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Elina Svitolina qualifies for semifinals at WTA Finals

SHENZHEN, China (AP) — Defending champion Elina Svitolina qualified for the semifinals of the season-ending WTA Finals by beating Simona Halep 7-5, 6-3 on Wednesday. Svitolina, the only competitor in the eight-player field not to win a title this season, last won a tournament at last year's WTA Finals.

The Ukrainian is 2-0 in the Purple Group, winning both of her matches in straight sets. Halep is 1-1 after saving a match point in her three-set victory over Bianca Andreescu. "I try to work every single point and start from the beginning just trying to take one point at a time," Svitolina said. "I don't really think so much about if it's good, if it's bad.

"I try to step on the court and to always have positive mindset." In the late match, Andreescu retired with a left knee injury after losing the first set to Karolina Pliskova 6-3. Pliskova, who is 1-1, will face Wimbledon champion Halep in their final group match for another spot in the semifinals.

"I think that's going to be a great matchup for just going out of the group to the semifinals," Pliskova said. "The tennis with her, I feel it's always good to watch." Svitolina broke Halep in the final game of the first set to take the lead. She then broke the Romanian's serve in the eighth game of the second set and held to win.

"I felt that I cannot finish the points," Halep said. "This court is not great for me, for my game. It's very soft in a way. Even if you go and hit strong, I think that I hit well today, but not enough directions on the court.

"But she played well. She didn't miss. I think she loves to play here. It's her style." The victory was Svitolina's fifth in nine matches against Halep. On the four previous occasions in which she won, Svitolina went on to win the tournament.

Andreescu was injured while leading 2-0 in the first set, with Pliskova serving at 30-15 in the third game. "I stepped weirdly on a return," Andreescu said. "I heard my knee crack and it kind of went inwards and putting pressure on it afterwards really bothered me I could barely bend my knee."

During a medical timeout, Andreescu had her knee taped and she played through the first set, even challenging Pliskova's serve with three break-point opportunities in the fifth game. "I fought with the pain as much as I could but at some point an athlete has to stop and just listen to their body," Andreescu said. "It's disappointing because this is the last tournament of the year and you want to go all out."

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