Day 3 of the Akron WTA Finals Guadalajara sees Group Teotihuacán reaching its mid-point - and as such, some semifinal scenarios can potentially become clearer after Friday's matches.

Anett Kontaveit is the only player who controls her own fate. With a win against Barbora Krejcikova on Day 1, she is guaranteed to advance to the semifinals if she defeats Karolina Pliskova in straight sets.

Conversely, another straight-sets loss for Krejcikova against Garbiñe Muguruza would eliminate the Czech from the singles competition.

Krejcikova would also be eliminated if she loses to Muguruza and Pliskova defeats Kontaveit. In that case, Pliskova would advance to the semifinals as the group winner, while Kontaveit and Muguruza would play for the second spot.

Muguruza, who lost a 4-6, 6-2, 7-6(6) heartbreaker to Pliskova on Day 1, would be eliminated if she loses to Krejcikova and Kontaveit defeats Pliskova. In that case, Kontaveit would advance to the semifinals as the group winner, while Pliskova and Krejcikova would play for the second spot.

Any other combination of results will mean qualification comes down to the final matches on Sunday.

[3] Karolina Pliskova (CZE) vs. [8] Anett Kontaveit (EST)

Is the new Anett Kontaveit for real?

"Throughout my career, I mean, I've been in sort of the Top 30 for a lot of years now," said Kontaveit after defeating Barbora Krejcikova on Day 1 of the WTA Finals. She first cracked the Top 30 in July 2017 and spent over four years settling in that range, never ranked beneath No.34 or above No.14. There were several upsets of top names and occasional deep runs at big tournaments - but also plenty of early losses, and just one win in eight finals.

Kontaveit's record against Karolina Pliskova in that spell encapsulated her apparent ceiling. They met three times - in the 2018 Stuttgart semifinals, 2019 Indian Wells fourth round and 2019 Toronto third round. Each time, Kontaveit had exceeded her seeding and put together a solid run, but Pliskova's Top 10 quality signaled the end of the road.

- Insights from
karolina pliskova
More Head to Head
75% Win 3
- Matches Played
25% Win 1
anett kontaveit

Of course, Kontaveit has changed her narrative this autumn. She's now won 27 of her past 29 matches, including an active 11-match winning streak. Neither a change of continents nor the challenge of Guadalajara's altitude were the slightest obstacle to her momentum against Krejcikova, her fifth Top 10 win of the season.

For Kontaveit, positivity and self-belief have been key to her surge. Pliskova, on the other hand, has been happy to play down her chances this week. "We will not talk about that," she said drily in pre-tournament press when asked about her level in practice. After closing out Muguruza on her fourth match point, the Czech described her practice sessions as "a really big depression."

Champion's Reels: Anett Kontaveit, Cleveland 2021 | Anett Kontaveit, Ostrava 2021 | Anett Kontaveit, Moscow 2021 | Anett Kontaveit, Transylvania Open 2021

But Pliskova is experienced enough to know that competition is a different matter. Extraneous factors - practice level, difficult conditions, an in-form opponent - can be set aside when two players are locked at 5-5 in a deciding set.

While Pliskova battled through that situation against Muguruza, it's not one that Kontaveit has been in recently. She has played only one three-setter since the US Open, a 4-6, 6-4, 7-5 defeat of Ekaterina Alexandrova in the Moscow final. That's largely because Kontaveit's level has been so high that she hasn't allowed opponents to get anywhere near that stage - but if Pliskova can stay with her to go deep into a final set, that could be where the three-time WTA Finals semifinalist can make her superior experience count.

Head-to-head: Pliskova leads 3-0. Only one of those matches went to three sets, her 7-6(0), 4-6, 6-2 victory in the fourth round of Indian Wells 2019.

[2] Barbora Krejcikova (CZE) vs. [6] Garbiñe Muguruza (ESP)

If Kontaveit and Pliskova can be heartened by their opening performances, Krejcikova and Muguruza find themselves with their backs to the wall. Both face potential elimination from the competition, and it's not entirely in their own hands.

It's perhaps fitting that they face each other in this crucial, potentially decisive clash. This will be the fourth time they have met this season, the highest number of 2021 encounters of any of the round-robin matchups.

Champion's Reels: Barbora Krejcikova, Strasbourg 2021 | Barbora Krejcikova, Prague 2021

The previous three were all noteworthy for different reasons. When Muguruza defeated Krejcikova 7-6(6), 6-3 for the Dubai crown in February, a title run she deems her season highlight, the Czech was very much a shock WTA 1000 finalist. Krejcikova was ranked World No.63, had only reached one other WTA 250 final four years previously and had lost in Doha qualifying the week before to Cristina Bucsa. That she was able to keep it so close against Muguruza was considered a positive.

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As we know now, Dubai was no outlier but the start of something greater for Krejcikova. Six months and one Grand Slam title later, she proved that by reversing the result against Muguruza in the Cincinnati third round, winning 6-1, 6-7(5), 6-2 in a match that seemed less close than the score line. Two weeks later, Krejcikova reprised the victory 6-3, 7-6(4) in a tense US Open fourth-round tie.

Highlights: Muguruza d. Krejcikova, 2021 Dubai F | Krejcikova d. Muguruza, 2021 Cincinnati R3

Muguruza, therefore, will be particularly keen to prove that she has not been solved by Krejcikova. This could be a prime opportunity to get another win on the board in their rivalry. Having compiled a 45-14 record through Indian Wells, Krejcikova is now on a four-match losing streak.

The only player in the WTA Finals field to have competed at the Billie Jean King Cup Finals in Prague last week, Krejcikova's first match showed that she had not yet been able to adjust to Guadalajara's conditions, nor was she as sharp in her execution as when she defeated Muguruza in the United States.

Champion's Reel: Garbiñe Muguruza, Dubai 2021 | Garbiñe Muguruza, Chicago Fall 2021

"Couple days ago I was actually playing in Europe, now I'm here," Krejcikova said afterward. "It's really, really, really difficult. I'm going to work with that and I hope it's going to get better and I'm going to have better matches. I'm usually going to a tournament where I just lose and you go home, so I really don't know how to approach this."

Krejcikova will need to speed up her acclimatisation process while battling fatigue - but Muguruza's task is to bounce back quickly from the heartbreak of the Pliskova loss. The Spaniard saved three match points to come two points from victory herself, roared on by a Latin American crowd, but was just unable to complete the comeback.

"Man, that was a painful loss definitely," she said. "I'm actually proud of the match I played due to the circumstances. I loved the crowd. Even though I suffered during this match, I also felt very energised and motivated to play in Mexico. Well, the round-robin keeps going on..."

Head-to-head: Krejcikova leads 2-1, all matches this year.


Starting at 2pm
[3] Karolina PLISKOVA (CZE) vs [8] Anett KONTAVEIT (EST)
Not before 7.30pm
[2] Barbora KREJCIKOVA (CZE) vs Garbiñe MUGURUZA (ESP)
[5] Samantha STOSUR (AUS) / ZHANG Shuai (CHN) vs [7] Darija JURAK (CRO) / Andreja KLEPAC (SLO)