Can Kerber come full circle at the WTA Finals?
By Ros Satar, in Singapore
- Simona Halep  v Dominika Cibulkova 
- Angelique Kerber  v Madison Keys 
SINGAPORE – World No. 1 Angelique Kerber can truly erase history from a year ago as she needs a set to advance to the semi-finals of the WTA Finals for the first time.
Angelique Kerber  v Madison Keys  – H2H: Kerber leads 5-1
One thing has ben evident this week, as the focus has invariably been on the most consistent player of the year – it will be all eyes on Kerber as she steps on the court for the final Round Robin match of the Red Group.
Few who were here or watching could forget the frustration as Kerber effectively collapsed under the pressure of achieving that same goal against Lucie Safarova, having been told shortly before taking to the court that she needed to win just one set.
Yet that is the situation we have before us now – should she win, of course she will qualify for the semi-finals for the first time in four attempts. If she takes a set of Keys, she will qualify, and just her position will depend on the other results. If she loses in straight sets however, and if Halep wins in straight sets, she will be out.
Keys has just one win over the German, where she claimed her first title in Eastbourne in 2014, but since then Kerber is on a three-match winning streak, with their most recent encounter on the hellishly slow courts of Rio, in the semi-final.
While the court here is nowhere near as slow, it does suit the game of Kerber a lot more, allowing her to get right down to the ball, while Keys had to remark that yes, unfortunately she was having to get lower down to balls and dealing with the slow bounces.
Whichever way we slice and dice it, the Kerber that is here this year is worlds apart from the wreck who faced the press last year. Keys has pulled her tio three sets in the past, but never on hard courts.
Prediction: Kerber in two sets.
Simona Halep  v Dominika Cibulkova  – H2H: Cibulkova leads 3-2
It is fair to say that both players had a bad day at the office in their second group matches respectively. Cibulkova was effectively thwarted by Keys and only really managed to get some measure of play on the ball too late to make a difference in the second set.
Halep’s case was more peculiar still. Nothing seemed to work for her in a match largely tipped to be popcorn, but ended up being more like a tin of sweetcorn with the ring-pull snapped.
Nothing was working – her ‘new/improved’ forehand was breaking down almost from the start and even her go-to backhand was not behaving. Occasionally she was able to halt Kerber’s progress for a game but the consistency was not there.
Both play an aggressive, scramblers game, and Halep has to hope that Kerber can get the business done if she loses in three sets to stand a chance of getting out of the group.
This is actually the toughest one to call – both have everything to play for, but for Cibulkova, she needs to win in straights and for Kerber to win in straights too to grab a spot in the semi-final.
Prediction: Halep in three sets.
Round Robin Advancement Scenarios
Here comes the science – every combination of what could happen!
|Halep in 2||Halep in 3||Cibulkova in 2||Cibulkova in 3|
|Kerber in 2||1. Kerber
|Kerber in 3||1. Kerber
|Keys in 2||1. Halep
|Keys in 3||1. Halep
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