Friday, November 1, 2019

Four still standing


When we talk about "still standing" at the WTA finals, it isn't entirely a metaphor. First Naomi Osaka withdrew because of a shoulder injury, then Bianca Andreescu--who appeared to have a back injury--retired because of a knee injury. Alternate Kiki Bertens took excellent advantage of her status by defeating top seed Ash Barty, but then had to retire in her next match because of illness (which brings back very sad memories of the French Open).

Second alternate Sofia Kenin played today, and what a match it was. She and defending champion Elina Svitolina went at each other in a way that was captivating to watch. The second set tiebreak was a show in itself, with Kenin (who held a set point) saving five match points. But Svitolina was successful on the sixth, and defeated Kenin 7-5, 7-6. Despite losing, Kenin showed yet again why she has rapidly risen up the rankings ladder: She's a good hitter with a variety of shots from which to choose, and she just doesn't give up.

In today's second match, Karolina Pliskova defeated an out-of-sorts Simona Halep in three sets. The Romanian was bageled in the first set, but bolstered by a no-nonsense talk from coach Darren Cahill, she grabbed the second set. Pliskova, however, was just too good in the end.

And speaking of the end--Halep dashed (as only Halep can) to pick up a ball Pliskova had hit into the far ad corner, and she was able to get it over the net, setting up a smash for her opponent. But that smash went awry and hit the top of the net--and then dropped over, giving the Tall Cool One the victory, 6-0, 2-6, 6-4.

In a rather odd (when are the WTA Finals not odd?) semifinal outcome, seeds 7 and 8 will compete in one match, and seeds 1 and 2 will compete in the other:

Belinda Bencic (7) vs. Elina Svitolina (8)
Ashleigh Barty (1) vs. Karolina Pliskova (2)

In doubles,  Timea Babos and Kiki Mladenovic defeated top seeds Elise Mertens and Aryna Sabalenka, and Anna-Lena Groenefeld and Demi Schuurs defeated Chan Hao-Ching and Latisha Chan. Here is the doubles semifinal draw:

Babos/Mladenovic (3) vs. Stosur/Zhang (7)
Hsieh/Strycova (2) vs. Groenefeld/Schuurs (8)

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