Friday, 28 October 2016

Angie sets pace in WTA Finals

The WTA Finals in Singapore this week is the culmination of another great year of women's tennis, with the eight top point scorers of 2016 competing for the trophy won by Agnieszka Radwanska 12 months ago.

This year again Serena Williams is missing from the field through injury, enabling 9th placed Svetlana Kuznetsova to take the final spot as eighth seed.

While the ATP equivalent year end finals battle is not far away, there are still other tournaments to be played, including Vienna and Basel this week.

Pablo Carreno Busta defeated Fabio Fognini in the Moscow final last week, and both have fronted up again.

Fognini lost in the Vienna first round to Albert Ramos-Vinolas, the same player he had knocked out en route to the Moscow final, while Busta cruised into a Basel second round clash with Marin Cilic, which is where his Swiss Roll stopped turning.  

Juan Martin del Potro celebrated with a title in Stockholm, overcoming Jack Sock in the final, and jumping over twenty spots back into the top 50.  Both players made it through to the second round in Basel, where eighth seed Sock was upset by Marcel Granollers.

Richard Gasquet won the European Open in Antwerp in straight sets over Argentine Diego Schwartzman. But Guido Pella sought and gained some revenge for Argentina by dispensing with the seventh seeded Frenchman in the opening round in Basel.

Back to Singapore and Sveta Kuznetsova certainly took advantage of her late inclusion in the elite field by winning both round robin matches played so far in the White Group. 
Her first match against Aga Radwanska was a roller coaster, with Sveta taking Set One 7-5 (after trailing 1-4) before crumbling 1-6 in the next.  Down 4-5 and match point, Kuznetsova found something special to rattle off the last three games and win the match, continuing her run of success from Moscow last week.

The second, against Karolina Pliskova, was yet another thriller, with Sveta losing the opening set and falling behind in the second.  A significant momentum shift saw the Russian storm through the next period to take the second set and lead 5-3 in the decider.  Pliskova fought back and served for the match at 6-5, but couldn't manage the job - Kuznetsova won the day in a gripping tie break.

Pliskova also had her difficulties against Garbine Muguruza, taking three sets, but finally winning that battle 7-5 in the third.  Muguruza lost her chance of advancing to the semi finals with her straight sets defeat at the hands of Radwanska two days later.

Kuznetsova will, irrespective of the results of the remaining 2 matches, make the semis.  If she defeats Muguruza, she finishes atop the group.  Even a loss to Muguruza will see her head the group because of her head to head record against Radwanska and Pliskova.  Regardless, the semi finalists from the White Group will be Kuznetsova and the winner of the Radwanska v Pliskova match.

The Red Group has been dominated by top seed and world number one Angilique Kerber, although her opening match against Dominika Cibulkova was anything but straightforward.  After escaping the first set tie break, Kerber was taken to pieces 6-2 in the second set, before steadying 6-3 in the decider.
Meanwhile Simona Halep easily swept aside Madison Keys in two sets.

Kerber had no difficulty dismissing Halep, and Keys put herself back in contention with an impressive victory over Cibulkova in the next round of matches in the group.  Both of these were decided in two sets, which meant that for Cibulkova to advance to the next stage, she would need to defeat Halep in straight sets and hope for Kerber to achieve a similar result against Keys.  That would leave Kerber with 3 wins from 3 and the others all with 1 win and 2 losses but with Cibulkova leading on a count back due to more sets won.

First up it was Cibulkova, and with a combination of her best tennis for the week, and Simona Halep distracted somewhat by a knee injury, the Slovakian enjoyed her first success for the week, importantly in straight sets.

Angie Kerber proved too strong for Madison Keys and also won in straight, although at one stage she was trailing a break down in the second.

So the semi final match ups will be Angie Kerber v whoever finishes second in the White Group and Dominika Cibulkova v Svetlana Kuznetsova.

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