While the number seven and eight seeds will meet in the first of the Singapore semi-finals, the second one will be contested between the top two seeds, Angelique Kerber and Agnieszka Radwanska, at not before 7.30pm local time. It will also be a first match-up between the pair in 2016…
In the last round robin match of the 2016 WTA Finals, Agnieszka Radwanska went head-to-head with Karolina Pliskova with the winner advancing to the semi-finals in second place from the white group. Radwanska recovered from a break down in both sets to secure her seventh consecutive straight sets win over Karolina Pliskova, 7-5 6-3. Pliskova had made an excellent start, dropping just one point through her first three service games and playing a handful of sensational points.
The turning point in the first set came with Radwanska serving at *2-4 *30-40. With a chance to go up a double break and serve for the opener, Pliskova just missed the line with a forehand. If she’d made it then she would have been in a very promising position for a volley. Radwanska went onto hold and then worked her way into the match as the early scattering of errors for Pliskova became more widespread. Radwanska won five of the last six games and broke Pliskova’s serve twice, taking the break points with return winners on both occasions.
The second set saw plenty of momentum swings – the key one came in the seventh game as Pliskova failed to take advantage of a break point at 3-3. The Czech player then threw in a shocker of a game, missing two overheads into the net to get broken. Radwanska successfully served out the match to reach the semi-finals of the WTA Finals for the third consecutive year.
Kerber went 3-0 through the group stage and qualified for the semi-finals of the WTA Finals for the first time in her career. After dropping a set in her opening match against Dominika Cibulkova, an entertaining three set tussle, Kerber enjoyed straight set wins over Simona Halep and Madison Keys. In her last match from the red group and knowing that she’d already reached the semi-finals, Kerber produced yet another solid display to beat Keys, 6-3 6-3.
Kerber’s serve was shaky in the first set; she produced double faults down break point to lose her serve up *2-1 and *3-2, but she was clinical on return and as has become accustomed to Kerber this year, she played the big points well. The world number one saved a break point at *4-3 and then accepted some gifts from an error-stricken Keys to wrap up the first set, 6-3.
The American made a bright start to the second set but just couldn’t sustain her level as Kerber rallied to win six of the last seven matches. The German player was able to inject pace at the right time and rely on a substantially improved serve in the second set, holding her last four service games by dropping just four points including serving out the win over Keys to love.
Head-to-head record: Radwanska leads Kerber, 6-5 in their head-to-head. The pair haven’t played since Beijing last year where Radwanska prevailed for a surprisingly straightforward win, 6-1 6-4. Radwanska and Kerber have split their last six matches, which have all been on hard court; without doubt, the highlight was their three set quarter-final in Stanford last year.
Interesting stat: In 2016, Kerber has won 11 out of her 14 matches against top ten opposition.
Final thoughts: I can’t believe Kerber and Radwanska haven’t played this year! Radwanska opened the tournament with another gutting loss to Kuznetsova having been up match point. In true Aga style, she responded in resilient fashion with two straight set wins and a pretty tidy performance against Pliskova where she ended with favourable stats of 15 winners to 8 unforced errors.
It will be intriguing to see Kerber go up against Radwanska for the first time as world number one. The head-to-head is close and I don’t think much will separate them shot-wise. In terms of mental toughness, Kerber has come through with flying colours on the big points this week (and all year) so for that reason, she’d be my pick to reach the final.