By Ros Satar at the Shiseido WTA Finals in Shenzhen, China
- Naomi Osaka withdraws with a shoulder injury after opening win
- Bertens was pipped to the final Shenzhen spot by Belinda Bencic
- Ashleigh Barty  v Kiki Bertens [ALT] | Barty leads H2H 4-0
SHENZHEN, CHINA – After a hard-fought win in her first round-robin match, Naomi Osaka has withdrawn from the WTA Finals with a shoulder injury, Kiki Bertens takes her place.
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In a taut rematch of the Australian Open final earlier this year, Osaka edged out Petra Kvitova once more in three sets, and there seemed to be no indication of an issue from her, as she ran to an 11-match winning streak having won in Osaka and Beijing before heading to Shenzhen.
In a WTA Communications press release, Osaka said: “I’m disappointed to have to withdraw from the Finals. It has been a great event in Shenzhen, and it’s the biggest WTA event of the year. This is not how I wanted to end this tournament or my season. I look forward to getting healthy and hope to be back here in Shenzhen next year.”
How does this affect the group stages?
As an alternate coming in at this stage of the proceedings, Bertens could still advance to the semi-final stages. The final round robin group standings are determined by the greatest number of match wins followed by the greatest number of matches played. Therefore, if Bertens were to finish with an equal number of match wins but fewer matches played, the other player would advance.
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Ashleigh Barty  v Kiki Bertens [ALT] | Barty leads H2H 4-0
As has been the case a few times now, the run in for the final places was close, with both Belinda Bencic and Bertens in the running for that last spot. Bencic closed out the spot with her run to the Moscow title, and admitted that she had resigned herself to being at the WTA Elite Trophy in Zhuhai.
Bencic said, before the Shenzhen tournament started: “I tried to qualify in China and Linz. It didn’t go well. Then I kind of stopped believing in it. I thought I would be in Zhuhai. I just took my last chance in Moscow. Somehow it paid off. I’m super happy. I think Kuznetsova was my idol on this.
“Kiki Bertens, she sent me a nice text after making it. She obviously told me she hoped me to lose, but she still congratulated me and said I deserve it (laughter). This also meant a lot for me because it shows like the sportsmanship and the class she has as a champion.”
Now Bertens, who made the finals in Zhuhai, will come in to face World No. 1 and top seed Ashleigh Barty. Looking at their main draw encounters in recent years, they have usually come later in a draw and all but one of them have gone the distance.
For so long Bertens was maybe labelled as a clay court specialist, but a breakthrough year in 2018 which saw her add titles in Cincinnati and Seoul as hard-court titles, she showed that her all-court game could be translated to other surfaces, adding the indoor title in Saint Petersburg earlier this year.
Much like Barty she has great variability, great court coverage and is sharp and effective at the net. Barty has all those attributes but what sets her apart is her serve variety and a killer forehand from which she generates pace, spin and angles that can be the stuff of nightmares.
With the slow conditions here, expect this to also go the distance once more, but Barty has looked impressive, having to come from a set down in her opener.
Prediction: Barty in three sets.
READ MORE | Must win for Kvitova
Barty & Bertens are scheduled not before 6:30pm (10:30am BST), Kvitova v Bencic not before 8pm (12pm GMT).
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