After the drama of the training session that almost wasn’t, it was worth heading down to the practice courts to see if things had thawed. They had thankfully, but it is fair to say it was a light hit, and with an impressive 7-0 head to head lead to defend, one would have to hope that Kvitova was going to be in point.
Confusingly attired in the same outfits, wielding the same bats, the pair went toe-to-toe in the early exchanges with nary a break point to be seen on the horizon. Safarova was the player to falter at the tail end of the first set, giving the 2011 champion the first advantage to go a set up.
This certainly did not deter Safarova, who ripped out of the gates at the start of the second set, leaping out to a 3-0 lead, but Kvitova reeled off the next four games and perhaps that was just enough to get into Kvitova’s head a little, as she closed out a tight 7-5 7-5 win.
She explained: “I think in the last game she missed two forehands down the line. I think that’s her best shot. So probably that helped me in that game. But really tough to say. I mean, always when it’s really tight, the sets, you going to try to keep to putting as many balls in and just try and wait what going to happen.”
Many believed this would head the way of the Spaniard, and that this would be a three set battle. Well, we were half right! Perhaps the recent run of losses was occupying Kerber’s thoughts at the start, as she lost her opening game, but with typical tenacity she got the break back, until the end of the first set where Muguruza’s pressuring set her up to break once more and then serve out the first set.
The bit was firmly between her teeth as Kerber really had to fight to hold on to her initial service games before the Spaniard was rewarded for her efforts with a break. Once more Kerber dug deep to fight back, but couldn’t consolidate to give herself a chance. Muguruza served out a fourth straight win over the German, and a convincing 2-0 lead.
Kerber said: I think it was a good match from both of us. It was a close one in the first, and in the second set I had my chances. I couldn’t take it in the first set and as well in the second set.
“I was coming back in the second set. I was trying to play until the last point. Again, I was fighting, like I’m always doing. But she was more aggressive in the important moments. I think that was the key at the end for the match.”
She continued: “I think she played a good year. I mean, she reached the top 10, top 5 right now. But I think right now she had a lot of confidence from the last few weeks, and I think that helps her like to be very confident in the important moment and just go for it. I think that’s why she is so dangerous right now.”
Muguruza said: “I’m feeling very good. You never know how it’s going to go here when you come first time. For sure I’m very happy of how is it going.
“Hopefully I can keep playing like this. It’s great to be here in singles and doubles. I’ve played all the year singles and doubles, singles and doubles, so it’s great to have this payoff being here.”
Maria Sharapova  v Flavia Pennetta  – H2H: 2-3
Could we see an upset in the final Red Group round rubber match? While it would be easy to just assume that this is Pennetta’s last time on court, a quick look at their head to head, and the recent run of matches mean we could be looking at a trip up on the cards.
Sharapova has been dominant this week already. Having had injury blights all year, missing the entire US hard court swing and having to retire in Wuhan, she has looked both unstoppable and improving her form in her two outings.
Pennetta was subdued quite easily by Halep in the opener, but was masterful against Radwanska, and could well extend her visit to Singapore if she can bundle the Russian out in two sets and also could go through if Radwanska also does the deed in two sets.
Just watching the intensity that Sharapova has been exhibiting, it is hard not to see her advancing (along with Halep) into the next round. It certainly is tough to see Radwanska not heading to Changi airport in time for a weekend in Poland.
But these are the round robin stages… and stranger things have happened!
Sharapova and Pennetta are scheduled on Stadium, not before 7:30pm (11:30am GMT).
Britwatch Sport’s Ros Satar is covering the WTA Finals in Singapore for Tennis Panorama Now. Read her match reports here.
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