With both Bertens and Yastremska having beaten the third member of the Azalea Group, Donna Vekic, by nearly-identical scorelines, the scenario is pretty simple – the Croatian is eliminated, while the winner of Thursday’s clash between Bertens and Yastremska will go through to the semifinals (and the loser will start their off-season).
Bertens was hoping to be playing at next week’s WTA Finals Shenzhen and played a heavy schedule during the Asian swing and European indoor swing to try to secure the final spot, only to find herself pipped at the post by Belinda Bencic, whose run to the Kremlin Cup final saw her leapfrog Bertens. There would have been little that the Dutch player could do even if she had managed to avoid a quarterfinal defeat to Kristina Mladenovic.
It would not have been too surprising if Bertens headed immediately off on her holidays, but instead the world no. 10 – unwilling to call time on an up-and-down 2019 season – headed to Zhuhai to headline the field, and she’s not here to make up the numbers, either, judging by an exceptionally hard-fought win over Vekic. The first set took an hour and 22 minutes and saw Vekic break early and managing to consolidate despite mini-epic, multiple-deuce games, with Bertens making some regrettable errors in the forecourt. But after saving a break point which would have seen Vekic go up a double break, Bertens clawed her way back in and found some rhythm on serve, while a couple of stray forehands from Vekic saw her surrender her early break.
Having narrowly clinched the tie-break to seal the lengthy first set, Bertens put her foot down in the second as Vekic’s forehand started to break down and wrapped up a 7-6(5), 6-2 victory.
‘The first set was really tight, so it was just a few points here and there,’ Bertens said. ‘I just was trying to push myself all the time. It was tough, I would say, mentally but also physically. We were both struggling, I think, a little bit. But from 5-4 down I played two really good points.’
If Bertens was hoping to be in Shenzhen rather than Zhuhai, Dayana Yastremska was also not expecting to be here – but in this case, had almost begun her off-season, having not anticipated qualifying for the WTA Elite Trophy after losing to qualifier Kirsten Flipkens in the second round in Moscow.
But having had little time to prepare didn’t seem to have done Yastremska any harm as she made her debut at the second-tier season-ending championships on Wednesday, winning an extremely high-quality first set against Vekic and dominating a more straightforward second to get off to a victorious start.
Just as in Vekic’s match against Bertens, the first set lasted over an hour but this time it was of really superb quality as the US Open quarterfinalist and the 19-year-old debutante traded first-strike blows. Vekic had a break point on Yastremska’s serve at 1-2 and Yastremska had two on Vekic’s serve at 4-5, but neither woman could break through and the set went to a tie-break in which Vekic looked the more solid player as she built a 6-4 lead – only for Yastremska to rip control of the breaker out of her opponent’s hands with some absolutely ferocious shotmaking from the back of the court, winning four straight points to take the first set. Vekic initially put up some good resistance in the second, but Yastremska had the bit firmly between her teeth now and ran off four straight games to seal a 7-6(6), 6-2 victory.
For the 19-year-old, who won titles in Strasbourg and Hua Hin this year in addition to making the fourth round of Wimbledon and the quarterfinals of Wuhan, staying relaxed and having little expectations after not having anticipated qualifying for this tournament seemed to be crucial – will she be able to maintain that attitude against Bertens, with the semifinal on the line?
Bertens and Yastremska have met just once, a few weeks ago in Beijing when Bertens won 7-6(5), 6-3. Yastremska has a 1-5 record against top-10 players, with her solitary win coming against Karolina Pliskova in Wuhan; on the other hand, she’s played the better match so far in Zhuhai, producing tremendous shotmaking against Vekic. If she can play the same kind of tennis on Thursday, I’m not sure there’s much Bertens will be able to do about it.
Bertens vs Yastremska WTA Elite Trophy Zhuhai tennis is live from Zhuhai on Thursday at 7pm local/12pm BST
Bertens vs Yastremska tennis live streaming, preview and predictions – Winner will become the first semifinalist in Zhuhai
Dayana Yastremska looks for the second top-10 win of her career against Kiki Bertens on Thursday with the winner to…
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