The US Open champion had said, after an unspectacularly slow start against top seed Halep that she needed to be more aggressive – and that she was. Even though it looked as though it was Radwanska who started in the ascendency, a timely visit from Pennetta’s coach Salvador Navarro saw an abrupt change in fortunes.
There was far more purpose and aggression from Pennetta, and although there were still touches of magic, not just from Radwanska but in reply from the Italian, it was just the small margins that made the difference in a match upon which a lot would depend.
Pennetta credited Radwanska with being one of the most intelligent players on the court, using her mind to maybe combat her lack of power, but looking ahead to playing Sharapova, she can relate to the Russian’s reaction to her winning return two nights ago.
She said: “The win she had against Radwanska the first match the first day was impressive. She play good. Of course she is healthy. She has this adrenaline because she was out for three or four months, something like that. When you come in the court after so long you are with a lot of energy. It’s going to be tough for sure.”
It was probably fair to say that Sharapova slammed Halep back into the dark ages with an aggressive tour de force, to give herself a great chance of advancing in the tournament.
Gruelling rallies, cat and mouse breaks here, breaks there, but a sloppy turn at the end of the set put Halep on the back foot, as Sharapova sealed the first set. Any chance of putting in another valiant three setter seemed to evaporate smartly as Sharapova steamed out to a comfortable 5-4 lead. Even when Halep clawed the two breaks back, some well chosen words from coach Sven Groeneveld seemed to do the trick again as she broke the hapless Romanian to go 2-0 up overall.
Halep admitted: “She played really well today, even if she didn’t play for a long time, since Wimbledon. Yeah she knows how to play. She’s a champion. She has experience. I can say I feel she’s playing really well against me always, but that’s tennis. I have to accept and to do things better.”
She continued: “She is hitting the ball very strong, and today in important moments she hit almost winners in the last game. So she plays well; she plays very aggressive. You know, she knows how to play in the last games when she has the chance to finish the match.”
There is still room for Sharapova to sharpen up, as she admitted after coach Sven Groeneveld steadied the ship.
She said: “I think I was rushing a little bit too much, rushing to get free points, and that’s just not something that you ‑‑ not something I was looking to do before I got to 5‑1. I rushed myself a little too much and tried to go for maybe bigger serves. Didn’t get a first serve in.”
She continued: “I’ve always been a player that goes into a match and I don’t seek perfection because I don’t know if that’s possible. At least I’ve never proven to myself that’s possible. You’re always going to make mistakes and errors.
“Sometimes, and most of the time, I feel happier when I get through a match and I didn’t play my best tennis but found a way to win. That gives me a lot more confidence.”
Ah but nothing is ever easy in the land of Round Robin formats – so here’s a chart that the WTA Insider prepared earlier!
The first half of the training session was spent with coach David Kotyze talking loudly and animatedly with a dejected looking Kvitova, before they finally started hitting in the session. With Safarova out on court for the doubles, it now remains to be seen if Kvitova can string her focus together enough to hold off her compatriot.
Kvitova has been candid this year about her health issues, and despite assuring the gathered media that the blood tests since her diagnosis earlier in the year for mono had been moving in the right direction, but on the court it looked as though she felt listless. She admitted that her feet felt stuck, but in fairness Angelique Kerber knew she had to play an aggressive game to make an impact, and she stuck to her game plan to good effect.
Safarova has never managed to beat Kvitova in seven attempts, with all but two of them going to three sets. Things have not been that great for Safarova, having been hospitalised for a bacterial infection, causing her to miss the entire Asian swing. Yet we have to say that the momentum now sits with Safarova to not only pick up her first win, but to dump the 2011 champion out of the tournament, quite possibly.
Both have a hefty amount of power and are of course part of this strange cult of lefties in the White Group, but both are prone to errors. With the prospect of the Fed Cup Final around the corner, Kvitova may want to cut her losses here to focus on a competition that also means a great deal to her, before calling time on a troubled season.
Kvitova and Safarova are scheduled not before 3pm (7am GMT) on Stadium Court.
Garbiñe Muguruza  v Angelique Kerber  H2H: 3-3
If the delightful Muguruza has been scouting her opposition, she will have seen the pre-tournament favourite for the title in all sorts of bother against Sharapova, and will quietly set down her marker for an easier passage.
But beware the more aggressive Kerber on show here. Although the speed of the court (or indeed lack thereof) might favour more of the counter-puncher, Kerber was definitely working on being a lot more aggressive. Not a natural finisher of points, she capitalised on a listless performance by Kvitova but is aware that Muguruza has led her a merry dance plenty of times this year.
Having led 3-0 until as recently as the start of this year, it has been one-way traffic from Muguruza in the third round of both the French Open and Wimbledon, and most recently in the Wuhan semi-final.
On paper we make this Muguruza’s match, but there is a quiet confidence about Kerber after her win. She has a game plan, and she intends to use it.
Muguruza and Safarova are scheduled not before 7:30pm (11:30am GMT) on Stadium Court.
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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