It's semifinal Friday at the Dongfeng Motor Wuhan Open! And Chris Oddo is previewing both matchups right here at wtatennis.com.
Two of the hottest players on tour will tangle for a spot in the prestigious Dongfeng Motor Wuhan Open final on Friday, as Simona Halep and Petra Kvitova meet for the fourth time overall and second time in 2016. Halep has been absolutely on fire since Wimbledon, winning 24 of 27 matches while grabbing titles in Bucharest and Montreal, and the Romanian just locked up her third consecutive appearance at the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global with her straight-sets win over Madison Keys. Halep is the only player remaining in the draw who has yet to drop a set in Wuhan but she'll have her hands full with the suddenly scorching Petra Kvitova. The Czech was hovering around the .500 mark after Wimbledon but since then she has regained her daunting power game and won 18 of 23 matches. The only thing missing from Kvitova's late-season turnaround? A final.
Kvitova has reached multiple finals on tour in every year since she emerged as an elite player in 2011, but thus far this year she hasn't been able to break through. It has already been a banner week for Kvitova, who notched her fourth career win over a reigning world No.1 when she defeated Angelique Kerber in a three-hour and 20-minute marathon in the round of 16. But she knows she'll have to produce more electric tennis if she is to get past Halep for the first time.
"It's a new day and I will do everything possible, try my best," Kvitova said of her winless past against Halep. "I lost to her last time so I have something to work on for tomorrow. I know how well she's playing so I need to be ready."
Pick: Kvitova in three
Svetlana Kuznetsova's career resurgence continues at full throttle in 2016. By reaching the semifinals with a win over Agnieszka Radwanska, Kuznetsova is guaranteed to move into the WTA's Top 8 for the first time since May 24, 2010. The 31-year-old has been a warrior all season, displaying rejuvenated fitness and a replenished passion for grinding it out on a weekly basis on tour. Kuznetsova has captured nearly half of her matches in deciding sets (17 of her 35 wins) and because of her hard work the Russian now finds herself contending for a coveted slot at this year's BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global. The St. Petersburg native could find herself in the Top 8 in the RTS Standings by reaching the final, or even higher if she takes the title in Wuhan.
On Thursday Kuznetsova saved a match point to defeat No. 3-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska for her fourth Top 10 win of the season. Also homing in on a Singapore spot is the ever feisty Dominika Cibulkova. The Slovakian survived double-duty on Thursday, defeating No.5-seeded Karolina Pliskova and Barbora Strycova to reach her seventh semifinal of the season. Cibulkova started the week at No.7 in the Road To Singapore leaderboard standings, and she could bolster her bid for a first appearance in Singapore with a strong finish in Wuhan. It's not something that Cibulkova wants to dwell on, however. "Right now I'm not thinking about it," the Slovak told WTA Insider after she won the Eastbourne title this summer.
"In 2014 I was very close, and that's what made me very intense and want it too much. I was over-motivated and it didn't happen. So, I'm not thinking about it." With so much on the line, Kuznetsova and Cibulkova's first meeting since 2011 will likely come down to which player can execute best under pressure. The margins will be thin?they have met four times on hardcourts, with each player winning twice.
Pick: Cibulkova in three
By the Numbers:
1 - Kvitova is the only former Wuhan champion remaining in the draw.
53 - Career titles owned by the four semifinalists (Kvitova, 17, Kuznetsova, 16, Halep, 14, Cibulkova, 6).
10-1 - Kvitova's career record at Wuhan.
5 - Kuznetsova has won her last five hardcourt semifinals.