Saturday, October 31, 2015

Martina Hingis & Sania Mirza retain unbeaten run in Singapore

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SINGAPORE - Extending their winning streak to 19 straight matches, Martina Hingis and Sania Mirza have all but sealed their spot in the semifinals of the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global with a 6-4, 6-4 win over No.7 seeds Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka in the Red Group.

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Hingis and Mirza had yet to play the recently reunited Czechs, who won two major titles and an Olympic silver medal, and were forced to withstand a valiant challenge in the second set when the top seeds trailed 1-4.

"They're a great team and we kind of took the accelerator off a little bit and play a little safer, but you can't really do that at this level," Mirza said after the match. "We just tried to get ourselves back together; 4-1 seems bigger than it is because it's really only one break. She was great at the net and I was feeling the ball good at the return, so that helped!"

Mirza paired up with Hingis for the first time at this year's BNP Paribas Open, but it was the Swiss Miss' title run at last year's Miami Open - where she won the title with Sabine Lisicki - that she credits with giving her the belief in another top-flight comeback.

"That was the key victory that we had there," Hingis recalled. "We were down seven match points in the quarterfinals. We dug throught that, won the title, and I defintely felt like I could be a contender for big events and here we are, having a great run this year with Sania and I'm really enjoying every second of it."

Addressing the crowd, Hingis grabbed the mic to shout, "and I couldn't do it without you here!"

The top seeds have only to play No.4 seeds Timea Babos and Kristina Mladenovic before round robin play comes to an end, but have set up a highly favorite situation for themselves having already earned two straight set wins; of the sixteen remaining qualification scenarios (see below), only one leaves their chances of reaching the semifinals somewhat up in the air.

Both Babos and Mladenovic and Hlavackova and Hradecka remain in the hunt for that second spot, however, and Friday's results will prove crucial for the No.4 and No.7 seeds. For their part, the pair of WTA Rising Stars recovered from a difficult first match against the Czechs to oust No.6 seeds Raquel Kops-Jones and Abigail Spears, 7-6(5), 6-2, to keep their own hopes alive.

"We are very pleased," Mladenovic said after the match. "It feels good to get our first win at our first WTA Finals. We had a rough start in our first match, but I thought today was a great level from both of us - especially in the first set, it was really tight and close. I'm happy we stayed strong until the end and came up with some great shots in the crucial moments."

Babos and Mladenovic split their two encounters with Hingis and Mirza in 2015, something the WTA Rising Stars are keenly aware of heading into the final round robin match.

"It's going to definitely be a big challenge for us, and there's a semifinal spot at the end of it maybe and we already faced them twice this year. The last time we played them, if I'm not wrong, we beat them in the final of Rome, so we have a day off tomorrow, we're going to prepare the best we can and I believe in ourselves."

The White Group concludes their round robin play on Thursday as No.3 seeds Chan Hao-Ching and Chan Yung-Jan attempt to remain unbeaten in Singapore as they come up against No.8 seeds Garbiñe Muguruza and Carla Suárez Navarro, while No.2 seeds Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Lucie Safarova will try to turn around a tough loss to the Chan sisters when they face No.5 seeds Caroline Garcia andKatarina Srebotnik.

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