By Ros Satar at the Shiseido WTA Finals in Shenzhen, China
- Ashleigh Barty  v Petra Kvitova 
- Belinda Bencic  v Kiki Bertens [ALT]
- All four players in the mix for a semi-final spot
SHENZHEN, CHINA – The first group stage comes to an end, with all four players with a chance to make the semi-finals.
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Singles Red Group Advancement Scenarios
Ashleigh Barty  v Petra Kvitova  | Kvitova leads H2H 4-2
With everything to play for, the equation is quite simple for former champion Petra Kvitova. To advance she has to win, which is fair enough, and ideally, she needs to do it in straight sets. Sounds easy enough, save for a slow court which has seen all but one of the matches go the distance so far.
With the addition of Kiki Bertens into the mix, following Naomi Osaka’s withdrawal, the dynamic has changed as with just one round-robin in, it offered the first alternate every chance to also pass through to the knock-out stages.
Bertens stunned Barty for the win and with that throws Kvitova a lifeline after she folded against Belinda Bencic. Although she leads the head to head over the Aussie, Kvitova has lost the last two matches against her, and their encounters this year put them as even.
Kvitova has not played badly by any means here, but in a year that has seen her struggle through the European swing with injury, her form has picked up in China, where she enjoys playing. Barty had a good run in China too and perhaps as the top seed, comes in as the slight favourite.
She will be able to use the court to mix things up well and this is where the (lack of) speed in the court could well play into her favour against the Czech who would prefer this to be a little quicker.
Barty wins the group with a win over Kvitova. She can also advance even if she loses in three sets, provided Bertens beats Bencic in three sets, coming down to percentage of games Bencic and Kvitova.
Prediction: Barty in three sets.
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Belinda Bencic  v Kiki Bertens [ALT]
It seems the most apt that the two women who battled so hard to make the final WTA Finals spot are the ones to face off for the semi-final spot. Bencic got over the disappointment of losing in her opening round with a hard-fought win over Kvitova, but it was Bertens’ win over Barty that has set a cat among the pigeons.
Between Bencic’s court-smart game and Bertens’ all-court game that has grown in leaps and bounds over the last couple of years, we are set for a thrilling showdown.
The scenario is a lot easier for this pair. Bertens has to win to advance, while Bencic advances with a win, but if she loses in three sets and Kvitova wins in a decider, then it comes down to the game percentage.
Bertens has the real advantage over the Swiss, and their last two matches have gone the distance, so we can expect another three-setter to bring the curtain down on the Red Group.
Prediction: Bertens in three sets.
Play begins on Thursday starting with the doubles at 4pm (8am GMT).
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