The slow indoor courts in Shenzhen certainly took a toll on the players’ body, especially when even the alternate Kiki Bertens was forced to retire from her second match at the WTA Finals. Bertens came into Shenzhen after reaching the final at the WTA Elite Trophy in Zhuhai the previous week and was called to replace Naomi Osaka after the Japanese world number three was forced to withdraw with a shoulder injury.
Benefitting from Bertens’ retirement would be Belinda Bencic, who is one of two debutants at this prestigious tournament this year. As a result, the Swiss progresses into the semifinals on her debut courtesy of her crucial win over Kvitova a couple of days before. Bencic will face Elina Svitolina in the semifinals, hoping to reach the biggest final of her career.
Complaining of back pain and physical discomfort, Bertens committed 14 unforced errors which mostly came towards the end of the opening set. 13 winners were able to help the Dutch open up a 5-3 lead but her body started to act up and her fatigue eventually overwhelmed her, considering she played every week since the US Open.
Bencic, who showed grit to produce the comeback in the first set, found just 10 winners to 15 unforced errors but what troubled her opponent was her ability to take the balls early and redirect the pace.
The servers dominated the match in the early stages but it was the alternate who was forced to save two break points in the fourth game, with her solid first serves saving her from danger. Bencic would rue her missed opportunities as she was immediately broken in the following game.
Invincible on her first serves, Bertens surged out towards a 5-3 lead and looked to have the set in her bag. However, after failing to find her first serves and getting exposed on her vulnerable second serves, she allowed Bencic to break back at the eleventh hour. Calling down her coach at 5-6 down, Bertens was in tears and describing how she could not bend her back to hit low backhands.
When she was broken to concede the opening set, the signs were clear when she called for both the physio and the doctor. Moments later, she, unfortunately, retired from the match and allowed Bertens to book a semifinal ticket.