Naomi Osaka’s withdrawal from the WTA Finals Shenzhen due to injury has blown the Red Group wide open, with all four players – including her replacement Kiki Bertens – having the chance to advance into the semi-finals during the final stage of round robin play on Thursday.
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World No. 3 Osaka was forced to withdraw from the WTA Finals with a right shoulder injury on Tuesday, bringing an abrupt end to her season and meaning she will end the year on an 11-match winning streak having gone undefeated since the U.S. Open, securing back-to-back titles at the Toray Pan Pacific Open and China Open and beating Petra Kvitova in her opening round robin match in Shenzhen earlier this week.
“I’m disappointed to have to withdraw from the Finals,” Osaka said in a statement. “It has been a great event in Shenzhen, and it’s the biggest WTA event of the year. This is not how I wanted to end this tournament or my season. I look forward to getting healthy and hope to be back here in Shenzhen next year.”
Osaka also revealed she’s been carrying a niggling shoulder injury since she was 17, but also said it hasn’t been a serious issue and expects the problem to heal with rest.
“I injured my shoulder like five years ago or something, but not, like, heavy,” Osaka said. “It was in Thailand when I was like 17 or something. It wasn’t that big of a deal. I just had to rest it. I’m hoping it’s more like that.
“It doesn’t feel like it’s anything more serious than muscular. I think if it was like bone-related then I wouldn’t be able to lift it, but I am able to do that. It’s just a little bit painful.
“Definitely I don’t think it’s something that I would immediately need surgery for. I’ve never gotten surgery, so I feel like I’m very lucky on that. I’m not really hoping that will change any time soon.”
With Osaka pulling out, all four players in the Red Group have the opportunity to advance into the knockout stages when they take to court on Thursday.
Kiki Bertens (PA Images)
Bertens, who played the WTA Elite Trophy final in Zhuhai on Sunday, replaced Osaka in the Red Group and made an immediate impact, coming back from a set down to beat World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty for the first time in six meetings on Tuesday night.
The Dutchwoman has played a hectic schedule in a bid to qualify for the WTA Finals for the second time, competing for seven straight weeks across two continents, but she ultimately finished ninth in the Race and last week played in the second-tier WTA Elite Trophy, falling to Sabalenka in the final.
However, now Bertens sensationally has the chance to not only play the WTA Finals, but to qualify for the semi-finals after her win over Barty.
With Belinda Bencic edging Petra Kvitova in three sets in the other Red Group match on Tuesday, all four players are in with a shot to progress to the semi-finals.
You can find the qualificaiton scenarios for all four players in the tweet below, courtesy of WTA Insider.
Red Group qualification scenarios for Thursday, where Ash Barty will face Petra Kvitova and Belinda Bencic will face Kiki Bertens.
Barty, who has secured the year-end No. 1 ranking, is in pole position and will top the group with any sort of victory over Kvitova, while there’s also a chance she could advance with a three-set loss, depending on how Bertens vs Bencic plays out.
Bencic will also make the semi-finals if she defeats Bertens and would top the group of Kvitova overcomes Barty. Like the Australian, Bencic could also reach the semis with a three-set loss.
Meanwhile, Bertens and Kvitova need wins to make it out of the group. Bertens would finish the group on top if she wins and Kvitova prevails and would come second if Barty is victorious. Kvitova meanwhile needs to win to have a chance of qualifying for the final four, but she could also miss out depending on other results and percentage of games won.
Whatever happens, it’s set to be a thrilling conclusion to Red Group round robin play on Thursday.
Meanwhile, Purple Group action continues on Wednesday night, with Simona Halep taking on Elina Svitolina and Karolina Pliskova facing Bianca Andreescu.
WTA Finals: Osaka’s withdrawal blows Red Group wide open
Naomi Osaka’s withdrawal from the WTA Finals Shenzhen due to injury has blown the Red Group wide open, with all…
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