Zhuhai | Garcia eliminates Keys as Kasatkina and Zheng score group wins at Elite Trophy

Second-seeded Madison Keys was knocked out of contention at the Huafa Technology WTA Elite Trophy Zhuhai by Caroline Garcia on Wednesday, while Barbora Krejcikova, the top seed, faltered against Daria Kastakina, and Zheng Qinwen outlasted Donna Vekic in the group stage.

It took some time to find my rhythm. In the second set, she was serving really well, so we couldn’t break each other. ... I think I got a little chance at 6-6 [in the tiebreak, but] at that moment she played aggressive... So I’m really happy to win the match in the end. Zheng Qinwen

Keys was the first player to be eliminated from the competition after losing her 2nd round-robin match, 6-3 7-6(3), to the 9th-seeded Frenchwoman, the American having been upset in her first outing against Beatriz Haddad Maia, the No 8 seed from Brazil, on Tuesday.

Despite Keys firing 6 aces, Garcia forced the only break of serve in the match to clinch the opening set, and then held her nerve through a tighter second to seal her first win over the 11th-ranked American since a Fed Cup playoff in 2014.

Garcia converted her 3rd break point in the second game, and held on to her next service games to seal the first set, before both held on to their service games en route to the second set tiebreak in which the Frenchwoman earned two mini-breaks to come through.

Having claimed her first top 20 win of the season while breaking her 4-match losing streak, Garcia finished the match with 20 winners to 20 unforced errors, while Keys struck 18 winners to 17 unforced errors.

Garcia next plays Haddad Maia on Friday in a shoot-out to win the Camellia group and advance to the semi-final knock-out stage.

Daria Kasatkina upset top seed Barbora Krejcikova in the Azalea group at the WTA Elite Trophy Zhuhai on Wednesday

© Lintao Zhang/Getty Images

In the Azalea group, Krejcikova’s hopes of advancing faltered when the Czech suffered a 7-5 1-6 6-1 defeat at the hands of Russia’s Kasatkina.

In a see-saw match, Krejcikova opened up a 4-1 lead with a break in the second game, but Kasatkina then won 6 of the next 7 games to clinch the opener.

The Czech rebounded to reel off 6 of the next 7 games of her own, with two breaks of serve, to claim the second, and forced the match to the decider in which the Russian wrestled back the momentum and, again, won 6 of the final 7 games to clinch the win after 2 hours and 10 minutes.

In the process, Kasatkina struck 16 winners to 19 unforced errors, while Krejcikova committed 43 miscues to her 35 winners.

The Russian No 6 seed next plays Poland’s Magda Linette on Friday, who lost to Krejcikova in her opening match, and a win will send Kasatkina into the Last 4.

In fact, all 3 players in the Azalea group can still advance to the semi-finals because, should Linette win, they would be tied at one win apiece, and the semi-final spot will be decided by the percentage of sets won.

If, after this calculation, two players remain tied, it will be decided by head-to-head results this week.

Home favourite Qinwen Zheng opened her campaign in the Orchid group with a 3-set win over Donna Vekic on Wednesday evening in Zhuhai

© Fred Lee/Getty Images

Finally, in the Orchid group, Zheng, the 7th seed, thrilled her home crowd by coming through a marathon against Croatia’s Vekic, 6-4 6-7(6) 6-4, in the opening match of the Orchid group.

It was a gritty performance from the Chinese, who had to fight back from a break down in the final set before edging past 10th-seeded Vekic in a gruelling 2-hour and 53-minute thriller.

Zheng avenged a loss to the Croatian in their only prior meeting, in the 1st-round of Courmayeur in 2021.

“It took some time to find my rhythm,” Zheng said after her win. “In the second set, she was serving really well, so we couldn’t break each other. … I think I got a little chance at 6-6 [in the tiebreak, but] at that moment she played aggressive.

“In the third set, she continued serving really well, but after I started to get more rhythm on the return, I started to feel better and better in my game by playing longer. So I’m really happy to win the match in the end.”

The victory continues the 21-year-old’s late-season surge, having won the second and highest-level title of her career at WTA 500 Zhengzhou earlier this month, and she currently sits at her career-high ranking of No 18.

The two Chinese players in this year’s Zhuhai singles field are now 2-0 in night matches at the WTA Elite Trophy so far, with wild-card Zhu Lin upsetting Russia’s Veronika Kudermetova in Monday’s night session.

On Tuesday night, Zheng struck 40 winners to Vekic’s 28, and also made 7 fewer errors than the Croatian.

While Zheng let 12 of her 17 break points go begging in the clash, her 5 service breaks overall still outpaced Vekic’s 3.

Overpowering serves and service returns led Zheng through a streaky opening set in which there were 5 straight breaks from 2-2 to 5-4, but the Chinese found some of her strongest deliveries to stop that run and served out the first set.

The second set was a different story, with zero service breaks as Vekic, the World No 24, tightened up her game.

In the breaker, Vekic used a big backhand to line up her second set point at 7-6, which she converted by forcing another error, this time from her forehand wing.

In the third set, Vekic broke for 2-1 with a sturdy return, and she consolidated for 3-1, but Zheng held a total of 6 break points in the Croatian’s next 2 service games, and the Chinese eventually broke back for 4-4 with powerful play.

A passing winner gave Zheng a 5-4 lead, and she quickly raced to 0-40 and triple match point in the following game.

Although Vekic saved the first 2 match points, she fired a backhand miscue on the third to concede the match.

The Elite Trophy features the 11 highest-ranked singles players who did not qualify for the WTA Finals in Cancun, Mexico, which start on Sunday, plus a local wild-card.

The 12 players are divided into 4 groups of 3 players, with the winner of each group advancing to the semi-finals, and the final scheduled for Sunday.

(L-R) Zhu Lin, Jelena Ostapenko, Beatriz Haddad Maia, Barbora Krejcikova, Zheng Qinwen, Madison Keys, Liudmila Samsonova, Magda Linette, Daria Kasatkina, Donna Vekic, Caroline Garcia, and Veronika Kudermetova attended the player's party of the WTA Elite Trophy Zhuhai held at Serensia Woods Hotel on 23 October in Zhuhai, China.

© Fred Lee/Getty Images



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