Singapore | Venus snatches semi-final spot
The Thursday evening session opened with a match between World No 2 Garbiñe Muguruza and Venus Williams, the 5th seed, to determine the second semi-finalist from the White Group at the WTA Finals in Singapore.
Williams was forced to play flat out to oust Jelena Ostapenko earlier in the week, a player who was still in nappies at two years old when the American made her season-ending debut.
While she said little about the scrap later, Venus clearly kicked her champion’s mentality into gear and showed her gritty determination to win, aged 37 and the tour veteran.
It’s not easy out here, you have to play every point well or you end up losing the game. I had some great coaching going into my match and I hope I can win some moreVenus Williams
Karolina Pliskova effectively steam-rolled over a flat Muguruza on Tuesday, giving the Wimbledon champion a double headache, in having to beat Williams once more to give herself a chance at the big prize.
Going in, Williams held the edge on hard courts, and while Muguruza did work for her first round win over Ostapenko, she needed to find higher gear up for this encounter.
In what was a repeat of this year’s Wimbledon final, it was Williams who came through on this occasion, 7-5 6-4, to earn a spot in the final four of the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global.
In her first two serve games of the first set, Muguruza saved two break points, then broke Venus by playing an aggressive tennis, forcing her opponent to miss balls.
The American broke back to level at 4-all and, then leading 6-5, she converted her third set point in the game to win the set.
At the beginning of the second set Muguruza was more consistent on serve, she kept playing well when Venus served and broke her opponent to lead 3-1.
Both players struggled to hold serve, especially in the second set, but it was the American who strode across the finish line first, holding and breaking serve when it mattered and advancing to the semi-finals as second of the White Group to face either Caroline Wozniacki or Caroline Garcia on Saturday.
Williams is the only player on the slate of eight this year who has won this event, lifting the Billie Jean King trophy in 2008.
Humorous after her win, she offered a cheeky answer when asked how she has stayed at the top, entering the semi-finals of the prestigious season finale 15 years after she first became World No 1.
“Well, I use a lot of sunscreen, and I eat a lot of fruits and vegetables. That’s been the key to my success,” she said on court shortly after her victory.
“I played an amazing opponent, who has had an amazing year, so I was so happy to win the last point,” Williams continued.
“It’s not easy out here, you have to play every point well or you end up losing the game. I had some great coaching going into my match and I hope I can win some more.”
The first set was an absorbing encounter, with no breaks to start with, although both players had plenty of opportunities.
When Muguruza finally did take advantage to gain a 4-3 lead, Williams broke right back.
She then held on to narrowly take the first set, and the second was just as close.
Williams, however, always seemed in control, and is now the sentimental favourite heading into the semi-finals.
It was Williams’ second tight match in a row, although at 1 hour 41 minutes it wasn’t as long as her victory over Ostapenko on Tuesday, which was over three hours.
Muguruza, while disappointed following the end of her season, said she is still proud of the year she has had.
“I’m very proud of this year. It’s not going to change,” said Muguruza after getting eliminated from the tournament.
“I knew here that it’s going to be tough, the best eight players are playing.
“My year has been incredible and best so far. I improved so many things. That’s what I’m going to take.”
Muguruza’s dreams of ending the year as the top-ranked player on the WTA Tour were dashed, but hopes of toppling current leader Simona Halep remain for Wozniacki, Elina Svitolina and Pliskova.
Williams joins Pliskova as the two players emerging from the White Group to the semi-finals while French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko was eliminated earlier.
Wozniacki will likely face Williams, although she can still finish second if Svitolina beats Halep and Caroline Garcia downs the Dane.
Svitolina, Halep and Garcia can all still progress, but only the latter can come through as Red Group winner and force Wozniacki to face Pliskova.
Asked about the permutations, the American ruefully admitted: “I haven’t been watching any tennis, truth be told, as I’ve seen enough tennis for the year!”