battle out there. He fought hard and gave me a hard time out there, but I am satisfied and happy that this match did not go longer or to three sets. The players that make it into ATP 500 tournaments are all playing well, so I expect every match to be difficult. You have to fight for everything”,said Tsitsipas.

 US giant Reilly Opelka battled past Chilean Christian Garin 7-6 (7-5) 7-6 (12-10) after a match with no breaks of serve. Opelka fended off set points at 6-7 and 8-9 in the tie-break of the second set before sealing the win on his fourth match point. Opelka will face either David Goffin or Marin Cilic.

Fabio Fognini cruised past Next Gen Australian player Alexey Popyrin 6-2 6-4 boosting his chance to qualify for the ATP Finals in London. Fognini is currently ranked number 11 in the ATP Race to London with 2235 points.

“Tennis has started to change again with these young guys, who are amazing on their first and second serves”, said Fognini.

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Stan Wawrinka Explains ATP Cup Absence And Olympics Situation Ahead Of Basel

Stan Wawrinka has explained why his Olympic dream is in doubt as he prepares to start his campaign in Basel.

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Stan Wawrinka (@usopen - Twitter)

Stan Wawrinka has explained why he is absent from the ATP Cup line-up as he begins his campaign in Basel on Wednesday. 

 

The three-time grand slam champion enters his home tournament in Basel having lost a three set final to a resurgent Andy Murray in Antwerp.

Despite the loss Wawrinka has been on a momentum swing himself having reached the US Open and Roland Garros quarter-finals this season.

Although this year has been a success, the Swiss’ 2020 calendar remains a mystery having been absent from Switzerland’s team for the ATP Cup next year.

Speaking to puntodebreak.com, Wawrinka explained his decision to not participate in the cup competition in January as well as questions over his Olympic eligibility, “I have a contract with the Doha tournament, which takes place at the same time as the ATP Cup,” Wawrinka explained.

“I would like to play it (Olympics). The desire is there, but now I have to adjust my calendar for 2020 with my team. I don’t know what criteria are required to get a Wild Card.” 

The 34 year-old is not the only one requiring a wildcard to enter the Olympics with Roger Federer, Kei Nishikori amongst others relying on the same rule.

Meanwhile Wawrinka is preparing for his first match in Basel, where he doesn’t have the best record having never reached the final.

A first round match against Pablo Cuevas awaits on Wednesday and he admitted his tension when performing in front of a home crowd,“In Basel I have always been a little tense, too hesitant,” he admitted.

“Correcting that and winning my first round match against Pablo Cuevas on Wednesday depends on me. It is not the tournament that suits my style of play and that is why, although I have played some good matches here, I do not have such a good performance.”

If Wawrinka wants to reach his maiden Swiss Indoors final, he will potentially have to go through Roger Federer in the quarter-finals.

That dream last eight match is a long way away though as Wawrinka will have to go through Pablo Cuevas and the winner of Frances Tiafoe against Dan Evans.

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