Wed, Oct 28, 2015 - Page 20 News List

Chan sisters close in on semi-finals

BACKHANDED:Italy’s Flavia Pennetta bounced back from her initial defeat to claim victory over Poland’s Agnieszka Radwanska with her dominant backhand

By Dave Carroll  /  Staff reporter, with reuters, SINGAPORE

Italy’s Flavia Pennetta returns to Poland’s Agnieszka Radwanska in their WTA Finals singles round robin-match at the Singapore Indoor Stadium yesterday.

Photo: AFP

Taiwan’s Chan Hao-ching and Chan Yung-jan yesterday crushed the second seeds to win their second straight round-robin match at the WTA Finals in Singapore and stand on the verge of a spot in Saturday’s semi-finals.

The third-seeded Taiwanese sisters took just 71 minutes to complete a crushing 6-2, 6-2 victory over Bethanie Mattek-Sands of the US and Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic to go top of the White Group.

The Chan sisters saved all three break points they faced and converted four of seven, winning 60 of the 106 points contested to maintain a 100 percent record at the season-ending tournament.

“Got our 2nd win here in the White Group, happy we got the advantage with 2-0, but still need to stay focus with every single match,” Chan Yung-jan said on Facebook.

The Taiwanese duo would qualify for the semi-finals should Caroline Garcia of France and Katarina Srebotnik of Slovenia, who they defeated 6-4, 7-6 (7/5) in their opening match, have defeated eighth-seeded Spanish duo Garbine Muguruza and Carla Suarez Navarro in the late match last night.

“We were a little bit nervous, but definitely excited, and it was quite a good first match for us,” elder sister Chan Yung-Jan told the WTA Tour Web site after their opening victory against Garcia and Srebotnik. “They’re not a weak team — everyone here could be in the finals of a Grand Slam. Everybody’s trying their best and I’m happy we got the advantage in the first round.”

“At the end of the second set, we just tried to keep...” Chan Hao-ching began, before her sister suggested: “Calm?”

The two laughed, before the younger sister finished: “Yes, and to keep playing the way we were for two sets.”

In the singles yesterday, US Open champion Flavia Pennetta kept alive her bid with a flurry of backhand winners as she downed a strapped up and fatigued Agnieszka Radwanska in straight sets.

The Italian, who said she plans to retire after the tournament, struck her 11th backhand winner crisply down the line on her fourth match point to seal an impressive 7-6 (7/5), 6-4 victory over the Pole at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.

It was Pennetta’s first win in the Red Group after she was blown away by top seed Simona Halep of Romania 6-0, 6-3 in her opener on Sunday. The Italian said a pep talk from her coach proved to be the difference.

“[He] just came in the court and told me to be more aggressive, to be more with my backhand more than my forehand,” the 33-year-old Italian told reporters. “He just told me: ‘Keep going and try to go for the shot.’”

“The concentration was really slipping away sometimes and I wasn’t focused enough,” Radwanska said.

The Polish world No. 6 had started brightly, twice holding a break in the first set, but was broken when trying to serve it out at 5-4 and Pennetta’s dominant backhand took control as the Italian prevailed in the tiebreaker.

Pennetta had a worrying moment in the tiebreaker when she appeared to hurt her ankle and needed a medical time-out in the third game of the second set because of blisters, but the issues failed to halt her ambition.

Pennetta crushed 37 winners against an increasingly deflated Radwanska — who played with a heavily taped shoulder and looked weary after a recent hectic schedule in a bid to qualify for the eight-woman finals — and secured the sole break in the seventh game with a powerful backhand return before confidently riding out winner.

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