By Ros Satar at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix, Stuttgart
- Petra Kvitova  v Kiki Bertens 
- Naomi Osaka  v Anett Kontaveit 
STUTTGART, GERMANY – The trend of a different title winner each tournament could come to an end as three of the semi-finalist hold silverware.
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Petra Kvitova  v Kiki Bertens  | H2H: Tied at 2-2
The pair met three times in 2018, including a final on clay in Madrid, and the semi-final in Cincinnati. The first two wins to Petra Kvitova, but Kiki Bertens impressed many by taking the two-time Slam champion to three sets to reclaim the Madrid title.
Yet revenge signalled an advancement from Bertens to translate her solid clay game to hard courts, as she beat Kvitova on the way to stunning Simona Halep for the Cincinnati title. This year has been fruitful for both of them with Kvitova starting the year with the Sydney title and reaching the Australian Open final, while Bertens got over a perhaps disappointing trip to Melbourne with the Saint Petersburg title.
A win here would break the trend of a new champion in every tournament so far. It has not been plain sailing for either of them. Bertens had to come back from a set down from a rejuvenated Belinda Bencic and freely admitted that she had been missing a lot and playing so badly in that match, even her coach Raemon Sluiter had to laugh.
It was Kvitova’s time to start somewhat sluggishly in her quarter-final, dominated in the first set by Anastasija Sevastova, before she finally managed to get her act together in the second and third set to stage a comeback.
Both have struggled to get to grips with the unique clay indoors at the Porsche Arena, and in the past this has been a decent service for big serving, deep, flat hitters, so you would almost have to favour Kvitova here to advance to the final for the first time.
Bertens has added a lot to her game and has made a point of playing a lot more aggressively and a beefed up serve saw her break her own record of aces in a match (20).
She made very short work of two-time champion Angelique Kerber, who had struggled with illness and her preparation for the clay court season. That being said, if she had been told, while laid out with an illness that she could come away as a Stuttgart quarter-finalist, she would have taken that.
A difficult one to call, but Bertens perhaps has a slight edge over Kvitova.
Prediction: Bertens in three sets.
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Naomi Osaka  v Anett Kontaveit  | H2H: Osaka leads 3-0
No-one likes to advance on a retirement, but Anett Kontaveit has warmed to the Stuttgart clay, and her tenacity, combined with Fed Cup duty, jet lag and a shoulder injury saw Victoria Azarenka bow out with a retirement in the deciding set.
Things were not as straight forward for Naomi Osaka, who had to brave not only a fightback but a 1-5 deficit in the decider to come back for the win over Donna Vekic. Since reaching the quarter-final on her debut (from qualifying) and the semi-final last year, Kontaveit really has a shot at the final, and perhaps continuing the trend of another new tournament champion.
While this is the best that the reigning US Open and Australian Open champion has done in Stuttgart in three visits, there are times where the frustration has been clearly visible for her, whereas Kontaveit has take to this surface like a duck to water.
Osaka described her battle with Vekic after the match, saying: “I felt like it just happened really fast. She was 3-0 and suddenly she was 5-1 and I felt like I took a while to get going. I didn’t feel like I could swing freely. I think I played the best in the first set and then it just kind of dipped a little bit, but instead of swinging freely I would say I was trying to be more consistent.
“I mean feel better. I’ve been trying to slide to the balls instead of sliding after I hit. So, that’s one of the biggest things I think I improved.”
Kontaveit did have a fight against Azarenka, whose retirement granted her a spot in a second straight semi-final on her third visit here.
She said: “It feels great to be back in the semi-finals. Yeah, not the way I wanted to win in the end but I thought it was quite a high level match. I was quite lucky to get through the second set somehow. She was returning so well the whole match actually. I didn’t return as well as she did definitely and I think that really gave her the edge, but I just tried to stay in there as much as I could and I felt like, on these close moments, she made a couple of errors and gave me a chance to come back a little bit.”
Prediction: Kontaveit in three sets.
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