Simona Halep was branded an "absolute disgrace" by coach Darren Cahill as Karolina Pliskova came out on top in a crucial round-robin WTA Finals clash to reach the last four.

Pliskova and Halep went into the last Purple Group contest in Shenzhen on Friday knowing the winner would face top seed Ashleigh Barty at the semi-final stage and the loser's season was over.

Halep fought back following the humiliation of a first-set bagel, but Pliskova came from a break down in the final set to win 6-0 2-6 6-4.

The Wimbledon champion rallied following some words of wisdom from Cahill at the end of the first set, but the Australian said she had been "an absolute disgrace" over a critical three-game spell during another on-court coaching session after she squandered a lead in the final set.

Second seed Pliskova blew away an out-of-sorts Halep in the first set, the Czech losing just two service points after an aggressive start.

A forehand into the net put Halep a break down and Pliskova continued to return with vigour, toying with the Romanian as she took just 21 minutes to wrap up the set.

Halep heeded Cahill's advice by using more spin and taking pace of the ball as she broke in the opening game of the second set and showed character to edge a break up at 3-2 after Pliskova got back on serve.

Pliskova was unable to halt Halep's momentum and the fifth seed levelled the match with an ace before taking a 2-0 lead in the decider.

Yet Pliskova responded by winning five games in a row, peppering Halep with searing ground strokes and coming to the net at every opportunity.

Cahill's harsh words at 3-2 failed to prompt a positive reaction from Halep, and although she was able to get back on serve at 5-4, she was broken for the third time in the final set and bowed out when Pliskova had fortune with a netcord winner.

Defending champion Elina Svitolina earlier made it three wins out of three with a 7-5 7-6 (12-10) defeat of alternate Sofia Kenin and will take on Belinda Bencic for a place in the final.

Aryna Sabalenka defeated her regular doubles partner Elise Mertens in a fraught WTA Elite Trophy group decider.

With victory for either player enough to guarantee progression to the semi-finals, fourth seed Sabalenka came out on top 6-4 3-6 7-5 to ensure her place at the top of the Rose Group.

The US Open doubles champions have been at the top of their games in the pairs this season and both players took that form into Friday's encounter in Zhuhai.

Following a two-hour and 20-minute slog, Sabalenka clinched victory with a third match point when Mertens sent a backhand return looping into the net after the Belarusian had broken her serve at the culmination of a thrilling rally in the previous game.

Sabalenka will face Karolina Muchova for a place in the final, with the Czech having overcome Sofia Kenin 6-4 4-6 6-3.

After being broken twice to allow Kenin to level the match in the second set, 23-year-old Muchova rallied in the decider, serving out a victory which saw her top the Camellia Group.

In the Orchid Group, Zheng Saisai scraped through to the last four despite a 6-4 6-3 defeat to fifth seed Petra Martic.

Zheng knew she would progress even with a defeat, as long as she won seven games against her Croatian opponent.

The world number 40 managed it in dramatic fashion, clawing back a break point to make it 4-3 in set two and guarantee her semi-final spot.

World number one Ashleigh Barty eased into the third round of the China Open with a straight-sets win over Yulia Putintseva.

Barty completed a 6-4 6-2 triumph in an hour and 15 minutes, but was not overly enamoured with a performance featuring 23 winners and seven aces.

"It was solid without being fantastic," the Australian said afterwards. "It was what we needed to do. 

"There were times where it was pretty good and there were times where it was challenging. Pretty happy with how we were able to get on a roll in the second set a little bit there."

Barty came from a set down to defeat Putintseva in Madrid this year but there were no such heroics required of the French Open champion this time around.

Next up, she faces Saisai Zheng, who thrilled the home crowd and stunned 13th seed Sloane Stephens with a 6-3 6-1 victory.

Osaka and Wozniacki dish out punishment

Naomi Osaka continued her dominant recent form as she dispatched Andrea Petkovic 6-2 6-0 inside an hour.

Fresh from victory on home soil at the Pan Pacific Open, Japan's reigning Australian Open champion hit 21 winners to 11 unforced errors en route to a sixth successive win and claimed a phenomenal 91 per cent of points on her first serve.

Defending Caroline Wozniacki was in a similarly uncompromising mood as she saw off Christina McHale 6-4 6-0.

Wozniacki flew out of the blocks, winning five of the first seven games, only for McHale to check her progress by converting a fourth break point of the opener.

The former world number one responded emphatically, however, and McHale did not win another game.

More Kvitova misery for Mladenovic, Kenin and Riske fly the flag for the US

Petra Kvitova will face fellow seed and Venus Williams' conqueror Belinda Bencic after continuing her relentless record against Kristina Mladenovic.

Kvitova prevailed 6-4 6-4, taking her overall record against Mladenovic to 9-1, including three straight-sets victories this year.

"Against Kiki, I always have to play well because she can really play well, and she showed it in this match," Kvitova said. "I'm glad that I served pretty well and that it was a big weapon." 

Despite the punishing losses for McHale and Stephens, 15th seed Sofia Kenin and Alison Riske claimed some success for the United States contingent.

Riske was forced into a decider by Australia's Ajla Tomljanovic and came through 6-3 3-6 6-4.

Despite dropping serve with victory in sight at 5-3 in the third, Riske eventually saw off Tomljanovic in the next game – converting an eighth match point.

Kenin dropped her first two service games but regrouped to beat Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-3 6-2 and faces third seed Elina Svitolina in round three.

Two seeds going no further are Angelique Kerber and last week's Wuhan winner Aryna Sabalenka, who went down in straight sets to Polona Hercog and Daria Kasatkina respectively.

Sofia Kenin came from a set down to defeat Samantha Stosur 6-7 (4-7) 6-4 6-2 and win her third WTA Tour title of 2019 at the Guangzhou Open on Saturday.

American 20-year-old Kenin produced a pivotal break at 4-4 in the second set, which came as she reeled off seven games in succession to turn the match on its head.

The third seed went a break up in the opener but surrendered her advantage and lost out in the tie-break when she sent a forehand from the baseline long.

Stosur, who was looking for her first WTA Tour singles title in over two years, dropped her serve at the start of the second but gave up just one point across three games to edge in front.

Kenin showed great character to force a decider and held to love either side of successive breaks to gain an advantage she did not relinquish, staving off a break point to take a 5-1 lead before serving out the match.

Karolina Muchova and Magda Linette will battle it out for glory at the Korea Open on Sunday.

Muchova defeated Wang Yafan 7-6 (7-5) 6-4 after coming from a break down in the first set, while Linette saved four set points before sealing a 7-6 (7-5) 7-6 (9-7) win over Ekaterina Alexandrova with her fourth match point.

Zhang Shuai's bid for a third Guangzhou Open crown was ended by Viktorija Golubic in Thursday's quarter-final.

The two-time champion, whose only WTA Tour singles titles have come at this event, came up short as Golubic ran out a 6-3 3-6 6-4 winner.

Sofia Kenin, another seed, staged a remarkable first-set turnaround to ensure she remained in the competition.

The American trailed 5-2 in the opener but rallied to defeat Jasmine Paolini 7-5 6-1.

Former US Open winner Sam Stosur came through 6-2 7-6 (7-1) against Nina Stojanovic, while Anna Blinkova defeated Marie Bouzkova, who had ousted Elina Svitolina.

At the Korea Open, Priscilla Hon stunned Australian compatriot and 2018 runner-up Ajla Tomljanovic in a 6-3 5-7 6-1 win.

The 21-year-old qualifier was playing Tomljanovic for the first time.

Karolina Muchova eased past Timea Babos, as Paula Badosa saw off Patricia Maria Tig.

Top seed Elina Svitolina retired at 4-6 3-4 down to Marie Bouzkova, who progressed to the quarter-finals of the Guangzhou Open at the expense of the world number three.

Svitolina became Bouzkova's third top-10 victim this season, following wins over Simona Halep and Sloane Stephens at the Rogers Cup.

"Of course it was a really tough match, even if [Svitolina] wasn't 100 per cent," Bouzkova said afterwards. "She was fighting really hard, as much as she could, as much as her body allowed her to.

"It was mentally a tricky match for me, because I knew in the end she's not feeling her best. I tried to stay there, stay aggressive, and not give her any easy points."

Zhang Shuai, a two-time winner in this tournament on home soil, overcame Andrea Petkovic 7-5 6-4 and will take on Switzerland's Viktorija Golubic, who stunned fifth seed Katerina Siniakova 4-6 7-5 6-0.

Sofia Kenin is the highest seed left in the draw following a 6-4 6-2 triumph over wildcard Katarina Zavatska. Kenin's next opponent will be Jasmine Paolini, the Italian qualifier who bested Zheng Saisai 7-5 3-6 7-5 in a marathon encounter.

Veteran 2011 US Open champion Samantha Stosur also went the distance and prevailed 6-4 1-6 7-6 (7-5) against Bernarda Pera.

Number two seed Ekaterina Alexandrova came from a set down to beat Kristyna Pliskova 3-6 6-3 6-4 and book a place in the quarter-finals of the Korea Open.

The contest rattled along at a considerable pace, lasting only one hour and 32 minutes, with the decisive moment coming when Alexandrova claimed the third break point on offer having reduced the Pliskova serve to 0-40, before going on to close out the decider.

The world number 39 will face in-form American Kristie Ahn, who was also taken the distance by Romania's Ana Bogdan.

After a nightmare first set, Ahn turned things around to prevail 0-6 6-4 7-6 (7-2) courtesy of a dominant third-set tie break.

Magda Linette continued her own impressive hard-court form by seeing off Anastasia Potapova 7-5 7-6 (7-4) and will take on Kirsten Flipkens – an authoritative 6-3 7-5 winner against seventh seed Margarita Gasparyan.

On a day of comeback wins, Wang Yafan overcame Ysaline Bonaventure 4-6 6-3 6-0.

Top seed Karolina Pliskova was rescued by the rain at the Zhengzhou Open as Polona Hercog's fightback was brought to a halt.

Pliskova started brightly to take the first set 6-3 but the world number two was serving to stay in the second at 5-2 down when the weather intervened, as it had several times during the day.

The duo will resume on Thursday at the WTA Premier event to settle who will make it through to the last eight.

Sofia Kenin awaits the winner after the sixth seed defeated Alize Cornet 6-4 6-2.

Petra Martic, seeded seventh, also progressed but had to battle back from a set down to overcome Fiona Ferro 3-6 6-1 6-2.

There was one seed who suffered a loss, though, with Caroline Garcia beaten 7-5 6-2 at the hands of Kristina Mladenovic.

Caroline Garcia had to battle hard to halt a four-match losing streak while fellow seeds Sofia Kenin and Petra Martic also progressed at the Zhengzhou Open.

Garcia had not recorded a victory on the WTA Tour since beating Kristyna Pliskova in Jurmala in July. She lost to Chloe Paquet in the last 16 at that tournament before suffering opening defeats in Toronto and Cincinnati.

Having lost in straight sets to Ons Jabeur at the US Open, the French eighth seed was forced to work hard against Tereza Martincova in China.

Garcia eventually prevailed on her third match point, securing a 6-4 4-6 7-5 result after two hours and 35 minutes on court.

Kenin began her campaign with a 6-2 7-5 win over Paquet. The American, seeded six for a tournament serving as a Premier event on the Asian swing for the first time, came back from a break down in the second set to triumph.

As for Martic, she overcame Italian Jasmine Paolini 7-5 6-1 in a match that lasted 74 minutes.

The other first-round match to take place on Monday saw Yulia Putintseva prevail 6-1 5-7 6-1 against Tamara Zidansek in a repeat of this year's Nuremberg Cup final, which the former also won in three sets.

Madison Keys sealed a place in her first hardcourt final since the 2017 US Open with a 7-5 6-4 win over compatriot Sofia Kenin at the Western & Southern Open on Saturday.

Keys hit a superb 41 winners in the all-American clash to book a final showdown with Svetlana Kuznetsova, who produced a dominant performance to see off world number two Ashleigh Barty 6-2 6-4 in Cincinnati.

Kenin saved set point in the opener against Keys before battling back from 5-2 down to 5-5, only for the world number 16 to claim back-to-back games and avert a tiebreak at the WTA Premier event.

Keys was twice a break down in the second set but combined grit with blistering attacking play to down Kenin, avenging a three-set loss in Rome earlier this year.

Kuznetsova is currently down at 153 in the world rankings after periods on the sidelines but has made the most of her wildcard in Cincinnati.

Despite slipping to 2-0 down in the opener, the two-time grand slam champion clicked into gear spectacularly and reeled off eight consecutive games – a forehand return winner on break point to go 5-2 up a particular highlight.

Barty belatedly held for 1-2 in the second to stop the rot but would never another good look at her opponent's serve. Indeed, Kuznetsova avoided giving up break point opportunities in any of her last eight service games.

The result prevented Barty from returning to number one in the WTA rankings after Naomi Osaka was forced to withdraw due to a knee injury in the quarter-finals.

Ashleigh Barty is one win away from returning to the top of the WTA rankings after world number one Naomi Osaka retired in the Western & Southern Open quarter-finals.

Osaka only herself reclaimed top spot by reaching the last eight at the Rogers Cup, but defeat to Sofia Kenin at the same stage in Cincinnati would open the door for Barty.

And the Japanese star, having battled back after losing the first set, taking the second 6-1, was forced to retire at the WTA Premier event on Friday.

Osaka had required treatment to a knee injury and finally retired after being broken early in the third set.

Barty will now unseat Osaka if she advances to the final, having reached the last four with a stunning comeback victory over Maria Sakkari 5-7 6-2 6-0.

Meanwhile, Karolina Pliskova's own hopes of reaching the summit – a possibility if Barty also fell by the wayside – ended as she crashed out to Svetlana Kuznetsova in another three-set contest.

 

BARTY FOCUSED ON TOURNAMENT SUCCESS

The ranking might be on the line for Barty, but she is happy to set that aside and focus on going as far as possible in Cincinnati.

"I'm just keeping my eye on the ball and, if I win matches, the ranking will take care of itself," she said after her win.

"We're excited to be in new territory here in Cincy."

Kuznetsova awaits the Australian and French Open champion.

 

OSAKA WORRIED AFTER BOWING OUT

It was not a good day for reigning US Open champion Osaka.

Osaka retired with a leg injury against Kenin, handing Barty the chance to return to the WTA summit.

It also means Osaka is under an injury cloud ahead of the US Open at Flushing Meadows, where she stunned Serena Williams last year.

"It sucks, especially since I didn't want to get injured this close to the Open," Osaka said. "And now I'm kind of worried a little bit.

"She was playing well. I had to really think about what I had to do during the match, so I'm not that mad at the result. The injured part sucks, but losing, it's not that big of a deal."

 

KUZNETSOVA WINS THRILLER AGAINST PLISKOVA

Two-time grand slam champion Kuznetsova outlasted third seed Pliskova 3-6 7-6 (7-2) 6-3 to reach the final four.

Kuznetsova was down a set with Pliskova serving for the match but the Russian rallied thanks to 30 winners and six aces in the gruelling two hour, 23-minute clash.

Meanwhile, Madison Keys vanquished seven-time major champion Venus Williams 6-2 6-3 to set up a semi-final with fellow American Kenin.

Serena Williams survived a scare before getting past Marie Bouzkova in the Rogers Cup semi-finals on Saturday.

The American great made another slow start at the WTA Premier event, but again recovered to reach the final courtesy of a 1-6 6-3 6-3 victory over Czech qualifier Bouzkova.

Williams moved into her 96th WTA Tour final and fifth at the Rogers Cup, where she is a three-time champion and will face Bianca Andreescu in the decider in Toronto.

But the 23-time grand slam winner looked in trouble early, dropping her first set of the tournament against the 21-year-old Bouzkova.

Williams committed 18 unforced errors in the first set, a backhand into the bottom of the net seeing her drop the opener.

Needing a response, Williams broke in the seventh game of the second set, crushing a forehand return winner on her way to winning the final four games of the set.

Bouzkova threatened to land the first blow of the decider, but Williams saved three break points in the third game.

That would prove to be crucial as she broke in the following game, taking a 3-1 lead she would not relinquish.

Andreescu awaits in the final after the 19-year-old Canadian overcame Sofia Kenin 6-4 7-6 (7-5) in the day's earlier semi.

She became the first Canadian to reach the women's singles final at the modern Rogers Cup and first since 1969, when the event was called the Canadian Open.

Serena Williams is the last seed standing at the Rogers Cup as defending champion Simona Halep made a quarter-final exit on Friday.

Williams was in impressive form as she powered past Naomi Osaka in their first meeting since last year's controversial US Open final.

The American great is the only seed into the last four, with Halep's title defence coming to an end at the WTA Premier tournament.

 

WILLIAMS WONDERFUL AGAINST OSAKA

Williams has apologised for her meltdown at Flushing Meadows last year and the 23-time grand slam champion produced a brilliant display against Osaka.

Osaka had won her previous two matches against Williams in straight sets, but the 37-year-old secured a 6-3 6-4 victory over the Japanese star on Friday.

Williams may have been expecting to face Halep in a rematch of their Wimbledon final, but the Romanian bowed out against Marie Bouzkova.

The Czech qualifier continued her run, winning the first set 6-4 when Halep retired injured.

PLISKOVA, SVITOLINA STUNNED

Karolina Pliskova also exited in the quarter-finals, suffering a 6-0 2-6 6-4 loss to Canadian Bianca Andreescu.

That result meant Osaka, who later lost to Williams, will replace Ashleigh Barty atop the world rankings.

Andreescu will face Sofia Kenin after the American upset Ukrainian sixth seed Elina Svitolina 7-6 (7-2) 6-4.

At 37, Williams is by far the oldest player left in the draw, with the others – Bouzkova (21), Andreescu (19) and Kenin (20) all under 22.

Former world number one Maria Sharapova lost a three-set epic against Anett Kontaveit in the first round of the WTA Rogers Cup.

Sharapova – a five-time grand slam champion – was eliminated following a two hour, 41-minute thriller in Toronto on Monday.

Former Australian Open winner Caroline Wozniacki moved through to the second round, while Serena Williams will open her campaign against Elise Mertens.

 

SHARAPOVA STUNNED IN TORONTO

The 2009 runner-up saw victory slip through her grasp, beaten 4-6 6-3 6-4 by Kontaveit.

Sharapova was up a set a break before 16th seed Kontaveit prevailed in a tense three-setter, which lasted almost three hours.

Playing for the first time since retiring from her first-round match at Wimbledon, Sharapova – seeking just her fourth victory since January due to injury problems – was unable to stop the Estonian.

"I put a lot of work in to get to this stage, so I think to finish off this match is good," Sharapova said. "Definitely not the result I would have liked, but overall feeling pretty good about it."

It will not get any easier for Kontaveit, who is set to play the winner of Venus Williams and Carla Suarez Navarro.

 

WOZNIACKI MAKES WINNING START

Former champion Wozniacki accounted for Yulia Putintseva 6-4 6-2 on day one.

The 2010 winner in Montreal, Wozniacki trailed 4-2 after dropping serve in the opening game before reeling off four straight games to take out the set.

Wozniacki then won four games in a row from 2-2 in the second set as the 15th seed awaits either Iga Swiatek or Ajla Tomljanovic in the next round.

"I'm just happy with the win today and that I'm through to the next round," said Wozniacki, who was also runner-up in 2017.

 

MERTENS SETS UP SERENA SHOWDOWN

Williams awaits in the second round after Belgian Mertens outlasted Aliaksandra Sasnovich 3-6 6-3 6-1.

Former world number one and eighth seed Williams is a three-time winner of the event, having last triumphed in 2013.

Sofia Kenin set up a clash with world number one and top seed Ashleigh Barty with a 6-4 6-3 win over Hsieh Su-wei, while defending champion Simona Halep is next up for Jennifer Brady – who saw off Kristina Mladenovic 6-1 6-2.

Former French Open winner Jelena Ostapenko triumphed but three-time major champion Angelique Kerber – the 12th seed – was shocked by Daria Kasatkina 0-6 6-2 6-4.

Elina Svitolina and Aryna Sabalenka eased into the Silicon Valley Classic quarter-finals on a good day for the seeds.

Svitolina, the top seed at the WTA Premier event in San Jose, was untroubled by Daria Kasatkina in a 6-3 6-1 victory on Wednesday.

The Ukrainian is enjoying another fine year and her last-eight clash with Maria Sakkari will mark her sixth quarter-final of 2019 and she has won four of the previous five.

Sakkari, the seventh seed, was tested before getting past qualifier Mayo Hibi 4-6 6-4 6-2 at the hard-court tournament in California.

The second-seeded Sabalenka ended Coco Vandeweghe's first tournament of the year courtesy of a 6-3 6-3 victory.

Former world number nine Vandeweghe was making her return from ankle and foot injuries.

It was four from four for the seeds, with Carla Suarez Navarro beating Bethanie Mattek-Sands 3-6 6-1 6-2.

At the Citi Open, the only two seeds in action – Sofia Kenin and Monica Puig – departed.

Kenin went down to fellow American Lauren Davis 5-7 6-3 6-4 and Puig lost to qualifier Anna Kalinskaya 2-6 7-6 (7-5) 6-4.

Kristina Mladenovic edged 17-year-old wildcard Hailey Baptiste 6-4 4-6 6-3 and Jessica Pegula overcame Iga Swiatek 5-7 6-4 6-1.

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