Ash Barty showed Carolina Garcia no mercy when they met in the WTA Elite Trophy tennis tournament – but now she owes the Frenchwoman a debt of gratitude.
The Australian expected her season to be over despite beating Garcia in Zhuhai on Thursday night, but the 22-year-old ended up advancing as the Orchid Group’s semifinalist 24 hours later.
Garcia recovered from a back injury that hampered her performance against Barty to stun world No.12 Sabalenka 6-4 6-4 on Friday.
The game aggregates from round-robin play ultimately left world No.19-ranked Barty as the only member of the trio to have a positive differential.
Her 6-3 6-4 victory over Garcia was crucial as it meant she recorded 20 games won to 19 lost. Belarusian Sabalenka, who beat Barty 6-4 6-4 in the group opener, was all square at 20-20 while Garcia also exited the tournament with a game record of 19-20.
Barty now meets defending champion Julia Goerges, who was two points from elimination before the German on Thursday recovered to clinch her final Rose Group clash with Belgium’s Elise Mertens 6-2 7-6(5).
Top seed Goerges had been vulnerable because she had lost her first match to Estonia’s Anett Kontaveit in three sets.
Garbine Muguruza will face Madison Keys in Saturday’s other semifinal after winning her Camellia Group showdown with Anastasija Sevastova 6-7(4) 6-2 7-6(1).
The Spaniard, a two-time Grand Slam champion, saved three match points and eight of 12 break points against her second-seeded opponent.
“These matches are the ones that really count. It’s long, it’s difficult, you have match points against you, you don’t lose your courage, you don’t lose your enthusiasm. And it worked today,” Muguruza said.
“I think there were just a few points difference. I was coming in with great shots, she was coming with better shots. In the end, sometimes I was winning the points, sometimes she was just playing incredible.
“I know tomorrow (against Keys) it’ll be a tough battle, but I’m sure this match will give me a lot of confidence.”
Keys made the final four despite losing to Wang Qiang 1-6 6-3 6-1. The American needed to win only one set to advance from the Azalea Group.
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