The round robin of the Red Group concluded Thursday at the WTA Finals in Shenzhen with Ash Barty and Belinda Bencic advanced to this weekend’s semifinal stage.
Barty cruised past Petra Kvitova 6-4, 6-2.
“I was particularly happy with the way I was able to return tonight,” commented Barty. “I think Petra changed her serving spots to her usual kind of serving spots. I think she was trying to take a little bit more of a risk. That kind of worked in my favor a bit. Really happy with how we were able to nudge in front early in both sets and keep the foot down.”
Bencic didn’t even play a full match as replacement Kiki Bertens had to retire down 7-5, 1-0 due to a virus.
“I had some problems with my stomach,” said Bertens who replaced Naomi Osaka. “The energy was not there. A little bit dizzy. Just too much to continue.
“I think I gave absolutely everything this year and this week. I’m proud of that. Like five weeks ago, I said to myself, You’re completely dead. I guess now I’m almost there.”
Said Bencic, “Obviously not the way I wanted to win, but super proud of how I fought in that set. I was thinking maybe she wins the first set, maybe different story. I think after I lost the first match here, I just wanted to keep fighting, and you never know. There’s people that made it to the semifinal when they won just one match. I was always thinking of those positives. I think everyone is exhausted and injured, all of that. I think now it’s all about the mental strength to go through all of this.”
The round round wraps up on Friday with the last two matches from the Purple Group.
Elina Svitolina meets replacement Sofia Kenin in a match which has no bearing on the semifinals. She will meet Bencic on Saturday.
Then it’s the big match between Simona Halep and Karolina Pliskova in a de facto quarterfinal match, with the winner moving on to the semifinals.
Halep leads 7-3 but the two have never met at the WTA Finals. The winner will face Barty in the semifinal.
FRIDAY WTA FINALS SHENZHEN SCHEDULE
ORDER OF PLAY (starts 4pm)
 Elise MERTENS (BEL) / Aryna SABALENKA (BLR) vs  Timea BABOS (HUN) / Kristina MLADENOVIC (FRA)
Not before 6.30pm
[Alt] Sofia KENIN (USA) vs  Elina SVITOLINA (UKR)
Not before 8pm
 Karolina PLISKOVA (CZE) vs  Simona HALEP (ROU)
 CHAN Hao-Ching (TPE) / Latisha CHAN (TPE) vs  Anna-Lena GROENEFELD (GER) / Demi SCHUURS (NED)
You Might Like:
Barty, Halep, Kvitova Lead 15 Of Top 20 In Wuhan
Pliskova, Barty Set For Biggest Career Title In Miami
No. 1 Barty, Four Former Champions Featured In Doha; Halep Withdraws
Barty Clinches #1, Osaka Gets First WTA Finals Win On Day 1 In Shenzhen; Andreescu v Halep Mon.
Osaka Withdraws From WTA Finals Shenzhen; Kvitova, Barty Fall