By Ros Satar, in Singapore

  • Karolina Pliskova [3] v Caroline Wozniacki [6]
  • Venus Williams [5] v Caroline Garcia [8]

SINGAPORE – The semi-finals are set as four of the best players this season duke it out for a spot at the final.

 

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Karolina Pliskova [3] v Caroline Wozniacki [6] | H2H: Wozniacki leads 5-3

The languid Karolina Pliskova arrived in Singapore a lot happier at having been through this process before, and she had a very different run to her debut last year. There she had been put through the mill against tenacious retrievers, losing in a bruising encounter with Svetlana Kuznetsova and to Agnieszka Radwanska before finishing with a win over Garbiñe Muguruza.

This time around she was on much surer ground, outmatching Venus Williams in the opener, being devastatingly brutal in the mid court with any temptingly short balls that dropped in front of her. She was equally destructive against Muguruza once more, making the most of the unusually flat Spaniard, and once she got the initiative, she was off and flying.

It all came apart though in her final match against the out-going Jelena Ostapenko. The Latvian had already been eliminated ad had nothing to lose. On paper, neither had Pliskova, She had already qualified and had wanted to enjoy her last round-robin match, but admitted it had been a strange circumstance.

“It was tough. Not only in the second set; I think even in the first. I think I started pretty well today but had few break points, so that game was a little bit the key of, I don’t want to say first set, but I felt like if I would have made it, it would be different.

“Yeah, really tough little bit to push myself into it and to play the best tennis if you know you’re qualified. Wasn’t being ever in this situation, so I felt weird today.”

Caroline Wozniacki | WTA Finals 2017, Singapore

Caroline Wozniacki | WTA Finals 2017, Singapore (c) Jimmie48 Tennis Photography

For Pliskova it is a shot at regaining the World No. 1 spot. To do that she has to get through Caroline Wozniacki with the Dane leading their head to head 5-3. Five of those encounters though were this year, with Wozniacki winning two of them, and Pliskova winning the two finals.

Both had dominant and commanding starts their campaigns, and both came unstuck in their final round-robin match. For Wozniacki in particular, she struggled under the first real challenge she had seen this week.

If Pliskova can find the form that she showed in the first two rounds, we would give her the edge.

Prediction: Pliskova in three sets.

 

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Venus Williams [5] v Caroline Garcia [8]

The second semi-final will bring two of the biggest fighters this week together. For Williams there is nothing more to prove to anyone. This is her fifth time around the WTA Finals block, as she has been at great pains to tell us in press. She is here for the wins, and not for any of the frosting around the side.

Her opponent, Caroline Garcia has also impressed, turning in a very clean pair of heels in the run up to the end of the season. She did the Wuhan and Beijung double and despite starting with a loss, her level of fight against Elina Svitolina and then Wozniacki put her in with a shout at qualifying.

It was Svitolina’s shock win over Halep that has actually put Garcia top of the tree in the group.

Williams is out of the running for the World No. 1 spot, and Garcia was never even in the race, but for Williams it is a chance to claim a prize maybe not quite as big as the two Slam titles that eluded her, but certainly one of the biggest titles this year.

But what a story it would make if the last gasp qualifier could do it? And it is not as strange as it sounds. Back when she was catching people’s eye as a huge potential player, she beat Williams in their first meeting. Ironically that was in Wuhan, 2014 and she lost the next week in Beijing to Williams.

She knows she can beat her, and she knows she can really claw her way back when her back is against the wall.

Prediction: Garcia in three sets.

The semi-finals start not before 4pm (9am BST) with Piskova v Wozniacki, and Williams v Garcia is not before 7:30pm (12:30pm BST)

Main Image: Jimmie48 Tennis Photography

 

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