Wednesday at the WTA Finals in Shenzhen could see defending champion Elina Svitolina qualify for the semi-finals. However, she faces a stern test in the form of Wimbledon Champion Simona Halep. Meanwhile, Karolina Pliskova is on the verge of elimination heading into her crucial match with Bianca Andreescu.
Simona Halep (5) vs. Elina Svitolina (8)
The lower seeds in the Purple Group both prevailed on Monday, meaning they’ll now play to decide who will remain the only undefeated player in the group. Halep earned her biggest win since her Wimbledon triumph on Monday in taking out Andreescu, coming back from a set down with the help of several insightful coaching visits from Darren Cahill, who is now permanently back on her team. Svitolina meanwhile won her sixth straight match at this event. The defending champion outlasted Pliskova 14-12 in the first set tiebreak, and used that momentum to close out the match in straights. Halep and Svitolina have a storied history, with Simona owning a slight 5-4 edge overall. Elina has twice prevailed in the Rome final in recent years, while Halep made a miraculous comeback at the 2017 French Open when Svitolina got tight with a huge lead. Outside of the clay, Halep leads 3-2 on hard courts. Notably, Svitolina defeated Halep at this event two years ago, while Simona took their most recent match in the semifinals of Doha earlier this year. I expect another dramatic match is this rivalry to take place today, as there’s not much to separate these two. But I slightly favor Halep coming off her big win over Andreescu two days ago.
Karolina Pliskova (2) vs. Bianca Andreescu (4)
Their only previous meeting was earlier this year in Toronto, when the Canadian teenager got the duke 6-4 in the third on her way to the Rogers Cup title. Andreescu though is now facing a new challenge in her career, coming off back-to-back losses at this level. She was up a set against Naomi Osaka in Beijing as well as against Halep earlier this week, but lost both those matches. Bianca also complained of suffering from a back injury during her third set against Halep on Monday. Let’s hope we don’t have another withdrawal today, on the heels of Naomi Osaka’s withdrawal yesterday. If Andreescu is healthy, she has a lot more variety in her game than Pliskova, and is a much better mover, all of which should result in a Bianca victory. And while Karolina has earned 50 match wins throughout a steady year, which includes four titles, she’s currently on a three-match losing streak.
As per the WTA, below are the advancement scenarios for Wednesday’s matches:
- Svitolina qualifies if she wins in straight sets.
- Pliskova is eliminated if she loses in straight sets.
- If Svitolina and Pliskova win today, Svitolina qualifies as the group winner and Andreescu is eliminated. Pliskova and Halep would play for the second advancement spot on Friday.
- If Halep and Andreescu win today, Halep qualifies as group winner and Pliskova is eliminated. Svitolina and Andreescu would play for the second advancement spot on Friday.
- Any other combination of results will mean qualification comes down to the final matches on Friday.
Simona Halep Destroys Kontaveit With Sublime Display To Clinch Semi-Final Spot
Simona Halep moved a step closer to a third Grand Slam title with a dominant win over 28th seed Anett Kontaveit.
Simona Halep put on a masterclass on Rod Laver Arena as she dismantled Anett Kontaveit 6-1 6-1 to seal her place in the semi-finals of the 2020 Australian Open.
The Romanian, 28, looks to be in exceptional form as she chases her third Grand Slam title. She is yet to drop a set at the event and, naturally, she is hoping to continue in the same vein.
“I’m really happy that I can play my best tennis,” Halep said in her on-court interview. “For the first time in my life, I did my off-season away from home so I could focus on what I had to do. I had no days off and I’ve started the year very well. I’m feeling much stronger than I did before.”
The Romanian also paid tribute to her coach Darren Cahill. “He’s been very important since I met him four or five years ago,” she said. “We’ve worked hard on my attitude and my game and today I’m a better person and a better player, so I really want to thank him for the help he gave me. He’s a great person and he understands me so that makes the job easier.”
Halep’s game plan against big hitters like the Estonian is very simple, but much harder to execute. She makes them hit as many shots as possible (preferably from difficult positions) because this increases the chances that they will make errors. To do this, the Romanian needs speed, flexibility immense skill and variety of shot, and the ability to make smart decisions during rallies.
Halep has all these things in her arsenal. At her best, she combines them to make life extremely difficult for her opponents. If they play well, she beats them narrowly. If they play poorly, she thrashes them.
Halep applies pressure early on
In the Romanian’s quarter-final against Kontaveit, she looked focused from first minute to last. And she cranked up the pressure in just the third game.
During it, the Estonian hit some high-quality winners. However, she also made several errors to repeatedly return the score to deuce. Eventually, she cracked, and made an error on break point.
Two games later, the World No.31 saved three break points to recover from 0-40 down. Unfortunately for her, Halep was not discouraged. She outlasted Kontaveit in a 14-shot rally to seize the fourth break point of the game and extend her lead to 4-1.
Some players would relax a little at this stage. Some days, Halep might even do that. But not this time. She relentlessly closed out the first set (with a hold and another break) without giving the Estonian an inch.
Halep reaches new heights
Extraordinarily, the standard of play from the two-time Grand Slam champion seemed to increase at the start of the second set. She came up with some brilliant shots as she raced into a 3-0 lead to extend her run of games to nine.
At that point, Kontaveit looked disconsolate. She made two wayward errors as she dropped her serve for the fifth time in a row.
The Estonian tried her best to make something happen in the next game. During one remarkable point, she hammered the ball as hard as she could to try and get it past her opponent. Maddeningly for Kontaveit’s supporters, Halep retrieved it every time and eventually won the point thanks to a let-cord. Minutes later, the score was 5-0.
The World No.31 finally stopped the rot after losing 11 games on the spin. But it hardly mattered. The Romanian held her serve easily to seal one of the most convincing wins of her whole career.
Halep recalls 2018 Final
In the last four, Halep will face either Garbine Muguruza or Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. If she wins that encounter, she will contest an Australian Open final for the second time in three years.
“(My previous final) wasn’t negative at all,” the Romanian said in her on-court interview. “It hurt a lot because I lost 6-4 in the third. I had 4-3 and serve but I couldn’t finish the match. Maybe I was too nervous at that moment. But now I have more experience. That match helped me to win the two Grand Slams that I have already. Maybe I’m on my way to the third one. But it’s very far still, so I just want to focus on my next match.”
Timea Babos and Kristina Mladenovic beat Coco Gauff and Catherine McNally to reach the semifinal in the Australian Open doubles tournament
Timea Babos and Kristina Mladenovic saw off Coco Gauff and Catherine McNally 6-2 6-4 to reach the semifinals of the Australian Open doubles tournament in Melbourne.
Babos and Mladenovic broke serve in the opening game at love. They reeled off the first ten points of the match and went up a double break before closing out the first set 6-2.
Babos and Mladenovic broke serve at love in the third game of the second set. They missed a match point on Gauff and McNally’s serve at 5-3 before converting on their fourth opportunity on their serve.
Babos and Mladenovic set up a semifinal match against sisters Chan Hao-Ching and Latisha Chan from China Taipei, who beat reigning US Open doubles champions Elise Mertens and Aryna Sabalenka 7-6 (9-7) 6-2.
The Chan sisters fended off four break points at 4-4 in the opening set en route to the tie-break. The Chinese Taipei sisters earned the only mini-break to win the tie-break 9-7.
The Asian pair earned a double break to race out to a 3-0 lead. Mertens and Sabalenka pulled one of the two breaks back, but Chan Hao-Chin and Latisha Chan broke again in the seventh game and closed it out on their first match point.
Top seeds Hsieh-Su Wei and Barbora Strycova cruised past Jennifer Brady and Caroline Dolehide 6-2 6-2 setting up a semifinal match against Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova, who came back from one set down to beat Gabriela Dabrowski and Jelena Ostapenko 3-6 6-2 6-3.
Dabrowski and Ostapenko earned an early break to open up a 3-0 lead. Krejcikova and Siniakova broke back in the seventh game for 3-4, but Dabrowski and Ostapenko got the second break to seal the opening set 6-3.
Krejcikova and Siniakova fended off the only break point they faced and broke twice to win the second set 6-2. After a trade of breaks in the third and fourth games Krejicikova and Siniakova earned the decisive break in the eighth game to win the third set.
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova sees off Angelique Kerber to reach the quarter final at the Australian Open
Anastasya Pavlyudchenkova battled past Angelique Kerber 6-7 (5-7) 7-6 (7-4) 6-2 after 2 hours and 37 minutes to reach her sixth Grand Slam quarter final.
Pavlyuchenkova earned her first break with a volley and raced out to a 5-2 lead with a double break with a backhand return. Kerber came back by winning four consecutive games to take a 6-5 lead. Pavlyuchenkova hit seven consecutive winners from 3-5 to take a 3-0 in the tie-break. Kerber won seven of the next nine points from 0-3 down and sealed her first set point with a backhand winner.
Kerber saved two set points at 4-5 and another one at 5-6 in the second set. Pavlyuchenkova closed out the second set on her fifth set point with a return winner.
Pavlyuchenkova went up a double break to race out to a 4-0 lead. Kerber pulled back one of the two breaks with a forehand crosscourt. Pavlyuchenkova earned her third break of the decisive set to open up a 5-2 lead and closed out the match with her fourth ace setting up a quarter final against Garbine Muguruza, who beat Kiki Bertens 6-3 6-3.
“I was there pretty much every point, I mean, I tried to. That always paid off, or at least that gives some sort of confidence. Sometimes there were some moments or matches where I did not feel my best or I did not play my best, but I was still there”, said Pavlyuchenkova.
Anett Kontaveit came back from one set down to beat Polish teenager Iga Switek 6-7 (4-7) 7-5 7-5 becoming the first player from Estonia to reach the quarter final at the Australian Open. Kontaveit will face Simona Halep in the quarter final.
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