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Bertens vs Svitolina tennis live streaming, preview and predictions – Can Svitolina stay unbeaten to make her first WTA Finals Singapore semifinal?

Hannah Wilks in WTA Tour 26 Oct 2018
  • Elina Svitolina faces Kiki Bertens in the semifinals of the WTA Finals Singapore on Saturday
  • Svitolina vs Bertens is live from Singapore at 4pm local/9am BST
Kiki Bertens (Photo by Roslan RAHMAN / AFP)

After going 30-0 in the group stages, will Elina Svitolina’s unlikely but brilliant run at the WTA Finals Singapore take her past Kiki Bertens and into the final?

With a new champion guaranteed to be crowned at the WTA Finals Singapore and just four players remaining, the stakes are higher than ever as Elina Svitolina takes on Kiki Bertens in Saturday’s first semifinal.

None of the four players remaining – Svitolina, Bertens, Sloane Stephens and Karolina Pliskova – have ever made the final of the season-ending championships. Bertens and Stephens are both playing the tournament for the first time, and only Pliskova has been in the semifinals before. 

Moreover, all three of the reigning Grand Slam champions in the elite eight have been eliminated in the group stages. For the fourth year in a row, a new winner will be crowned.

Elina Svitolina celebrates winning the second set against Caroline Wozniacki (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Of the four players who have made the semifinals, Elina Svitolina is perhaps the unlikeliest. The world no. 7 made a great start to the year, picking up titles in Brisbane, Dubai and Rome from January to May – but her results dropped off dramatically in the second half of the season and she didn’t make a meaningful Grand Slam breakthrough, matching her best result at a major when she made the quarterfinals of the Australian Open but unable to go as far at any of the others. Her qualification for Singapore was last-minute and depended rather on other players failing to displace her, and she seemed physically compromised in Singapore, suffering a spell of light-headedness during a press conference.

Yet it’s Svitolina who set the tone for a tournament of shocks and reversals when she scored a straight-sets victory over Petra Kvitova on the opening day, snapping a seven-match losing streak against the former champion, before battling past Pliskova in three sets to put herself in pole position to make the semifinals. Against defending champion Caroline Wozniacki on Thursday, Svitolina ‘only’ needed to win one set to make the final four – but it’s a position that has proved untenable for more experienced players in the past. 

Wozniacki, who divulged after the match that she has been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, battled grimly to keep her Singapore title defense alive and in a match-up between two superlative defenders and counter-punchers, on a court which favours that type of game, Svitolina had to repeatedly win – or soak up the loss of – immense, grinding, grueling, marathon rallies that required both to cover the court. Hitting winners required both tremendous patience and immense courage, but in the end it was Svitolina’s ability and willingness to step up and go for those balls which got her over the line and into the semifinals. Wozniacki edged the first set and the second also went down to the wire, with neither player able to grab the lead after an early exchange of breaks. 

With Wozniacki serving at 5-6, Svitolina threw absolutely everything into trying to get the break and the one crucial set she needed to put her in the semifinals – but couldn’t convert four set points, some of them saved by Wozniacki, some, like the second-serve return Svitolina missed wildly on the fourth, squandered by the Ukrainian. But Svitolina kept creating chances, attacking relentlessly with her backhand down the line, and on the fifth set point, she finally got over the line with her backhand once more the star of the show.

‘She was playing unbelievable on the set points. I think I made only one error, which was really bad. I was disappointed, but the rest, you know, she was playing like a champion. I was expecting this because all the matches before, she always, when she was down, she was, you know, going for it,’ Svitolina said.

‘When I finally got my fifth set point, I said to myself, “I'm going to be tough as a nail and not going to give anything.”’

The celebration was immense by Svitolina, but she didn’t lose her determination to win the match – and nor did Wozniacki, who fought a valiant rearguard action despite knowing her season was over, an attitude exemplified by the break points she created as Svitolina served for the match. But it was Svitolina who ratified her progression to the semifinals by wrapping up a 5-7, 7-5, 6-3 victory.

Steely nerves were also required by Kiki Bertens as the Dutch player progressed to the semifinals on her WTA Finals Singapore debut, but things unfolded in a less dramatic fashion. 

Kiki Bertens (Photo by Roslan RAHMAN / AFP) 
As in the White Group, all four players in the Red Group remained able to qualify for the semifinals on the final day of round-robin, but it became apparent early on that Bertens’s opponent Naomi Osaka was struggling with her left hamstring more severely than ever. The US Open champion ended up retiring and making a tearful exit with Bertens leading 6-3.

It’s easy to underrate how well Bertens handled the situation, though. It’s been a really impressive debut from the 26-year-old, one which has belied the contingent nature of her qualification (Bertens, winner of three titles in 2018, could not achieve the result she needed in Moscow which would have put her over the top, but got in anyway once Simona Halep withdrew). Bertens fought back from a 1-6 deficit against Angelique Kerber in her opening match and prevailed in an extremely tight third set, and although her nine-match winning streak against top-10 players was snapped by Sloane Stephens, again Bertens had battled back from a set down and made the match very competitive (and watchable). 

Although one tends to think of Bertens as a power player – and she is – the Dutchwoman, who until midway through this season was legitimately thought of as a clay-court specialist, has the all-court skills to flourish on this surface and given that her besetting sin is probably a tendency to be too passive when it comes to point construction rather than the reverse, it’s not surprising that she has had more success this week than the likes of Osaka and Kvitova. What is surprising, and impressive, is how well Bertens has handled the occasion despite the suddenness of her elevation into this rarefied air. Can she keep her run going?

The head-to-head is poised at 1-1 between Svitolina and Bertens, with the former winning in Zhuhai in 2016 and Bertens winning in Cincinnati this summer. While the 6-3, 6-4 victory that Bertens scored over Svitolina in Cincinnati was emphatic, previous records haven’t always been a great guide to results this week, and I think that Svitolina has the advantage coming into this one. Bertens’s big advantage over Svitolina is her power, and that is largely neutralized by this surface, which then leaves the Dutch player trying to think and craft and outmaneouvre her way past Svitolina. The Ukrainian is chasing absolutely everything down out here, not to mention serving well and doing a good job of going for her shots when she can, and while I can absolutely see Bertens taking a set, I think it will be too much for her to find a way to hit around or through Svitolina for two. A surprise Singapore final looks like it could be on the cards for Svitolina.

Bertens vs Svitolina BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore semifinal tennis is live from Singapore on Saturday at 4pm local/9am BST

*Geo-restrictions apply; funded account required or to have placed a bet in the last 24 hours to qualify

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Bertens vs Svitolina tennis live streaming, preview and predictions – Can Svitolina stay unbeaten to make her first WTA Finals Singapore semifinal?

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