Thursday’s Set Points, WTA Moscow & Luxembourg: Kasatkina & Goerges zoning in on Zhuhai

Set PointsDaria Kasatkina was the first player into the semi-finals of Moscow with a 6-4 6-3 victory over Aliaksandra Sasnovich. There were 12 breaks in 19 service games as both players struggled on serve, yet were potent on return. Kasatkina has now won 12 of her last 16 matches and by virtue of this result, will break back into the world’s top 30 in next week’s ranking. Top 20 could be in sight this week…

Kasatkina’s jumping backhand gives me life – I love this shot!

Yesterday a serving masterclass and today a spirited effort by Natalia Vikhlyantseva who beat Alizé Cornet, 4-6 7-5 6-3 in three hours and one minute. The Russian player was just two points away from going out when serving at *4-5 in the second set. The length of the match was extended with two medical time-outs in the second set as both players battled with leg injuries.

In the third set, an increasingly passive Cornet backed off and her drop shots became more error-prone. Cornet just couldn’t break down a surprisingly patient and consistent, Vikhlyantseva who rolled through the last few games. I’m really warming to Vikhlyantseva, both her personality and game. The serve wasn’t as good today (perhaps with the leg) and I thought she was a little passive in her court position. However, she still hit some gorgeous winners, many off the forehand wing. Overall, a player i’m growing to enjoy watching.

In the other two quarter-finals from Moscow…

Irina-Camelia Begu saved a match point to beat the 19-year-old, Vera Lapko, 6-3 4-6 7-5 in two hours and 23 minutes. Lapko had served for the match at *5-4.

Julia Goerges saw off Lesia Tsurenko, 6-3 6-4 in one hour and 48 minutes. There’s always something epic when these two meet and today, they managed to play out an eleven deuce game to open the second set where Goerges broke serve on her sixth break point.

In the first of the semi-finals in Moscow on Friday, Kasatkina will play Begu at not before 3pm local time. The pair have played three times this year and Kasatkina has won all three encounters. Peak Begu is a thing and while she’s enjoying one of her best tournaments of the year, I would still favour Kasatkina’s consistency. I think Daria is still trying to find that balance, but her defence has been better through Asia and she has been missing less balls.

The second semi-final will follow with Goerges taking on Vikhlyantseva. I wonder if this may be a match too far for Vikhlyantseva who was nursing a leg injury in her quarter-final match. Goerges has been super reliable this year and has an underlying confidence, helped by winning a shedload of matches.

Into just her second semi-final of 2017, Monica Puig needed three sets to get past Naomi Broady in Luxembourg in a bagel-breadstick sandwich, 6-0 5-7 6-1. Puig had led 6-0 3-0 and served for the match at 6-0 *5-3. Still a great win and week for Puig.

The number five seed, Elise Mertens is the only seed remaining in Luxembourg after a 6-4 6-4 win over Heather Watson. In a closely contested match where both players hit seven double faults, it was Watson who produced them at critical stages serving at *4-4 in both sets – she hit one on break point in the first and then two in a row from *15-15 in the second.

Mertens hit three double faults in a row at one point, yet held it together when it really mattered with two confident set closes. On her fifth match point and after some late resistance from Watson, the Belgian player sealed her 43rd win of the year.

In the other two quarter-finals from Luxembourg, Carina Witthoeft and Pauline Parmentier both dropped just three games in comfortable wins over Kiki Bertens and Johanna Larsson respectively. The Dutch-Swedish pair have just been announced as the final doubles pair for Singapore and will no doubt be on their way!

The first of the semi-finals in Luxembourg on Friday will be at not before 5pm between Parmentier and Witthoeft. The German player leads the head-to-head, 2-1 and won their most recent match at the French Open earlier this year, 6-4 7-6(5). Not much to say on this one – it really could go either way with what’s up for grabs. Parmentier is seeking her first WTA final since 2008, while Witthoeft will be going for her first ever final.

The second semi-final will immediately follow the first one with Puig up against Mertens. Puig has the bigger game, but Mertens is more measured and i’d guess more confident with all the wins this year. The Belgian player closed out the match against Watson rather impressively. In their only previous match, Mertens beat Puig in qualifying for New Haven earlier this year, 7-5 6-4.

A quartet of players have been announced for Zhuhai – Sloane Stephens, Anastasija Sevastova, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Elena Vesnina join Peng Shuai in heading to the WTA Elite Trophy. I’m not quite sure whether this means that the players above Stephens in the rankings (Mladenovic, Kuznetsova and Vandeweghe) and also Madison Keys have opted not to play Zhuhai?

If yes, then the likes of Angelique Kerber, Ashleigh Barty, Barbora Strycova, Magdalena Rybarikova and Daria Gavrilova are all looking good to qualify. Semi-final runs in Moscow for Daria Kasatkina and Julia Goerges will likely be enough to make it and with withdrawals likely, the list may even extend down to Petra Kvitova. A title for Mertens in Luxembourg could put her in the frame also! The full line-up for Zhuhai will be announced next Tuesday (24th of October).

And finally, all the players now seem to be in Singapore. The draw will be unveiled at 19:30pm local time (12:30pm UK time) on Friday.

Follow Moo’s Tennis Blog on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Feature photo by Omar Boraby.

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