Elina Svitolina qualifies for semifinals at WTA Finals

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SHENZHEN, China — Defending champion Elina Svitolina qualified for the semifinals of the season-ending WTA Finals by beating Simona Halep 7-5, 6-3 on Wednesday.

Svitolina, the only competitor in the eight-player field not to win a title this season, last won a tournament at last year’s WTA Finals.

The Ukrainian is 2-0 in the Purple Group, winning both of her matches in straight sets. Halep is 1-1 after saving a match point in her three-set victory over Bianca Andreescu.

“I try to work every single point and start from the beginning just trying to take one point at a time,” Svitolina said. “I don’t really think so much about if it’s good, if it’s bad.

“I try to step on the court and to always have positive mindset.”

In the late match, Andreescu retired with a left knee injury after losing the first set to Karolina Pliskova 6-3.

Pliskova, who is 1-1, will face Wimbledon champion Halep in their final group match for another spot in the semifinals.

“I think that’s going to be a great matchup for just going out of the group to the semifinals,” Pliskova said. “The tennis with her, I feel it’s always good to watch.”

Svitolina broke Halep in the final game of the first set to take the lead. She then broke the Romanian’s serve in the eighth game of the second set and held to win.

“I felt that I cannot finish the points,” Halep said. “This court is not great for me, for my game. It’s very soft in a way. Even if you go and hit strong, I think that I hit well today, but not enough directions on the court.

“But she played well. She didn’t miss. I think she loves to play here. It’s her style.”

The victory was Svitolina’s fifth in nine matches against Halep. On the four previous occasions in which she won, Svitolina went on to win the tournament.

Andreescu was injured while leading 2-0 in the first set, with Pliskova serving at 30-15 in the third game.

“I stepped weirdly on a return,” Andreescu said. “I heard my knee crack and it kind of went inwards and putting pressure on it afterwards really bothered me I could barely bend my knee.”

During a medical timeout, Andreescu had her knee taped and she played through the first set, even challenging Pliskova’s serve with three break-point opportunities in the fifth game.

“I fought with the pain as much as I could but at some point an athlete has to stop and just listen to their body,” Andreescu said. “It’s disappointing because this is the last tournament of the year and you want to go all out.”

U.S. sweeps Uzbekistan, advances to group stage in Davis Cup

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The United States swept its way into the group stage of the Davis Cup Finals, getting the winning point in a 4-0 victory over Uzbekistan from the doubles team of Rajeev Ram and Austin Krajicek.

They beat Sergey Fomin and Sanjar Fayziev 6-2, 6-4, after Tommy Paul and Mackenzie McDonald had won singles matches in Tashkent.

Ram is No. 3 in the ATP Tour doubles rankings and partnered with Joe Salisbury to win the last two U.S. Open men’s doubles titles. But the Americans opted not to use Ram last year in the final round, when they dropped the doubles match in a 2-1 defeat against Italy in the quarterfinals.

Krajicek was making his Davis Cup debut, having reached No. 9 in the doubles rankings late last year.

“They had five great days of preparation, and as anticipated they came out really sharp and got the early break in the first set. And after that it was like two freight trains, there was no stopping them,” interim captain David Nainkin said.

Denis Kudla then beat Amir Milushev 6-4, 6-4.

The winners of the 12 qualifiers being held this weekend advance to the Davis Cup Finals group stage in September, along with reigning champion Canada, 2022 runner-up Australia and wild-card recipients Italy and Spain.

Eight teams will advance to the closing matches of the Davis Cup Finals scheduled for Nov. 21-26 in Malaga, Spain.

In other matches:

France 3, Hungary 2: On indoor hard courts in Tatabanya, Hungary, Ugo Humbert won it for the French with a 6-3, 6-3 victory over Fabian Marozsan. Adrian Mannarino had forced the deciding match by beating Marton Fucsovics 7-6 (6), 6-2.

Serbia 4, Norway 0: On indoor hard courts in Oslo, the visitors, playing without top-ranked Novak Djokovic, put away the match when Filip Krajinovic and Nikola Cacic edged Viktor Durasovic and Herman Hoeyeraal 6-4, 3-6, 6-3. Hamad Medjedovic then outlasted Durasovic 6-4, 6-7, 10-4.

Sweden 3, Bosnia 1: On indoor hard courts in Stockholm, Mikael Ymer sent the hosts through by beating Damir Dzumhur 6-1, 1-6, 6-3.

Lesia Tsurenko to face Zhu Lin in Thailand Open final

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HUA HIN, Thailand — Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine reached her first final in four years after the top-seeded Bianca Andreescu retired with a shoulder injury during their semifinal match at the Thailand Open.

Tsurenko, in search of her fifth WTA title, was leading the 2019 U.S. Open champion 7-5, 4-0 when the Canadian stopped playing.

The former world No. 23 fought from 3-5 down to take the first set and reeled off eight straight games before Andreescu retired with a right shoulder problem.

“Bianca is such an amazing player. She is capable of hitting all kinds of shots and gave so much trouble today,” said the 33-year-old Tsurenko, now ranked 136th. “But I was just fighting and I told myself positive things that I can do it. Unfortunately, she had to retire.”

The Ukrainian last lifted a WTA trophy in Acapulco in 2018 and hasn’t been to a final since Brisbane in 2019.

She will face Zhu Lin of China in the final.

“She had some good wins in the Australian Open,” Tsurenko said. “She is one of the dangerous players in this tournament. She is going to give a good fight.”

In the all-Chinese semifinal earlier, Zhu benefited from a barrage of unforced errors from Wang Xinyu and prevailed 6-2, 6-4 for her first WTA final.

The world No. 54 player, who reached the last 16 at the Australian Open in January, relied on her solid baseline game to force errors.

“It was very windy, so I tried to be patient and keep my first serves in,” said the 29-year-old Zhu, who will team up with Wang in the doubles final against Hao-Ching Chan and Fang-Hsien Wu of Taiwan.