Barty upset by alternate Bertens at WTA Finals

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SHENZHEN, China — World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty was upset by late substitute Kiki Bertens 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 at the WTA Finals on Tuesday.

Bertens arrived at the elite tournament as an alternate, and has suddenly jumped into title contention with the other seven players in the draw. She took the place of Naomi Osaka, who withdrew from the finals on Tuesday with a right shoulder injury ahead of her second round-robin match.

The second singles of the day went in Belinda Bencic’s favor when she outlasted Petra Kvitova 6-3, 1-6, 6-4.

The Bencic win means all four players in the Red Group are still in contention for semifinals action. The standings have Bencic and Barty at 1-1, Kvitova at 0-2, and Bertens at 1-0 going into the last round-robin matches. On Thursday, Barty will play Kvitova, and Bertens will meet Bencic.

With little notice she’d be playing, Bertens earned her first career victory over Barty in five matches played.

Barty, winner of the first set, led by a break twice in the second at 2-1 and 3-2.

“When you give a player of Kiki’s caliber a chance to get back into the match not once but twice, she’s going to make you pay,” Barty said. “That’s probably the most disappointing thing. Twice in the second set I was up a break and wasn’t able to consolidate.”

Bertens came close to beating Barty in the Beijing semifinals this month, losing in a third-set tiebreaker.

The Dutchwoman arrived in Shenzhen straight from losing to Aryna Sabalenka in the Zhuhai, China, final on Sunday.

“In the beginning I was a little bit struggling,” Bertens said. “As the match was continuing, I felt better and better. The movement was getting a bit better. I was starting to feel the court. I could play a little bit more aggressive, come to the net.

“Yeah, I played pretty well in the end.”

Bertens broke serve on a fourth break point in the opening game of the third set and raced to 4-0.

Last year, she reached the semifinals in her WTA Finals debut.

Despite the loss, Barty officially secured the year-end No. 1 ranking. She’s the first Australian woman to earn that distinction.

Only Karolina Pliskova and Osaka had an opportunity to prevent Barty from finishing the season as the year-end No. 1. They both had to win the title here with a perfect record in the round-robin.

Pliskova lost to Elena Svitolina in her opening round-robin match in the Purple Group on Monday.

Bencic, in her WTA Finals debut, decisively broke Kvitova in the ninth game of the third set.

“You go into a match against Kvitova and you never have anything in your hands,” Bencic said. “I don’t think we played our best but I found my game the last few games.

“I knew if I didn’t win I’m eliminated. but I didn’t think about that.”

Top-seeded Sakkari reaches semifinals at Parma Ladies Open

Maria Sakkari
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PARMA, Italy — Top-seeded Maria Sakkari rallied past 97th-ranked Maryna Zanevska 2-6, 6-4, 6-4 on Thursday at the Parma Ladies Open to reach her first semifinal since the grass-court season.

Sakkari, who has gone three sets in all three of her matches this week, will face Danka Kovinic for a spot in the final of the clay-court event after Kovinic beat Jasmine Paolini 6-4, 6-4.

In her previous semifinal, Sakkari lost to Belinda Bencic in Berlin in June. The seventh-ranked Greek player was eliminated by Wang Xiyu in the second round of the U.S. Open on Aug. 31.

In the bottom half of the draw, Mayar Sherif of Egypt beat American opponent Lauren Davis 7-6 (2), 6-3 to reach her second career semifinal. Sherif next faces Ana Bogdan, who defeated fellow Romanian Irina-Camelia Begu 6-2, 7-6 (6).

Sakkari through to Parma Open quarterfinals; Stephens loses

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PARMA, Italy — Top-seeded Maria Sakkari rallied past Arantxa Rus 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 to reach the quarterfinals of the Parma Ladies Open.

Sakkari, who accepted a late wild card to the red clay court tournament, was playing her first event since losing to Wang Xiyu in the second round of the U.S. Open.

The Greek player will next face Maryna Zanevska of Belgium after she eased past Dalma Galfi 6-1, 6-3.

Fourth-seeded Sloane Stephens of the United States, the 2017 U.S. Open champion, lost to Danka Kovinic 7-5, 2-6, 7-5.

Kovinic will face Jasmine Paolini in the quarterfinals after the Italian defeated compatriot Elisabetta Cocciaretto 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.

There will be an American in the final eight, however, as Lauren Davis rallied to beat Sara Sorribes Tormo 3-6, 6-4, 7-5. Sorribes Tormo had eliminated second-seeded Martina Trevisan in straight sets in the opening round.

Davis will play Mayar Sherif after the Egyptian player defeated Simona Waltert 6-3, 7-6 (1).

Also, third-seeded Irina-Camelia Begu of Romania eased past Italian wild card Matilde Paoletti 6-4, 6-4 to set up a quarterfinal against sixth-seeded Ana Bogdan, who beat Anna Karolina Schmiedlova 6-2, 3-6, 6-3.