The final match from the red group features the number three seed, Maria Sharapova up against the number seven seed, Flavia Pennetta. Sharapova, who is undefeated in Singapore this year, will be looking to level up the head-to-head with Pennetta who currently leads it, 3-2. The state of the group and who could qualify is as follows…
There is only one possible scenario where Sharapova does not qualify which is if she loses in straight sets to Pennetta and Halep beats Radwanska in straight sets. To be safe, Sharapova needs a set. A straight sets win for Pennetta will secure her place in the semi-finals. However if she wins in three, it’s a 50-50 scenario as she will need to rely on Radwanska beating Halep.
Pennetta produced her best display since winning the US Open, beating Agnieszka Radwanska in two tight sets, 7-6(5) 6-4. After another sluggish start Pennetta came through with flying colours, hitting a whopping 37 winners to 23 unforced errors to prevail in one hour and 39 minutes. Watching the match back, I don’t remember so many winners from Pennetta but that backhand down-the-line was glooooorious. The Italian player peaked when it mattered, breaking Radwanska when she served for the first set and then sealing the first set in the tiebreak. Pennetta played a wonderful return game at 3-3 in the second set, breaking on a return winner down-the-line and then secured the win with… you guessed it, a backhand down-the-line!
Sharapova enjoyed her sixth consecutive victory over Simona Halep with a terrific display, toughing out a lengthy straight setter, 6-4 6-4. The first set had some superb rallies but also some scrappy play too. Sharapova committed a lot of unforced errors but her continued positivity was more than enough against a predominantly passive Halep. The best point from the first set which is linked below.
Sharapova continued to impress in the second set, hitting cleanly and accurately, and more importantly, staying patient in the rallies. Like her first match against Radwanska, she crumbled a little trying to serve out the match, twice failing at *5-1 and *5-3. Sharapova though, delivered a killer return game, twice winning points by pulling Halep out wide on the backhand side before unleashing a backhand into the corner on match point. There was plenty of uncertainty surrounding Sharapova pre-tournament considering she hadn’t played since Wimbledon but her gritty mentality and quality has shone through. Three months out is a long time and I admit I didn’t expect her to reach the semi-finals. Where she may have an edge over some players is that she is much fresher and that fighting instinct will never go away.
As mentioned earlier, Pennetta leads the head-to-head against Sharapova, 3-2, with three consecutive wins in Los Angeles (6-2 4-6 6-3, 2009), New York (6-3 3-6 6-4, 2011) and Indian Wells (3-6 6-3 6-2, 2015). It’s been a great match-up for Pennetta and the reigning US Open champion comes in with confidence after her win against Radwanska where her key weapon, the backhand, was firing on all cylinders. This could be a real cracker of a match when you also chuck in what’s up for grabs. As to the winner, I wouldn’t be surprised either way. I’d fancy a three setter; with how well she has been striking the ball in her first two matches, Sharapova has the edge for me.