Despite giving her best to qualify for the WTA Finals, Kiki Bertens had to settle with the second prize, entering the WTA Elite Trophy in Zhuhai and losing in the final to Aryna Sabalenka. Nonetheless, the Dutchwoman punched the last-minute Shenzhen ticket when Naomi Osaka withdrew due to a right shoulder injury, having the opportunity to compete against world no.
1 Ashleigh Barty in the second round of Red Group. For the first time in seven encounters, Kiki defeated Ashleigh 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 in two hours and nine minutes, playing better and better as the match progressed to use the opportunity with both hands.
Both players won 97 points and it was Bertens who earned one break more, getting broken six times and clinching seven breaks from no less than 18 opportunities to cross the finish line first. It wasn't the match of the highest order as they both had more unforced errors than winners, struggling to find the rhythm in service games and spraying more than 80 unforced mistakes.
Ashleigh held at love in the first game and there were five consecutive breaks after that, three of those for the Aussie who finally managed to hold at 4-2 with an ace before delivering another hold at love in the ninth game for a 6-3.
The second set offered four straight breaks as well and this time it was Bertens who had the upper hand in the latter part, taking four consecutive games from 3-2 down to grab the set with a hold at 15 in game nine to send the clash into a decider.
Carried by this momentum, Kiki raced into a 4-0 advantage, losing serve in game six to keep Barty in contention before wrapping up the victory with a rock-solid service game at 5-4 for the best possible start of an unexpected WTA Finals campaign.