SINGAPORE - The Red Group is back in action at the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global, and two players are already facing elimination. Will they survive? Chris Oddo breaks down the match-ups - and the scenarios - for wtatennis.com
Tuesday, Round Robin
Key Stat: Kerber improved to 9-3 against the Top 10 in 2016 with her victory over Dominika Cibulkova on Sunday.
Both Angelique Kerber and Simona Halep have a shot to lock up a semifinal spot on Day 3 in Singapore, but each plans to keep the blinders on when they meet. It was a strategy that worked quite well for Halep on Sunday as she cruised past Madison Keys for her fifth career WTA Finals win.
On Tuesday the Romanian will hope to keep the momentum rolling against a player that has taken three of four against her in 2016.
"If you win you are more positive," Halep explained after sailing past Keys for the fifth time in six career matches. "I can play my best tennis and give everything without thinking of the score."
Halep will qualify for the semifinals in Singapore for the second time in three years if she can defeat Kerber in straight sets on Tuesday, but that could prove to be an extremely difficult feat based on the level of tennis that Kerber tapped on Sunday in her three-set victory over Dominika Cibulkova.
Kerber too has qualification hopes - she can reach the semis with a win over Halep (and if Cibulkova also beats Keys) - and she has learned a thing or two about coming through on tennis' biggest stages this season.
"I have much more confidence right now," the World No.1 told reporters prior to her first match. "I know how to play the big tournaments also mentally, how to win really tough matches in tough situations, like playing finals in big tournaments, big stages. So this changed a lot [for me] as a player."
With so much at stake and so little separating these two elite forces, who will produce that extra something that guides them to victory?
Pick: Kerber in three
Head-to-head: Keys leads, 3-0
Key Stat: Keys has never dropped a set in three meetings with Cibulkova
Madison Keys has been drawn into her own personal group of death in Singapore, as Angelique Kerber and Simona Halep are two players that have always presented significant matchups problems for her. But the 21-year-old American will be granted a reprieve when she faces Dominika Cibulkova on Tuesday and she absolutely needs to capitalize on it.
Keys owns a 3-0 lifetime edge over the Slovakian but she'll have to step up to the plate in a hurry if she plans to keep her semifinal hopes alive. At 21, Keys is the youngest player in the field and was admittedly nervous as she made her WTA Finals debut on Sunday against Halep. She'll have to put those nerves behind her and unleash the full fury of her game when she faces the indefatigable Cibulkova on Tuesday.
"I just think having a match under my belt there is a little bit less nerves going out next time and I can go and play with nothing to lose," Keys noted in her post-match press conference. "But I think I the biggest thing is just being excited that I am getting to go out and play another match here."
Cibulkova may have been a little too excited against Kerber in her opening match. If anything, she might need to settle down a bit and so that she can rein in her shots and be consistent in the crucial moments.
"It was really close," she said after falling to Kerber, in an intense struggle that lasted two hours and 17 minutes. "In this game it's all about the small details, she was just a bit more consistent in a few games and that's what made her win today."
Will Cibulkova's boundless energy help her finally solve the mystery of Keys' power game, or will the American wrestle yet another win from Cibulkova to keep herself in contention?
Pick: Cibulkova in three
Semifinal Qualification Scenarios:
1. Halep qualifies if she wins in straight sets (final standings position in Red Group to be determined).
2. If Keys and Halep win, Halep qualifies as Red Group winner and Cibulkova is eliminated. (Keys and Kerber would play for second place Thursday).
3. If Kerber and Cibulkova win, Kerber qualifies as Red Group winner and Keys is eliminated. (Cibulkova and Halep would play for second place Thursday).
4. Keys is eliminated if she loses in straight sets.
By the Numbers?
60 - Kerber earned her tour-leading 60th win on Sunday.
35 - Combined number of three-set wins in 2016 by Keys (17-6) and Cibulkova (18-10).
11-7 - Halep is the only Red Group player with a winning record against the other three players in her group.