Timea Babos and Andrea Hlavackova got off to a winning start at the 2017 WTA Finals as they fended off the tough challenge of debutants Andreja Klepac and Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez to triumph in straight sets with a straightforward 6-3, 6-4 victory. Babos and Hlavackova, the third seeds in the tournament, will now either battle the top seed Chan/Hingis or Groenefeld/Peschke in the last four for a place in the final.
Babos and Hlavackova’s good run of form
Babos and Hlavackova entered Singapore on a huge winning streak, having won three titles and reached a final in four events played after the US Open, posting an incredible 15-1 win-loss record. They continued their amazing run here at the Singapore Indoor Stadium, reaching the semifinals on their first appearance as a pairing. This is Babos’ first-ever run to the last four while Hlavackova has reached this stage on two previous occasions.
First break goes to the Hungarian and the Czech
Some solid serving from Klepac saw the sixth seeds earned them the great start to the match, sealing the comfortable and confidence-boosting service game in the opening game to settle their nerves. Babos soon followed suit with her own powerful serves, but we soon had our first breakthrough of the match as the debutants seemed to be overwhelmed by the pressure involved especially when this was the opening match, throwing in several unforced errors to gift away the first break of serve.
Babos and Hlavackova seals the first set
The Hungarian-Czech pairing was simply too dominating on their serves as they easily consolidated the break, coming from 15-30 down to do so, for an early 3-1 lead. Looking to get a second win over Klepac and Martinez Sanchez this year, they found it extremely difficult in the return games as the sixth seeds started to be comfortable on their serves, most particularly on the Spaniard’s lefty serve.
Babos and Hlavackova had another golden opportunity to claim the break of serve but was unable to convert two break points in a marathon 22-point game lasting over 16 minutes. Martinez Sanchez capitalized on her ninth game point to keep the scores close, but the third seeds held onto their serves tightly for a comfortable 5-3 lead, eventually sealing the set with a second break of serve in the set.
Martinez Sanchez and Klepac unable to find the rhythm on the return
The second set was much of a similar story as compared to the first, with both pairs remaining close on the scoreboard. However, the lack of experience of playing at the world’s biggest stages was the sixth seeds’ major downfall, as they were the first pairing to blink when facing the pressure, losing their serves in the sixth game.
Babos and Hlavackova were extremely efficient on their first serves, winning an incredible 86 percent of points on those serves. Losing just ten points behind their serves, they powered themselves to a commanding 5-2 lead in the second set as they edged closer than ever to the win.
Late fightback by the underdogs but to no avail
The toughest challenge in getting the win is probably trying to close the match out, and Babos would have found that relatable as Klepac and Martinez Sanchez upped their level of play to retrieve the break back. The comeback looked to be possible after they earned a game point while serving to stay in the match, but after all, it was still too late as three straight unforced errors proved pivotal in deciding the outcome of the match.
Babos and Hlavackova happy to get the win
“I think we played a good match today, from the very beginning. We were very aggressive and took early opportunities.” Babos mentioned in a post-match press conference, and the pair felt happy with their performance today. For Hlavackova, she was particularly pleased with the way they managed to regain her composure and break for the match despite being just broken while serving for the match, claiming that “Nothing is better than a match; you cannot practice what’s happening out there, and it showed today. At 5-4, we were still able to play a good game despite not serving it out, that’s because we have so many matches behind us.”