The Azalea Group is up in the air at the Huafa Technology WTA Elite Trophy Zhuhai after No.6 seed Daria Kasatkina came through a seesaw 7-5, 1-6, 6-1 contest to defeat No.1 seed Barbora Krejcikova in 2 hours and 10 minutes.
Following Krejcikova's straight-sets win over No.11 seed Magda Linette on Day 1, all three players in the group can still advance to the semifinals. Kasatkina can seal her place by defeating Linette on Thursday. Should Linette win, all three players will be tied with one win each, and the semifinal spot will be decided by percentage of sets won. If after this calculation two players remain tied, it will be decided by head-to-head this week.
However, No.9 seed Caroline Garcia's 6-3, 7-6(3) defeat of No.2 seed Madison Keys ensured that the American is the first player out of the tournament. Having lost her opening match against Beatriz Haddad Maia, Keys dropped to 0-2 in the Camellia Group and is eliminated. Garcia will face Haddad Maia next, with the winner advancing to the semifinals as the group winner.
How Kasatkina defeated Krejcikova: Krejcikova had brought a 3-1 head-to-head advantage into the match, including two wins in three encounters this year: a victory from four match points down in Dubai and a 6-3, 6-0 rout two weeks ago in Zhengzhou. The Czech picked up where she left off, dominating with her forehand to build a 4-1 lead.
But when Kasatkina began to find greater depth and shape on her strokes, she managed to push Krejcikova further behind the baseline where the former Roland Garros champion leaked errors. In total, Krejcikova committed 43 unforced errors to 35 winners, while Kasatkina kept her play watertight with 16 winners to 19 unforced errors.
Both players' approaches effectively negated the other's strengths, resulting in a seesaw contest in which neither played their best at the same time. Having lost four of the first five games, Kasatkina snatched the first set by winning six of the next seven -- only for Krejcikova to win six of the seven after that to level.
However, it was Kasatkina who managed to stay on the front foot in the decider, reeling off six of the last seven games to complete a match of four distinct parts.
How Garcia defeated Keys: Garcia's victory was her first over Keys since 2014, snapping a four-match losing streak. It was also her first Top 20 win of the season; the Frenchwoman had lost seven in a row to opponents in that echelon ever since beating Aryna Sabalenka in the final of the 2022 WTA Finals Fort Worth.
In a match dictated by the server, Garcia kept Keys at bay by the smallest of margins. Keys served 12 aces and was broken just once, but Garcia responded by going unbroken in the match, saving both break points she faced.
Garcia finished the match with 20 winners to 20 unforced errors. Keys hit 18 winners to 17 unforced errors.