Kontaveit and Muguruza triumph in Mexico

Anett Kontaveit may be the rookie at the Akron WTA Finals but she is defying the odds by notching up the wins at Guadalajara, adding the scalp of Karolina Pliskova to that of Barbora Krejcikova in the Teotihuacán Group on Friday, while Garbiñe Muguruza also beat Krejcikova to keep her hopes of reaching the semi-finals alive.

I think it's just really trusting my shots a little bit more, just going for it, but going for it with margins. I think that's been very important, not to go for too much, but still stay aggressive and be in charge whenever possible. When it's not possible, just stay in the rallies, be as consistent as possible. Anett Kontaveit

Kontaveit, the 8th seed from Estonia, took out Pliskova, the World No 4, after a tight first set that was followed by a dominant display in the second to win, 6-4 6-0, while Muguruza had to come from behind to defeat Krejcikova, ranked 3 in the world, 2-6 6-3 6-4.

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

In her first victory in 4 meetings with Pliskova, taking her current run to 12 straight wins, Kontaveit becomes the first to qualify for the semi-final knock-out stage of the competition.

“Of course, very thrilled to be in the semi-finals,” Kontaveit said in her post-match press conference. “I thought I played a very good match.

“I think it was very important for me to be as consistent as possible. Took some time to get used to her serves. I felt like my game was getting better and better as the match went on.

“I think I wasn’t thinking about the fact that I was 3-0 down in previous matches [against Pliskova]. I think every time you step on the court, you have a new opportunity.

“The previous matches don’t really matter. It’s a new day and you have to beat the player you’re playing against. That’s how I approach the match.”

Karolina Pliskova could not extend her 3-0 dominance over Anett Kontaveit and lost in straight sets in Mexico

© Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

It took the Estonian only 57 minutes to collect her second win of the week and seal her spot in the last 4 in her WTA Finals debut, winning 24 of her 29 first-service points, 83 percent, and firing 6 aces to storm to the win.

“I think it’s just really trusting my shots a little bit more, just going for it, but going for it with margins,” she added. “I think that’s been very important, not to go for too much, but still stay aggressive and be in charge whenever possible.

“When it’s not possible, just stay in the rallies, be as consistent as possible.”

Pliskova, who is making her 5th straight appearance at the WTA Finals, was unable to convert any of her 3 break point chances, which all came in a single game, and while the Czech leads the tour in aces this season, she could only produce 4 in this match as she won just 63 percent of her first-service points.

Kontaveit was first to face danger going 3 break points down at 1-1, but the Estonian plays her best tennis when her back is against the wall, and she powered her way out of trouble to stay on track, racing through her next few service games to lead 5-4.

Using blistering backhands, she grasped her first break point of the day on set point, where she prevailed in a stirring rally, ending it with a put-away in the forecourt to claim the one-set lead.

Kontaveit was 40-2 in matches this year going into the match, and she continued her run with ease as she dominated the second set, firing an ace to grab the opening game and following it with a break in the next with a forehand winner.

She effectively ran away with the last 8 games to collect a dominating win and book her spot in the semi-finals of the season-ending championships.

A delighted Garbiñe Muguruza rallied from a set down to beat Barbora Krejcikova and keep her hopes of qualifying for the WTA Finals semi-finals alive on Friday night

© Ulises Ruiz/AFP via Getty Images

In the late match on Friday, Muguruza, the 6th seed from Spain, got off to a rocky start against Krejcikova, the 2nd-seeded Czech, dropping the opening set, but she rallied in the second and ground out an early break in a lengthy game in the third to take a 2-1 lead that she did not relinquish.

The Spaniard let out a mighty roar when Krejcikova sent her service return long on match point to complete the comeback.

“It was amazing,” she said on court. “The crowd helped me so much during the second set to come back.

“I didn’t start the match very well, so in the second set I had to push myself and fight with whatever tennis I had today, and I was playing so much better in the third set.”

Having narrowly lost her first round-robin match to Pliskova two nights ago, Muguruza needed to win against Krejcikova to stay in contention for the title but, in order to qualify for the semi-finals for the second time in her career, the Spaniard (1-1) must win on Sunday against Kontaveit (2-0), and for Krejcikova to get past Pliskova (1—1).

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

The Czech broke Muguruza´s service in the 5th and 7th games to take the first set in just 36 minutes, but the former World No 1 came back and broke the Czech in the 4th game to take a 3-1 lead, and added a break in the 8th game.

“I 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,” said Muguruza, who is a local favourite after winning titles in Monterrey in 2018 and 2019. “I’m very happy in the way I handled difficulties.”

Despite her two losses Barbora Krejcikova still has an outside chance to make the semi-finals if sh can beat Anett Kontaveit in straight sets on Sunday

© Hector Vivas/Getty Images for WTA

Muguruza’s game was erratic in the first set, producing just 2 winners to 18 unforced errors, but she settled and was almost even for the rest of the match, striking 19 winners to 22 unforced errors across the next two sets.

After struggling with her range in the first 4 games, Krejcikova finally locked in and ran away with the opening set after 36 minutes, converting 65% of her first serves, along with 7 winners and 15 unforced errors.

“I think I started the first set not playing great,” Muguruza said. “In the second set the crowd really helped me.

“I said before and I really mean it, because they cheer me up. I realised that, hey, I’m not leaving this court without changing things around at least, or give Barbora the biggest fight.”

She quickly turned the tables in the second, building a 4-1 lead before Krejcikova was able to get back on serve at 3-4, but Muguruza refused to let the Czech back in, breaking her in the next game and serving out after 45 minutes to level matters.

After serving at 58% in the first set, Muguruza lifted her level to land 71% of her first serves in the second, including 5 aces, winning 76% of the time, while she also tidied up her ground game, hitting 10 winners to 12 unforced errors.

An exchange of holds opened the decider before Muguruza played a monumental 12-minute return game that saw Krejcikova wipe away 5 break points before the Spaniard finally converted with a perfectly built point that ended on a forehand winner into the open court.

With the momentum now firmly on her side, Muguruza hung on to her service games and did not face a break point for the remainder of the encounter.

Serving for the match at 5-4, 30-all, she struck her 6th ace of the match to earn match point, which she converted to finish it off.

“I felt like in the first set I wasn’t doing enough,” Muguruza said. “Every time I served she would break me or I would not dominate.

“I feel like the serve is such a weapon here in the altitude. I had to do something different. I concentrated a lot on making those first serves at least so I could hold my serve, then try to break her. That was definitely a key today.”

Having carved out the only break of the decider to go up 2-1, Muguruza never let go, as both held on from there until it was all over after 2 hours and 10 minutes.

The 5th-ranked Spaniard, who is back in the Top 5 for the first time since 2018, was asked by the media how it feels to be back among the best.

“It was a tough journey and, sometimes, there are ups and downs, but I work hard,” she said. “I have an excellent team that helped me to be back in the top.”

Shuko Aoyama & Ena Shibahara reached the doubles semi-finals after defeating Nicole Melichar & Demi Schuurs on Friday

© Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

It was a rare loss for Krejcikova, who came into the match with a 39-2 record this season when she wins the first set, and a 13-2 record in 3-set matches.

The Czech was the only player of the elite 8 in the finals to have played the Billie Jean King Cup Finals in Prague last week, and had to hot-foot it to Guadalajara over the weekend.

“I think she served pretty well,” Krejcikova said. “I know that she can just raise her level up.

“I mean, it’s really tough when she’s serving well, especially in here with the tough conditions. I’ve been just trying to find a way. I was just a little short at the end.

“But I think I did a really good match, I did a really good performance. I’m actually really happy that every single day I’m improving and I’m getting better. It’s a really, really good thing for me.

“Yeah, just today the match was really close. I was just the one that was unlucky. That’s it. That’s how I see the match.”

In the doubles, No 2 seeds Shuko Aoyama & Ena Shibahara from Japan booked their semi-final place at the WTA Finals with straight-sets win against Nicole Melichar-Martinez & Demi Schuurs, while a two-hour battle to avoid elimination saw No 7 seeds Darija Jurak & Andreja Klepac overcome Samantha Stosur & Zhang Shuai in 3 tiebreaks

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



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