Monday, October 24, 2016

2016 WTA TOUR FINALS: Kerber, Kuznetsova, Pliskova Win 3-Set Thrillers; Halep Rolls Over Keys

The WTA Tour finals in Singapore have kicked off with a bang, with three of the four completed matches in the first two days absolutely thrilling 3-set slugfests. First came the encounter between Angie Kerber and Dominka Cibulkova. The two played an absolutely epic, hour=long first set, which was won by Kerber on her one and only set point at 6-5 in tiebreaker after both players had won and lost momentum in the games played earlier, Cibulkova responded by continuing to crush the ball into the corners and won the second set 6-2 but then lost the decider 6-3. The match was nearly 3 hours long with final score 7-6(5) 2-6 6-3. This was in sharp contrast to yet another meeting between Madison Keys and Simona Halep, where again, Halep was too steady for the young American power player, and improves her head-to-head to 5-1.

On Monday, the matches got even better with both eventual winners having to save a match point on their way to victory. First Sveta Kuznetsova came back from a 1-4 deficit in the first set to squeeze out the first set 7-5 but Radwanska roared back with a 6-1 beat down. As Ian DW noted on twitter: Radwanska had won 21 of 22 matches when she won one of the sets 6-1. The only loss was to Kuznetsova (who had won 8 of their 9 previous encounters). Kuznetsova went down an early break 0-2 in the third set and eventually Radwanska served for the match at 5-4 (after losing and regaining the break) but was broken again to even the 3rd set at 5-all. Kuznetsova held  to go up 6-5 and this time when Radwanska was serving to stay in the match, she saved 2 match points (1 with an ace!) but still succumbed, losing 7-5, 6-1, 7-5. Probably the match of the year (although Cibulkova-Radwanska at Wimbledon 2016 was pretty amazing as well.)

But wait, there's more! Garbine Muguruza and Karolina Pliskova had an even more compelling match (although probably not as entertaining or high-quality) as Kuznetsova-Radwanska. Pliskova easily won the first set 6-2 and was up 3-1 in the second when the wheels came off and Muguriza fought back went up a break and served for the set at 5-3 but eventually won the second set in a 7-4 tiebreak. In the third set Muguruza extended her momentum and quickly went up 4-0 and 5-2 (double break). Amazingly Pliskova never gave up, broke back (saving a match poiint in the process), and then held her serve and when Muguruza served for the match a second time at 5-4 Pliskova broke at love to even the match at 5-all and again easily held her serve to go ahead 6-5. But then Muguruza lost her serve and the match when she was serving a must-hold 12th games, and lost 6-2 6-7(4) 7-5.

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