BEIJING, China - The Road to Singapore runs through Beijing! Madison Keys and Johanna Konta will battle for precious rankings points and a spot in the China Open final on Saturday. Chris Oddo previews the action for wtatennis.com.
Saturday's high-stakes semifinal between Madison Keys and Johanna Konta is about as crucial as they come. Keys could take a giant step towards locking up her first appearance at the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global with a victory, and Konta is also is playing for a massive prize. The 25-year-old could become the first British woman to reach the Top 10 in 32 years with a victory, and if that isn't enough, reaching the final would also move Konta into the Top 8 of the RTS standings.
Both Keys and Konta have been in fine form this week in Beijing, and as a result each will head into their first meeting in over six years with belief. Keys snapped Petra Kvitova's eight-match winning streak with a gritty three-set victory on Friday to improve her record in three-setters to an impressive 17-5 this season, and the American is looking to finish the best campaign of her young career with a strong statement.
To do that she'll have to get by a player who has demonstrated a keen knack for knocking off card-carrying members of the Top 10 in 2016. Konta has won five of her last seven against the Top 10, and has won 21 of her last 26 matches overall since beginning the hardcourt season at Stanford this July. How bad does Konta want this victory, both for herself and for Great Britain? Truth is, it's something she tries not to think about.
"I really do my best to not think far ahead and really not crave those sort of things," she said on Friday. "If it's in the cards for me, great, and if it's not, it's not. That's okay too - I'm really grateful for the journey I'm having and however it pans out I'm just enjoying playing."
Keys knows that Konta is dangerous, whether she's motivated by milestones or just simply enjoying the journey.
"Jo is playing really well," Keys said on Friday in Beijing. "I mean, at this point everyone's trying to qualify, everyone's trying to play their good tennis at the end of the year."
Will it be Keys who comes through with the clutch win on Saturday, or is it Konta's time to shine on the big stage in Beijing?
Pick: Keys in three
 Elina Svitolina (UKR #19) vs.  Agnieszka Radwanska (POL #3)
Head-to-head: Radwanska leads, 3-0
Key Stat: 2011 champion Radwanska improved to 24-7 lifetime at Beijing with her quarterfinal win over Yaroslava Shvedova.
Agnieszka Radwanska's Beijing magic is in full effect this week. The Pole has dropped just 18 games en route to her fifth career semifinal at the China Open, and she'll come in as the heavy favorite against Elina Svitolina, a player that she's defeated three times without a loss. But the 22-year-old Ukrainian is flying, having knocked off Angelique Kerber in the round of 16 for her second win over a reigning World No.1 since August.
On Friday Svitolina backed up that victory with a 7-6(3), 6-1 takedown of Australia's Daria Gavrilova to reach her first Premier Mandatory semifinal. Radwanska has been a difficult puzzle for Svitolina to solve, but Svitolina comes in brimming with confidence at the end of a season that she herself has called disappointing.
"I expected little bit more from myself," Svitolina told reporters this week in Beijing. "Unfortunately, it didn't happen. So I'm just trying to focus each match."
Svitolina believes that her wins over Serena Williams at the Olympics and Kerber here in Beijing are a sign that she's finally coming into her own.
"I think I'm moving in a good way," she said. "Playing against top players, this is the main goal. I try to really stay on their level and then get better."
Radwanska matches up well against Svitolina because the Ukrainian doesn't possess the type of power that can take Radwanska's magic wand out of her hands, so look for the Pole to work the angles and try to pull Svitolina off the baseline as much as she can. If Radwanska is at her crafty best, she'll be very tough to defeat, but Svitolina has proven already this week that she should never be counted out against a top player.
Pick: Radwanska in three
By the numbers?
21 - Keys is the youngest player remaining in the draw at 21 years of age.
19 - Radwanska's career title tally is 12 more than the other three semifinalists combined (Svitolinavv- four, Keys - two, Konta - one).
11-2 - Konta's impressive record in tie-breaks this season.
4 - Svitolina has doubled her Top 10 win total this season, going 4-5 (she is 8-22 lifetime).