World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty clinched pole position in the Red Group after defeating Petra Kvitova in straight sets at the WTA Finals on Thursday.

The French Open champion stormed into the semifinals with a crushing 6-4, 6-2 win in 1 hour and 28 minutes at the Shenzhen Bay Sports Center. The result knocked out the winless Czech from the round-robin tournament.

Belinda Bencic and Kiki Bertens clash in the later match with the winner joining Barty out of the Red Group.

Barty, who had already sealed the year-end No.1 ranking, rebounded after a three-set loss to late replacement Bertens on Tuesday.

“I felt like I executed really well,” she said after the match.

“I knew I had to play aggressively. I’m really excited to still have another chance to play here.”

Kvitova had a scare in the third game of the first set but saved two breaks points to hold her serve, which was being targeted by an aggressive Barty.

But the Australian’s consistency wore down an error-strewn Kvitova and she grabbed a decisive break in the fifth game.

Barty had break points against her serve in the sixth and eighth games but withstood Kvitova’s attempts to get back into the first set.

The 29-year-old Kvitova, the oldest player in the draw, changed tactics early in the second set and attacked the net but Barty had the answers to reach the semifinals on her WTA Finals debut.

For Kvitova, the 2011 WTA Finals champion, the loss marks a second straight winless campaign in her seventh appearance at the lucrative year-ender.

Also Thursday, U.S. Open champion Bianca Andreescu withdrew from the tournament due to a knee injury.

The Canadian sensation crashed out of contention at the round-robin tournament when she retired hurt against Karolina Pliskova on Wednesday. Andreescu injured her left knee in the third game after attempting to return a wide serve and received heavy strapping during the subsequent medical timeout.

The 19-year-old gamely fought on but was noticeably hobbled and retired after the first set, which Pliskova won 6-3 in 51 minutes.

World No. 4 Andreescu had lost her opener against Simona Halep in a three-set thriller on her WTA Finals debut.

“I had a scan Thursday to check my knee after last night’s match, and unfortunately the results show that I need to withdraw,” she said.

“On the spot the physio thought it was my meniscus, so she taped it up. It was really hard to bend with the taping and the pain kept getting worse, so I had to stop,” she added.

During a breakout season, which she started ranked 178th, Andreescu compiled a remarkable 48-7 record and won her first Grand Slam after defeating Serena Williams in the final at Flushing Meadows.

“I’m definitely going to take time off, recoup and then start my preseason,” she said.

“I’ll become even stronger for 2020.”

World No.12 Sofia Kenin will replace Andreescu for Friday’s duel against defending champion Elina Svitolina, who has already clinched the top position from the Purple Group.

Kenin will be the second replacement used at the tournament after Kiki Bertens stepped in for world No. 3 Naomi Osaka, who withdrew due to a shoulder injury.


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