Muguruza faces Radwanska and Sharapova meets Kvitova in Saturday’s semi-finals
SINGAPORE – The final day of round robins saw Angelique Kerber fall foul of the peculiarities of the format as straight sets loss to Lucie Safarova kicked her out of the tournament while the prospect of a Garbiñe Muguruza and Maria Sharapova final still beckons.
It really was a case for leaving the best until last as the final round robins kicked off in fine style with a cat and mouse slugfest (but with sledgehammers!) between the highest seed left Muguruza, and the 2011 champion Kvitova.
Kvitova has not looked her most compelling this tournament. A lacklustre performance against Angelique Kerber, a reinforcement of a spotless record against compatriot Lucie Safarova and now a first time meeting against Muguruza beckoned.
From the outset the Spaniard was piling on the pressure, forcing a drawn out hold in her opening game before finally breaking the Czech. Breaks were traded back and forth but it would be Muguruza who edged out the first set.
But there was a sense that Kvitova had regained her sense of fight as the pair swapped breaks back and forth, and in an uncharacteristic period of wild swiping, Kvitova took advantage of some wild balls from the Spaniard to level the match.
Kvitova drew first blood in the decider, but nothing was sticking in this brand of Teflon tennis as the advantages were handed straight back each time. The quality of tennis though was probably some of the best we’d seen this round, as finally Muguruza showed some real steely nerve to finally take it on her fourth match point.
The win puts Muguruza at the top of the table with a perfect 3-0 record on her debut. Meanwhile Kvitova’s fate was now in the hands of the following match, needed Safarova to beat Kerber in straight sets, and with Kerber just requiring a set to qualify.
Muguruza said: “I went to the court thinking that I want to win the match, not only a set or just to qualify. I went there like, No Garbine, go on the court and ‑‑ if you go on the court you have to go and win, not to be half/half.
“So that’s what I did. I had my good and bad moments, but I’m just happy that I’ve been through.”
Meanwhile Kvitova sat in that strange no mans land where her fate depends on Safarova winning in straight sets.
Kvitova said: “I think for me it’s first time in kind of this situation, so it’s kind of new for me. Of course I’m cheering for Lucie, but, I mean, I did everything what I could today. Really didn’t happen. I left everything so I’m okay.
“Still have a Fed Cup final ahead, which is interesting and I’m really looking forward to do that. The main goal is be prepared and healthy for the next season.”
Meanwhile the drama was unfolding out on court as Safarova emerged swinging free (given she was out and had nothing to lose). With the three trading breaks at the start, Safarova kept that slightest nudge ahead, despite giving away a couple f set points the first time round, she served it out with no issue.
Could she do it again? Well, it turns out she really could. This time it was one early break to the Czech, and while Kerber started to unravel with her coach, Safarova began to look unstoppable. Having been off with a bacterial infection, missing the Asian swing, the Czech had been improving match on match here, and it really showed as she perhaps had a smidgeon of nerves with three match points being eroded, but with the fourth she ended Kerber’s hopes and sent Kvitova into the semi-finals!
Since the start of this year, the new improved Muguruza has pretty much owned Radwanska. In a tale of two defeated Wimbledon finalists, Muguruza seems to be coping very well with the expectations heaped upon her. Radwanska has been a consistent player for many years but the start of this year saw that foundation slide just a little.
It is actually a testament to the Pole that a strong run on the grass and in Asia bolstered her case, and although this is the second time in a row she has made the semi-finals with just one win in the bag, what a win it was! She was a magician on the court, and threw everything including a shop full of kitchen sinks at Simona Halep to dump the top seed out.
This is what makes Radwanska a dangerous prospect. No-one really expected her to win and by her own admission 1-5 down in the tiebreak, she didn’t have many expectations either!
Likewise, Muguruza weathered a storm in her match against Kvitova which was easily her toughest encounter yet, and many expect her to continue her current winning spree, but she is in the doubles semi-final too, and admitted she was a little weary!
Radwanska actually leads all the semi-finalists this year for match wins over the season (49). Either way she can hope to give Muguruza a tough time on court – their last three matches have all been three setters either close to or over two hours.
Muguruza will have her work cut out to reach her first final.
Muguruza and Radwasnka are scheduled on Stadium not before 3pm (7am GMT).
Maria Sharapova  v Petra Kvitova  – H2H: 6-3
As is always the way, the peculiarities of the Round Robin format saw Kvitova advance with the assistance of compatriot and fed Cup team-mate Safarova, and we have a prelude of what to expect (maybe) when this pair come up against each other in the forthcoming Fed Cup final. Kvitova has triumphed over her once before in the finals last year, but her wins have slotted into largely Sharapova’s victories – and the Russian carries the last two wins on her shoulders.
Mentally, it could be a challenge for Kvitova to lift herself. Even though she gave Muguruza a strong fight in the final round robin match, she did seem to have felt it was all left out on the court. She will need to lift herself to have one more fight, and Sharapova has been playing inspired tennis this week.
There have been a few challenges for Kvitova this week, especially after a disappointing loss to Kerber at the start of the tournament that appeared to frustrate her coach for much of the following training session.
She certainly is capable though of keeping Sharapova out on court for a fair while though so expect a tough battle.
Sharapova and Kvitova are scheduled on Stadium, not before 6:30pm (10:30am 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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