Kiki Bertens will take on Elina Svitolina in the first semi-final at the 2018 WTA Finals on Saturday after both made a surprise entry into the knock-out stages of the competition.
Coming into the WTA Finals, Svitolina hadn’t had the best of times, since crashing out of the US Open in the fourth round. She changed her coach and there were back to back losses at Wuhan and Beijing, losing to Aryna Sabalenka and Aleksandra Krunic in the process.
She did make it to the quarter-finals at WTA Hong Kong but coming into the WTA Finals, it was never expected to be this good for Svitolina.
As it turned out, the Ukrainian first sent the Australian Open winner Caroline Wozniacki packing in three sets, before beating Karolina Pliskova in a similar fashion too. By then the confidence looked to have returned and Petra Kvitova was steamrolled, 6-3, 6-3 to make it a clean sweep and top her group.
Bertens wasn’t even a part of the first-choice top eight who qualified for the WTA Finals. It was Simona Halep’s injury and subsequent withdrawal that ensured that Bertens, who was the first Alternate in the competition, made it through.
And when she started off by dropping the first set of her first match of the tournament against Angelique Kerber, 6-1, it looked like the writing was on the wall. Bertens was made of sterner stuff though.
Although she lost her second match to Sloane Stephens, it wasn’t without a fight. She lost the first set on a tie-breaker before coming back to level things out but then lost her game to go down in a three-setter. What other results in the group meant was that going into the final round-robin match against the US Open champion Naomi Osaka, the winner of that encounter was going to get a direct entry into the semi-finals.
Fortunately for her, Osaka lasted just one set in the match, losing that and then succumbing to a hamstring issue – an issue that had first raised its head in her loss at the hands of Kerber.
Svitolina and Bertens have faced each other twice in their career, once as recently as in the Cincinnati Open quarter-finals. Bertens was a straight-set winner in that match after having lost their previous outing at the WTA Elite competition in a three-setter.