By Ros Satar
(October 27,2015) SINGAPORE- The aftermath of Monday night’s defeat at the WTA Finals in Singapore seemed to weigh heavy in the practice courts for Petra Kvitova, as certainly the first part of her training session revolved around some earnest and animated discussion on the side of her coach David Kotyza before they finally got to hitting (the ball, not each other).
Meanwhile Flavia Pennetta looked relaxed in her warm up and despite getting broken in her first game as she took to the court in the day session against Agnieszka Radwanska, she looked to be playing far more aggressively than she had against Simona Halep.
As you might come to expect from this pair, the use of angles, the entire court and lines was on full display as the pair matched each other, a break here, a recovery there before Pennetta edged the tiebreak 7-6(5).
There was a brief pause as the Italian had to get her ankle strapped after tweaking it in the first set, but she continued to look just that little bit sharper than Radwanska whose customary magic skills seemed to falter against the Italian, as she was edged out 7-6(5), 6-4.
Pennetta can appreciate what it must be like for Maria Sharapova to have come back after such a lengthy time off the tour, and to feel she may now have some momentum.
The Italian said: “The win she had against Radwanska the first match the first day was impressive. She play good. Of course she is healthy. She has this adrenaline because she was out for three or four months, something like that. When you come in the court after so long you are with a lot of energy. It’s going to be tough for sure. “
With her 500th tour win in the balance, and of course her chances of making the semifinals of the tournament, it was going to be a very nail-biting evening for Radwanska as her place in the tournament now depends on the outcome of the match between Simona Halep and Maria Sharapova. She would need Halep to lose to keep her hopes alive.
Coming out looking fierce, Halep responded to getting broken straight away by whipping straight back but a sloppy could games where she failed to her chances to go up another break cost her dear as some pleasing variety from Sharapova saw her break on a third set point for the first set.
The second set started in the same way with Sharapova making the first strike, but this time Halep was all at sea as Sharapova broke her again to leap out to a 5-1 lead. Those couple of months out might have accounted for a little serving-out rust as Halep ground back two breaks but just could not consolidate to stay in with a fighting chance, with Sharapova winning 6-4, 6-4.
Halep acknowledged that Sharapova’s level rises when they play, saying: “She played really well today, even if she didn’t play for a long time, since Wimbledon. Yeah she knows how to play. She’s a champion. She has experience. I can say I feel she’s playing really well against me always, but that’s tennis. I have to accept and to do things better.”
Sharapova expects another grueling and physical encounter in the final round robin match, and if Pennetta and Halep both win their matches in straight sets, Sharapova will be eliminated.
She said: “I’ve always been a player that goes into a match and I don’t seek perfection because I don’t know if that’s possible. At least I’ve never proven to myself that’s possible. You’re always going to make mistakes and errors.
Sometimes, and most of the time, I feel happier when I get through a match and I didn’t play my best tennis but found a way to win. That gives me a lot more confidence.”
The second round robin stage for the white group kicks off with the all-Czech encounter between Kvitova and Lucie Safarova, with the night-match focus falling on arguably the other favourite for the title, Garbiñe Muguruza.
Ros Satar is in Singapore covering the WTA Finals as media for Tennis Panorama News. She is a British sports journalist covering tennis, and can also be found at Britwatch Sports.