WTA Finals Shenzhen Red Group Preview: Ash Barty vs. Petra Kvitova

WTA Finals Shenzhen Red Group Preview: Ash Barty vs. Petra Kvitova

Despite being 0-2 this week in Shenzhen, the Czech has a shot to reach the semifinals with a straight-sets victory over the world No. 1 Thursday.

Standings screenshot from shiseidowtafinalsshenzhen.com

After winning this tournament in 2011, and finishing runner-up to Agnieszka Radwanska in 2015, it appears Petra Kvitova has lost her WTA Finals mojo. The Czech has dropped her last six matches at the year-end event, and things won’t get any easier as she prepares to face world No. 1 Ashleigh Barty for the fifth time in 2019.

Kvitova defeated Barty twice in January, in the Sydney final and Australian Open quarterfinals, but dropped her last two meetings in Miami and Beijing. Despite her 0-2 record this week, Kvitova remains in contention due to Naomi Osaka’s withdrawal. Alternate Kiki Bertens, who replaced Osaka and defeated Barty on Tuesday, does not receive credit for Osaka’s opening win over Kvitova—and with Tuesday's outcomes, no one in the red group has been mathematically eliminated from semifinal contention.

Winning in straight sets would enable Kvitova to sneak into the last four, while a three-set victory would put the two-time Wimbledon champion in a holding pattern. A win of any kind would clinch the group for Barty.

At this point, there are no secrets between Barty and Kvitova on the court, though there is a tremendous mutual respect. “Petra always has a way of bringing out the best in me, she really does,” Barty said after her three-set victory in Beijing.

Kvitova is striking the ball as purely as anyone in the tournament, but is costing herself valuable points with uncharacteristic service woes. She has double faulted 19 times in her last two matches, and lost to Bencic despite winning ten more total points.

She will look to use her devastating lefty slider to swing Barty out wide and open up the court. The Aussie knows she can’t get away with slicing her returns over and over again. It’s imperative that Barty crack a few backhand returns to mix things up against a player all too familiar with her variety of looks. Winner: Barty