WTA Finals: Kontaveit crushes Pliskova to reach semis

Estonian Anett Kontaveit handed Czech Karolina Pliskova a 6-4, 6-0 drubbing to become the first player to qualify for the semifinals at the WTA Finals in Guadalajara on Friday.

The number eight seed dominated the round-robin stage match and closed out the opener with a drop shot to break Pliskova’s serve, having saved three break points in the third game.

The third-seeded Czech could not get a foothold in the second set as Kontaveit dropped only one first-serve point, while Pliskova struggled with her second serve. It was Kontaveit’s first win in four meetings with Pliskova.

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The WTA Finals divides the players into two groups of four, with each player competing in three matches. The top two from each group advance to the semifinals.

Kontaveit beat world number three and French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova on Wednesday and is now guaranteed to finish in the top two in the group.

She came into the match on a career-best 11-match winning streak, having won the Transylvania Open and Kremlin Cup while reaching the quarter-finals at Indian Wells last month.

The Estonian has 28 wins in her last 30 matches.

“I’ve really been enjoying being on court, just having a good time,” she said.

“I think that’s been the main thing why I’ve been doing so well. I do feel like I can take on everyone. I never expect an easy match, I always expect it to be tough. I just try my best when I go out there.”

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As for finally getting a win against the hard-hitting Pliskova, she said it was all about having a short memory.

“I wasn’t thinking about the fact that I was three-love down in previous matches,” she said.

– Muguruza remains in the hunt –

In the late match Friday, Garbine Muguruza rallied to beat Barbora Krejcikova 2-6, 6-3, 6-4, to remain in contention for the title. To qualify for the semifinals for the second time in her career, the Spaniard (1-1) needs a win on Sunday against Kontaveit (2-0) and a Krejcikova victory over Pliskova (1โ€”1).

Krejcikova, the French Open champion, is not eliminated at 0-2, but needs to beat Pliskova in two sets and a Muguruza loss.

The second-seeded Krejcikova broke Muguruza’s service in the fifth and seventh games to take the first set in just 36 minutes. But Muguruza came back and broke Krejcikova in the fourth game to take a 3-1 lead and added a break in the eighth game.

โ€œI am very happy about my fighting spirit today, I lost the first match in a tough way and won this one in a tough way,โ€ Muguruza said. โ€œIยดm very happy in the way I handled difficulties.โ€

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Muguruza, who is a local favorite after winning titles in Monterrey in 2018 and 2019, had a break in the third game of the third set and held on for the win.

โ€œThe crowd really helped me today, I said it before, and I mean it, they cheer me up and I said I’m not leaving this court before changing things around,” she added.

In doubles, the second-seeded team of Shuko Aoyama and Ena Shibihara defeated Nicole Melichar-Martinez and Demi Schuurs 6-4, 7-6 (5). The Japanese pair qualified for the semifinals when No. 7 seeds Darija Jurak and Andreja Klepac triumphed 6-7 ( 10), 7-6 (4) 10-5 in a nearly 2-hour match against No. 5 seeds Samantha Stosur and Zhang Shuai.

The tournament was canceled last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The WTA Finals are being played in Guadalajara for this year only, with the event scheduled to return in 2022 to Shenzhen, China.

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