The Red Group donned its color in appropriate fashion on Tuesday at the Shiseido WTA Finals Shenzhen, as a pair of outcomes created a bloodbath heading into Thursday’s final round-robin matchups.
Last-minute alternate Kiki Bertens notched her first win over world No. 1 Ashleigh Barty, before Belinda Bencic toppled 2011 champion Petra Kvitova, 6-3, 1-6, 6-4, in one hour and 48 minutes. As a result, all four players remain in contention to qualify for the semifinals.
"For me personally, it's so difficult to play Petra," Bencic said in an on-court interview. "Her game is just really big. I didn't get much rhythm. I'm so happy at the end, I could keep my nerves calm."
Entering the match, Bencic’s health was a topic of discussion after she had her left heel taped during a three-set loss to Barty on Sunday. There were no indications of discomfort against Kvitova, who had won nine of 11 sets played in their five prior meetings—including a 6-3, 6-3 victory in Beijing just four weeks ago.
The Czech was nearly untouchable in her first three trips to the line, dropping just one point, but after missing out on a break point, a sloppy string of errors enabled Bencic to break for 4-3. The Swiss confidently redirected rallies, using Kvitova’s pace to her advantage. She broke at love to close out the set, courtesy of Kvitova’s fourth double fault.
When the left-hander misfired, her shots largely flew long. Kvitova cleaned up her ball-striking to win 19 of the first 25 points in the second set. Her controlled aggression clearly frustrated Bencic: the No. 7 seed committed twice as many unforced errors, 12, as Kvitova to quickly see her one-set lead evaporate.
Kvitova’s momentum took a hit in the third game of the decider, when a pair of double faults contributed to her loss of serve. This ignited a stretch of four successive breaks, as both players struggled to get out on front with the ball on their racquet.
The clash turned into a battle of intensity, and it was Bencic who had a bit more to give. The 22-year-old let out a huge roar after erasing a break point to hold for 4-4, and claimed the final three games to score her second win over Kvitova this year, adding to her Dubai final triumph.
On Thursday, Bencic will meet Bertens, and Kvitova will take on Barty.