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Bertens vs Gasparyan WTA Linz live streaming, preview and tips - Second seed Bertens faces Tashkent champion Gasparyan for Linz quarter-final spot

Andrew Hendrie in WTA Tour 11 Oct 2018
  • Kiki Bertens vs Margarita Gasparyan is live from Linz around 4.00pm local time on Thursday (3.00pm BST)
  • First career meeting between the pair
Kiki Bertens (Photo by Di Yin/Getty Images)

Kiki Bertens hopes to keep her WTA Finals chances alive when she faces resurgent Russian Margarita Gasparyan in the Upper Austria Ladies Linz second round on Thursday.

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Needing to reach at least the quarter-finals to remain in the hunt for a spot at the season-ending WTA Finals Singapore, new World No. 10 Kiki Bertens comes up against Tashkent champion Margarita Gasparyan in the second round of the Upper Austria Ladies Linz on Thursday.

Playing her first match as a top 10 player - the first Dutch woman to break into that elite group since 1996 - Bertens continued her magnificent form in dispatching Austrian wildcard Barbara Haas by a convincing 6-2 6-1 scoreline on Wednesday. It was the perfect start to the tournament for Bertens, with the Dutchwoman showing no signs of buckling under the pressure of trying to simultaneously stay in contention for a Singapore ticket and with the increased expectation now upon her as a top 10 star.

A fourth WTA title of the season for Bertens in Linz would propel her in front of Pliskova and into eighth spot in the Race to Singapore, regardless of whether the Czech wins a title of her own in Tianjin this week. Aryna Sabalenka is also in with an outside chance of qualification, but the 20-year-old needs to win the title in Tianjin and Moscow and hope other results go her way, while Sloane Stephens and Elina Svitolina are still likely to wrap up the sixth and seventh positions, meaning - realistically - Pliskova and Bertens are fighting for the eighth and final ticket over the next couple of weeks, with both set to play in Moscow next week.

Bertens’ transformation from predominantly a clay-court specialist to an all-court superstar over the last few months has been one of the stories of women’s tennis, and it certainly appears as if it wasn’t a flash in the pan. A former Grand Slam semi-finalist at the French Open, a winner of five WTA clay-court titles and a runner-up at the Premier Mandatory Mutua Madrid Open, Bertens began to find her feet on other surfaces when she defeated Venus Williams and Karolina Pliskova to reach the Wimbledon quarter-finals, while she also made the last eight on hardcourt at the Rogers Cup in Montreal, beating Pliskova again, along with Petra Kvitova.

However, those two tournaments were ultimately a curtain-raiser to what Bertens was about to produce in Cincinnati as the 26-year-old toppled Caroline Wozniacki, Elina Svitolina, Kvitova again and World No. 1 Simona Halep to win the silverware. Previously 0-11 against top 10 players off clay, suddenly Bertens was (and still is) an extraordinary 8-0 in her last eight matches against the game’s elite, although her U.S. Open campaign came to a halt in the third round against the rising Marketa Vondrousova in a third set tiebreak.

Bertens bounced back to capture her third title of the year with a victory over Ajla Tomljanovic at the Korea Open in Seoul, but she couldn’t quite get going in the big Asian tournaments, losing in the second round of Wuhan to Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and the Round of 16 in Beijing to Katerina Siniakova. Nevertheless, Bertens has played a lot of tennis over the last couple of months, and perhaps the early eliminations have put her in good stead for a deep run in Linz this week?

Margarita Gasparyan (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Meanwhile, Margarita Gasparyan is in the middle of trying to rebuild her career after a nightmare run of injuries threatened to force her onto the sidelines for good. Gasparyan first broke into the top 100 in 2015 as she claimed her maiden career title in Baku and made quarter-finals in Linz and Moscow to finish the season at No. 62 in the world. However, just as she reached her career-high ranking of No. 41 after making the fourth round of the Australian Open to launch 2016, her injury problems surfaced and threatened to destroy her career before it even really began, with the Russian undergoing three knee surgeries between 2016-17.

Seriously contemplating retirement, Gasparyan began the 2018 season unranked as she started on the long and gruelling road back to the upper echelons of tennis. Beginning her comeback with a semi-final run at the $25k ITF event in Karshi, Uzbekistan, Gasparyan broke back into the top 1,000 and continued to steadily rise back up the rankings on the ITF circuit, reaching the final in Les Franqueses Del Valles in Spain and taking a protected ranking into the U.S. Open, where she lost 7-6(5) 6-3 to Wimbledon champion Angelique Kerber in the first round.

Gasparyan went on to win her first WTA match in two years in the first round of the Korea Open, beating qualifier Varvara Flink, but that paled in comparison to what she achieved at the Tashkent Open in Uzbekistan the following week, with the 24-year-old - ranked No. 299 - capturing her second WTA title and becoming the second-lowest ranked WTA champion in history behind No. 579 Angelique Widjaja in Bali in 2001. Up to No. 137 and chasing direct entry into tournaments next season in Australia in January, Gasparyan moved into the second round in Linz after Monica Puig retired in their opening round clash after the first set.

This will be the first meeting between the pair and it’s an intriguing match-up. Bertens has all the pressure and expectation on her shoulders as a top 10 player and trying to qualify for Singapore, while Gasparyan is playing with nothing to lose and with a new lease on life after almost quitting the sport. Gasparyan is definitely a top 50 player at her best and I think the Russian could pose some problems for Bertens indoors. The Dutchwoman is still the big favourite, but this could turn into a very tight encounter.

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Bertens vs Gasparyan WTA Linz live streaming, preview and tips - Second seed Bertens faces Tashkent champion Gasparyan for Linz quarter-final spot

Kiki Bertens hopes to keep her WTA Finals chances alive when she faces resurgent Russian Margarita Gasparyan in the Upper Austria Ladies Linz second round on Thursday.

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