Second set: *Barty 6-4, 5-1 Kvitova (*denotes server) Kvitova looks ready for some welcome down time after a long old season. Barty isn’t giving her even a glimpse of a way back into this match, powering to a comfortable hold. One game away now.
Second set: Barty 6-4, 4-1 Kvitova* (*denotes server) Barty leaves her opponent exasperated with a clinical lob – she’s cut loose in the second set and looks much the better player. Kvitova at least gets on the board here, helped by some welcome power and accuracy on her first serve.
Second set: *Barty 6-4, 4-0 Kvitova (*denotes server) Kvitova isn’t throwing in the towel, going 0-30 up on Barty’s serve, but two powerful forehand winners get the Aussie back on terms. An ace down the middle, another out wide, and the chance has disappeared for Kvitova.
Second set: Barty 6-4, 3-0 Kvitova* (*denotes server) A weary shrug of the shoulders from Kvitova as she misses the chance to hold a scrappy service game. Barty floats her next return down the middle, correctly predicting that her opponent will miss again. Break point, Kvitova nets tamely, and Barty is closing in on the semi-finals.
Second set: *Barty 6-4, 2-0 Kvitova (*denotes server) Kvitova has played a handful of excellent shots out here today, but the first-set stats make grim reading. 43% first serves in, one ace, three double faults and 20 unforced errors.
Barty battles to 40-30, but Kvitova zings a cross-court winner to grab deuce. The No 1 gets in behind a net-cord bounce, then powers down a first serve to back up her break.
Second set: Barty 6-4, 1-0 Kvitova* (*denotes server) Kvitova, WTA finals champ in 2011 and finalist in 2015, goes 30-0 up but then starts overplaying, surrendering the next two points with awkward shot selections.
A double fault gives Barty break point, but an inviting second serve goes unpunished as Barty fires her cross-court return wide. She gets another chance, settling a fluid rally with a well-timed lob – and wins a quickfire battle at the net to break! Barty in total control now.
It’s been an even contest, both players serving up sharp winners and sloppy unforced errors. Barty has been more reliable on the big points, with Kvitova letting four break points slip in a frustrating first set.
Qualification is now out of her hands; even a three-set win will leave her waiting on the outcome of Bertens v Bencic later on. Has she got any fight left? We’ll find out.
Ashleigh Barty wins the first set 6-4!
No sign of nerves from Barty, her first serve firing as she races to 40-0 and three set points. Kvitova saves the first with a brilliant drop-shot, scooped up from under her feet – then sends her next return long. That rather sums up her performance so far.
First set: Barty 5-4 Kvitova* (*denotes server) Those missed chances are playing on Kvitova’s mind as she serves to stay in the set. Two unforced errors take her first-set total to 20 (Barty has 12), but a perfect one-handed drop shot keeps her in the game. The Czech finds some first-serve rhythm to hold, a fizzing cross-court winner sealing it and forcing Barty to serve the first set out.
First set: *Barty 5-3 Kvitova (*denotes server) At 30-all we’re treated to the standout rally of the match, Kvitova doing well to hook Barty’s cross-court effort back into play, but left stranded as the Australian clips it into the open court.
Barty then coughs up a double-fault at deuce, and it’s a fourth Kvitova break point – but she can’t keep her return inside the baseline. Barty digs out the hold with a couple of big serves, Kvitova missing her best chance with a wild volley.
First set: Barty 4-3 Kvitova* (*denotes server) Both players having some issues with the on-court conditions; Kvitova is struggling with her grip in the humidity, while Barty cast a couple of glances at the surface after low bounces threw her off. Kvitova holds well here, hitting three clean winners to keep the set alive.
First set: *Barty 4-2 Kvitova (*denotes server) At 30-15 down, Kvitova is outfoxed by a superb Barty slice that clips the last millimetre of the line. A cross-drop-shot keeps Kvitova in the game, before a low return skips awkwardly off the court.
Barty nets, and suddenly it’s deuce, then a first break point for Kvitova via a net cord. Barty saves, but two more chances come and go for Kvitova, both players struggling to time their shots. The Czech goes long with a forehand, and a big serve secures what could be a crucial hold.
First set: Barty 3-2 Kvitova* (*denotes server) Barty is finding her groove here, reading a Kvitova slice and lifting her volley plumb onto the line. 0-30 down, Kvitova targets the Barty backhand and forces a couple of errors, but is dominated in the next rally. Another Barty break point, and she gets the break with a snapping forehand that her opponent can’t quite reach.
First set: *Barty 2-2 Kvitova (*denotes server) That last game was a real slog after some sharp early points, but this is more like it. Barty starts on the front foot, before Kvitova responds with a fierce, curling backhand winner. The Czech goes for broke on her next return at 30-30 but finds the net, and Barty seals the hold with an overhead smash.
First set: Barty 1-2 Kvitova* (*denotes server) Both players make unforced errors on the way to our first deuce, before a break point as Kvitova gets her footwork all wrong. An ace saves it, but a mishit forehand hands Barty another. On second serve, she fires her return wide. Kvitova responds with a nicely constructed point – then double faults! Back on deuce, Barty mishits her return, and Kvitova finds a big second serve to dig out the hold.
First set: *Barty 1-1 Kvitova (*denotes server) Barty needs to find some early rhythm, with Kvitova looking sharp from the get-go. She digs in here to hold as the Czech goes for a couple of big shots that drift wide.
First set: Barty 0-1 Kvitova* (*denotes server) Kvitova kicks off in style, moving into the net aggressively to take control of the opening game and sealing it with an angled drop-shot.
“Petra brings out the best in me, every time we play” says Barty of today’s opponent. Kvitova expects a “challenging game, as always against Ash”. The two players have met four times this season, with Barty getting her first career wins over the Czech in Miami and Beijing.
Barty could have sealed her semi-final place in Shenzhen already; having beaten Bencic in her first match, she led Kiki Bertens by a set and a break, but slumped to a surprise defeat. Should the world No 1 win today and top the group, she’ll play Karolina Pliskova or Simona Halep in the last four.
Ashleigh Barty has already secured the year-end world No 1 ranking after a breakthrough year that brought her the French Open title and a shedload of prize money. Barty is still aiming to finish on a high with the WTA Finals title in China, and can secure top spot in her group with victory over Petra Kvitova.
Barty could still sneak through with a three-set defeat, with wildcard Kiki Bertens playing Belinda Bencic later today to complete the Red Group. All four players have a chance of going through: Kvitova will progress with a straight-sets win, and holds a 4-2 overall record against the Australian.
Play starts imminently, so make yourselves comfortable.