In a match-up between the two opponents who have played the most times this season, there was high expectation for a true popcorn match. It just was not to be – a bad day in the office for Halep made it tough for her to get past Kerber.
Hindered rather than abetted by her forehand, Halep’s resolve faltered early as Kerber hustled an immediate break. It might not always have been doom and gloom for the Romanian who can normally count on rambunctious Romanian contingent in any crowd around the world. As she broke back to give the German a moment of pause.
But these would be just the briefest of flurries with Kerber once more just playing the big points better when it counted, to wrap up the first set. Starting the second once more with an immediate break, this time the pressure was on as Kerber leapt out to a 5-2 lead. Halep saved two match points, bringing up two chances of her own before the third time was the charm for the German.
It will have been a relief to come through a more straight forward match, but she was quick to stress this had still been tough, despite the score-line.
She told reporters: “It was not an easy match. I mean, it’s always tough to play against Simona. We have a lot of tough matches in the last few months.
“I think that I was moving good and I was going for it when I have the chance. I think that was the key, especially in this match today against Simona.”
The biggest irony is that Kerber once more finds herself in the position of needing just one set to win. If Keys wins in straight sets, she will be reliant on Halep re-finding her form and overcoming Cibulkova to advance to the semi-finals for the first time in four attempts.
Keys most certainly banished all signs of nerves as she swept past Cibulkova to keep herself in contention to qualify on her WTA Finals debut. The first set was an effective shut-down of any chance for the Slovakian to have any rhythm.
“Today I just couldn’t play my tennis. Couldn’t get in the rhythm. I knew it’s going to be like this. I tried to change it a little bit. In the second set I got into the match bit better. I tried to change my position on the return. Especially on the second serve I went a little bit more back. It was better, but it was probably too late.
“It was one of those days where she was playing really good and I was fighting myself on the return. That’s the most important thing, that I just couldn’t return her pretty well. Couldn’t read her serve that well.”
Keys, as well as admitting that she has been hammering her credit card while she has been in Singapore and she is in a string position to put a lot of pressure on Kerber once more.
She said: “She’s always tough to play; even tougher to play on a slower court. I think going out there and looking at what I’ve done well against her before and what I haven’t done well could definitely help me. I think also playing with nothing to lose is going to be a huge thing.”
Play continues on Wednesday at 7:30pm (12:30pm BST).
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