Bertens and Bencic, who currently occupy the No. 9 and No. 10 spots, both needed to reach the final of the Kremlin Cup in Moscow this week to pass Serena Williams, who’s No. 8 in the race and thus in line for the eighth and final spot at the WTA Finals.
They had both made it through to the quarterfinals at the Premier-level tournament, but that’s where Bertens saw her bid ended on Friday, as the Dutchwoman fell to Kristina Mladenovic, 6-4, 2-6, 6-1.
Bencic survived, though, rallying from an early 4-1 deficit—and even fighting off a set point in the opening set tiebreaker—to beat former Wimbledon semifinalist Kirsten Flipkens, 7-6 (8), 6-1.
“It was so important to take the momentum from winning the first set into the second set,” Bencic said. “Players like Kirsten are always dangerous on a surface like this, because it’s super slow and the ball stays very low, too. I had to use everything that I had put into practice to adapt to this.
“It was such a battle out there. I’m just super happy that somehow I came out as the winner.”
Bencic also said she wasn’t thinking too much about Shenzhen during the match.
“First I’m always focusing on the match that I’m playing,” she said. “Second I’m in the semifinals of a Premier, and then third I’m happy that Shenzhen is still alive, but I wasn’t really focusing on that.”
On Saturday, Bencic will play Mladenovic for a spot in the final in Moscow. If the Swiss wins, she’ll pass Serena and qualify for her first WTA Finals. If Bencic loses to Mladenovic, Serena will be the eighth and final qualifier this year.
“For me it would be an amazing achievement to take part in the WTA Finals. I think it’s a reward for those players who were most consistent throughout the year, those eight players,” Bencic said. “Coming into Moscow, my chances were very small, but I’m determined to be fighting until the end. But still, if I don’t qualify this year, I’ll just play Zhuhai, which is amazing. I’ll try again next year, and I am sure I’ll have good chances to reach the WTA Finals next year if I keep playing like this.
“I don’t have to be too sad if I don’t reach it.”
Mladenovic is extremely dangerous. She’s one of the biggest giant-killers on the tour, with her victory over Bertens being her fourth Top 10 win of the year, as well as the 16th Top 10 win of her career. The Frenchwoman has also beaten Bencic the last three times they’ve played, leading their head-to-head series 3-1 overall.
“I know her well, how she plays,” Bencic said. “I will do all that I can tomorrow to move on.”