Garbine Muguruza reached the WTA Finals last four unbeaten on Friday after a tough win over Petra Kvitova – who also qualified for the semis with help from her fellow Czech Lucie Safarova.
On a rollercoaster last day of group play, Muguruza and Kvitova shared 15 service breaks in a see-sawing three-setter before the increasingly impressive Spaniard won 6-4 4-6 7-5.
Kvitova’s hopes were hanging by a thread but she went through when her friend and Fed Cup teammate Safarova beat Angelique Kerber 6-4 6-3, stopping the German finishing second in White Group.
Already-eliminated Safarova said she met a delighted Kvitova in the locker room and “she said she might buy me some beers”.
Muguruza will play Poland’s Agnieszka Radwanska in Saturday’s semi-finals while Kvitova will meet Maria Sharapova, who like Muguruza has swept through all three of her group matches.
The semi-finals line-up raises the possibility of a title clash between fast-rising star Muguruza and Russia’s Sharapova, the established force with five Grand Slam titles to her name.
“You know to be here for me is a great pay-off after the whole year, and hopefully I can continue winning and playing like this,” said Muguruza, who is also into the doubles semi-finals.
Safarova, who was already eliminated and playing for little more than personal and national pride, was delighted to keep Kvitova’s hopes alive with her win over Kerber.
“Teamwork! Well, I’m happy for her that she went through to the semis, I’m happy for my win as well,” she said.
The two will lead defending champions Czech Republic at the Fed Cup final in Prague next month against a Russian team spearheaded by Sharapova.
“After Fed Cup we can celebrate,” Safarova said.
In Friday’s first match, Muguruza didn’t have it easy against two-time Wimbledon winner Kvitova and she had to dig deep in a messy first encounter with the Czech.
With five breaks in the final set alone, Muguruza grabbed the crucial break for 6-5 and it took her four match points before she closed it out with a lunging volley.
Kerber, who needed to win only one set to qualify, did not mask her disappointment and indicated she was distracted by people audibly calculating her match progress during a changeover.
“They were counting. ‘Okay she won one set, now you must win just one set,'” she said.
“I was not feeling good. From the first point I couldn’t find my rhythm. I was actually not there,” she added.
“I was tight and I was not playing my tennis. Lucie played a good match for sure, but for sure it was not my best match today.”
Muguruza is bracing herself for a very demanding Saturday as she will also play the doubles semi with compatriot Carla Suarez Navarro against Czechs Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka.
“It’s going to be a challenge for me to see how much my body can handle, because now I don’t have a day off,” said Muguruza, 22.
“So, I mean, it’s great to be in my position I think now, to be playing singles and doubles semifinals, but it’s going to be hard. I have to recover well and do everything possible to be ready for both matches.”