SHENZHEN, China - No.8 seeds Anna-Lena Groenefeld and Demi Schuurs clinched the last semifinal spot at the Shiseido WTA Finals Shenzhen in a dramatic, late-night finish against Chan Hao-Ching and Latisha Chan, edging ahead to straight sets victory just as the clock struck midnight. 

It’s a fitting way to advance for the last team to qualify for Shenzhen, who are quickly making up for lost time as one of the newest partnerships on the doubles map. The pair started their Shenzhen campaign by taking down the No.1 seeds Aryna Sabalenka and Elise Mertens in their opening match, and ultimately knocked them out of the tournament with their win last night.

Read more: Groenefeld, Schuurs secure last spot in Shenzhen semifinals

“That’s the goal when you come here, getting out of the group stage,” Groenefeld said afterwards. “And for us, it’s the first time playing in the round robin, and I think it’s great that the format is like this. 

“To come out of it with all of these amazing teams… yeah, it’s been a really good feeling.”

It’s a great achievement for Groenefeld and Schuurs, who started the year playing doubles with different partners and spent much of the first half of the season on opposite sides of the tennis court. The pair committed to playing together as recently as Stuttgart in May - much later than most of the qualified teams. 

“We started in May, and all of the other teams started in January,” Schuurs pointed out. “I think that’s something that’s in our mind, probably Anna as well - we lost some months, we lost some points, because of that. The other teams, they played many more tournaments together. I think it’s something we can be proud of.”

There’s definitely plenty to be proud of for the Dutch-German duo, who fought their way into the championship match in five different tournaments, all Premier-level and higher, on three different surfaces this year: Doha, Rome, Birmingham, Toronto and Cincinnati. Only the Chan sisters have reached as many finals in 2019 as Groenefeld and Schuurs. 

“I think overall, yes we played five finals. We lost five finals, but I think we are the team that made the most finals this year along with the Chan sisters,” Schuurs added. “That means that we are one of the most consistent. We played in big tournament finals, so that’s the reason why we are here.”

“I think the most important thing is that our personalities match very well,” Schuurs reflected. “On court, but also off court. For myself for example, if I play with someone who is getting angry, my level goes down. And for Anna it’s the same, we have the same personality. 

“On court, we are different and we play with different game styles - that’s probably why we are the perfect match.” 

Read more: Babos-Mladenovic and Groenefeld-Schuurs win Red Group thrillers at WTA Finals

Into their first WTA Finals semifinal as a team, Groenefeld and Schuurs will take on No.2 seeds Barbora Strycova and Hsieh Su-Wei next. The pair lost out to Strycova and Hsieh in the Birmingham final in a heartbreaker, falling 10-8 in the match tiebreak.  

“Of course it’s going to be a tough one, we’re expecting a battle,” Groenefeld said. “We’ve played them a few times, we lost a nail-biter in Birmingham. Of course, we go out and we try our best, and we see what happens.”