Singapore: In a year of firsts for Angelique Kerber, the prospect of one last success remains. While her place in the semi-finals of the WTA Finals is not quite assured, Tuesday’s 6-4, 6-2 defeat of Simona Halep has enhanced the top seed’s chances significantly.
On the night the oldest ever year-end No.1 was presented with the diamond-studded trophy, as well as a sparkling Tiffany ring to go with her Australian and US Open silverware, Wimbledon runners-up plate and Rio Olympic medal after an exceptional season’s work, Kerber remained unbeaten in a tournament where she has three times previously failed to progress from the group stage.
Madison Keys’ 6-1, 6-4 overpowering of Dominika Cibulkova in the other Red Group match meant that Kerber’s name has not yet been inked into the last four, but the player who failed to win the one set she needed against Lucie Safarova to qualify for the knockout phase in 2015 is – 12 months later – far more formidable and assured.
“Of course I have much more confidence right now because I know how to win very big matches, tight matches. I know what to do to go for it and just take the game in my hands,” Kerber said after her 82-minute win over third-seeded Halep.
“Of course I believe much more in my game and in myself than 12 months ago, especially after Singapore one year ago. I won so many good matches this year. I won two grand slams … that’s why I believe much more in myself right now.”
Primed by her lengthy three-setter against Cibulkova on the opening night, the 28-year-old won a close first set against Halep, but secured an early double-break in the second, the Romanian’s misfiring forehand a big contributor to a mismatched error count of 35 to 16. Kerber also converted four of five break points compared with Halep’s one from six.
“I think I had the opportunity to get that first set. I was coming back very well, but maybe I didn’t finish the important points and I missed a lot today,” said Halep, who meets Cibulkova on Thursday. “But she played a great tennis. She’s very strong and on her legs she’s moving great. Yeah, she deserve to win. I take it and I’m looking forward to continue this tournament.”
Halep is now equal on one win with Keys, whom she outplayed 6-2, 6-4 on the opening night. “Totally different match,” said Halep. “Keys is hitting very strong; Kerber is not hitting – she’s pushing the balls, but she doesn’t miss. I played worse with my forehand, I missed a lot – I think there was the key.”
Debutante Keys is guaranteed to advance to the semi-finals if she beats Kerber in straight sets; Kerber can only miss out if that occurs and Halep also wins in two. For Cibulkova, it is still possible, but unlikely.
“She’s always tough to play; even tougher to play on a slower court,” Keys said of Kerber, her conqueror in Rio. “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.”
Meanwhile, Svetlana Kuznetsova’s bizarre DIY hair-chop episode remained a talking point, Keys admitting she had never seen anything like it. “I don’t know what she was doing. I was just wondering what was bothering her so much,” the American said.
“She cut a lot off. Clearly it wasn’t going into her face anymore. That was shocking. I will never be doing that. Ever. Good for her for giving herself a haircut.”
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.