WTA Zhuhai: Kiki Bertens, Aryna Sabalenka, Karolina Muchova, Zheng hit SF

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WTA Zhuhai: Kiki Bertens, Aryna Sabalenka, Karolina Muchova, Zheng hit SF

In the battle of the US Open doubles champions, the 4th seed Aryna Sabalenka prevailed against the 6th seed Elise Mertens 6-4, 3-6, 7-5 in two hours and 20 minutes to grab the final semi-final spot at the WTA Elite Trophy in Zhuhai.

It was their fourth encounter and the second victory for Aryna who hit ten doubles faults and grabbed two points less than her opponent, still finding the way to cross the finish line first and stay on the title course. There were 24 break chances up for grabs and they both converted four to stay neck and neck until the very end, with Sabalenka earning breaks in games nine and 11 in the decider to propel herself into the semis.

Sabalenka survived four break chances in the fifth game of the first set, taking it 6-4 with a break in game ten before Elise bounced back in set number two, delivering breaks in games three and nine to set up a decider. They traded breaks in the third and fourth games before Aryna secured another one at 4-4, suffering a break while serving for the match in the tenth game before taking another return game and fending off a break chance at 6-5 to cross the finish line first.

The 12th seed Saisai Zheng had to win seven games against Petra Martic to reach the semis and she did precisely that, suffering a 6-4, 6-3 loss in an hour and 33 minutes to stay in the competition. Martic led 4-2 in the first set before Zheng pulled the break back to level the score at 4-4, only to lose eight of the next ten points and hand the set to the Croat.

After trading breaks at the beginning of the second set, Petra shifted into a higher gear and scored breaks in games five and nine to finish the season with a victory. The 11th seed Karolina Muchova managed to extend the year for at least one more match, ousting the 2nd seed Sofia Kenin 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 in two hours and 14 minutes to book the place in the last four.

Karolina lost serve only twice and stole the opponent's serve thrice to emerge at the top after a single break in the final set. After that, Muchova produced three picture-perfect service games to race over the finish line and topple the better-ranked opponent who also had a breakthrough season.