Halep, Pliskova clash for last semifinal place in Shenzhen

Published by Tennismash / AAP

Simona Halep (L) and Karolina Pliskova will clash for the 11th time in the final group-stage match of the WTA Finals in Shenzhen. (Getty Images)
Simona Halep and Karolina Pliskova will clash at the WTA Finals on Friday night, with the winner to take the last remaining semifinal place in Shenzhen.

The winner of Friday night’s Simona Halep-Karolina Pliskova match will round out the semifinal line-up at the WTA Finals in Shenzhen.

Halep takes a 7-3 head-to-head record into the pair’s 11th meeting, although Pliskova won their most recent meeting in March’s Miami Open semifinals.

“I hope it’s going to be a good match to watch. I’m sure, because she’s putting a lot of balls back,” Pliskova said of Halep. “The tennis with her, I feel it’s always good to watch. Of course, for me tough because there’s going to be a lot of rallies.”

The winner will advance to a semifinal meeting with world No.1 Ash Barty, who won her third straight match over Petra Kvitova to finish atop the Red Group with a 2-1 win-loss record.

“I felt like I executed really well tonight,” Barty said.

“Playing against Petra is probably one of my favourite things to do, if I’m being honest. Win or lose, it’s going to be a great match. It’s going to be played in the right spirit.

“I just enjoy the challenge of playing against Petra. She really does bring out the best in me. Each time I’ve played Petra, I’ve become a better player having learned what’s happened during that match.”

Belinda Bencic advanced in Thursday night’s other singles match over Kiki Bertens to join Barty as a semifinalist from the Red Group.

However, the Swiss only advanced after Bertens retired due to illness, when trailing by a set and 1-0.

It was the second withdrawal from the tournament on Thursday; earlier in the day Canadian teen star Bianca Andreescu confirmed a knee injury sustained in her previous match would rule her out of the season-ending event.

Andreescu was forced to retire mid-match against Pliskova on Wednesday night after landing awkwardly while returning a serve.

Her loss to Pliskova, as well as defeat at the hands of Simona Halep in her round-robin opener, left her out of semifinals contention.

“I had a scan Thursday to check my knee after last night’s match, and unfortunately the results show that I need to withdraw,” Andreescu said.

“It was amazing to play here in Shenzhen at the end of this incredible season.

“I’m very disappointed to not be able to finish the year on my terms. But I am hopeful I will have more chances to play here in the future.”

Andreescu and Bertens joined Naomi Osaka as players who have withdrawn from the event; Bertens was originally brought into the field as the first alternate to replace Osaka, who sustained a shoulder injury.

Alternate Sofia Kenin will replace Andreescu for Friday’s match against unbeaten defending champion Elina Svitolina.

Svitolina had already qualified for the semifinals after winning her first two round-robin matches in straight sets,

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