World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty and former WTA Finals champion Petra Kvitova square off for the fifth time this season, with all four players in the Red Group having a chance to qualify for the semi-finals on Thursday.
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Ashleigh Barty and Petra Kvitova have split their four meetings this year at two wins apiece – who emerges triumphant in their fifth showdown on Thursday as both players target a spot in the WTA Finals Shenzhen semi-finals?
After Naomi Osaka withdrew from the WTA Finals with a shoulder injury and Kiki Bertens came into the Red Group as her replacement – and promptly defeated Barty on Tuesday – all four players are still in with a shot of qualifying for the semi-finals, with Bertens taking on Belinda Bencic in the other match on Thursday. There’s a bunch of scenarios and permutations ( which you can read more about here), but Barty is in pole position and would top the group with any sort of win over Kvitova, but the Czech can also make the semi-finals despite losing her first two round robin matches – however, Kvitova would also need sets and game percentages to fall in her favour in the Bertens vs Bencic match.
Barty has already secured the year-end No. 1 ranking after her three-set win over Bencic in her opening round robin match and simply needed to take to court against Bertens in order to wrap up the top spot. It was a difficult situation for Barty, who was fully expecting to play Osaka until her last-minute withdrawal, and although she managed to win the opening set against Bertens and had beaten her in all five of their previous meetings, the Dutchwoman had nothing to lose and was able to swing freely as she came back to win in three, 3-6 6-3 6-4.
It was a missed opportunity for Barty to wrap up a semi-final spot, but the Australian still has her destiny in her own hands, which is what you want heading into the final round robin match. A spot in the knockout stages would be just reward for Barty, who has compiled an extraordinary season after ending the 2018 season at No. 15 in the world and winning the second-tier WTA Elite Trophy in Zhuhai. The 23-year-old broke through to win her maiden Grand Slam title at Roland Garros and her first Premier Mandatory crown in Miami, while she also won the grass-court title in Birmingham, which saw her rise to No. 1 for the first time, and finished runner-up in Sydney and Beijing.
Despite already guaranteed to finish the year as World No. 1, Barty would be disappointed if she didn’t give herself the chance to win the year-end championships. Can she score a third win over Kvitova this season to secure her spot?
Petra Kvitova (PA Images)
Kvitova could easily have won both of her round robin matches, but instead she’s gone 0-2 after three-set defeats to Osaka and Bencic, however with the Japanese withdrawing and the fact she’s only been narrowly defeated, the Czech still has an outside chance to make the semi-finals. After falling 6-3 1-6 6-4 to Bencic on Tuesday, Kvitova said she’d prefer not to know the scenarios in which she could qualify and simply wants to focus on producing her best possible performance against Barty.
“Ash is No. 1. It’s always big challenge…I always like to play Ash,” Kvitova said. It’s something different. She’s mixing a lot. We don’t always know what she will bring. She has a great slice. Definitely she will use it here, especially on this surface.
“Of course, it’s about my game, as well, how I going to handle her serve, her variety of game. I don’t know the scenarios. To be honest, I don’t want to know at all. Well, should be my last match of the season. I [will] really do my best there. We’ll see what happens.”
Kvitova’s best work came in the first half of the season as she won titles in Sydney and Stuttgart and finished runner-up at the Australian Open and Dubai. Unfortunately, Kvitova suffered a forearm injury that forced her out of the French Open and affected her throughout the grass swing and North American summer, while her only tournaments in the Asian swing were a semi-final run in Wuhan and quarter-final showing in Beijing.
As mentioned, this will be the fifth clash between the pair this season. Kvitova won their first two encounters in Sydney and the Australian Open – when she was playing close to career-best tennis – but Barty responded with three-set victories in Miami and Beijing. This match-up is usually on Kvitova’s racquet – if she’s operating at her peak level, there’s not much Barty or anyone else for that matter can do, but the Czech hasn’t been at her best for the last few months now. Barty has also been a bit sluggish so far in Shenzhen, but she’s generally been playing better during the Asian swing, and if she can play a clean and consistent match, she might be a bit too solid for the Czech and book her spot in the semi-finals.
Barty vs Kvitova WTA Finals Shenzhen live streaming, preview and tips – Barty and Kvitova clash for the fifth time this season
World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty and former WTA Finals champion Petra Kvitova square off for the fifth time this season,…
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