Can Belinda Bencic take a decisive step towards Shenzhen qualification with a statement win over high-flying Kristina Mladenovic?
<div><h2><strong>Kristina Mladenovic vs. Belinda Bencic(3)</strong></h2><p><strong>Saturday, October 19, Moscow</strong><br /><br />Kristina Mladenovic is putting together quite the campaign here in Moscow this week. Questing for singles success after her illustrious doubles career, the 26-year old Frenchwoman has played exceptionally well thus far. Previously having never won back-to-back matches in Moscow, the world no. 45 has had to battle hard to manage to overcome that poor record. After five straight last 16 exits, "Kiki" was able to buck the trend, overcoming last year´s semifinalist Anastasija Sevastova in three sets. In the quarterfinal, a brutal matchup would await, as world no. 8 and number 2 seed Kiki Bertens stood for the opposition.<br /><br />Bertens, locked into a brutal race for the last spot in the Race to Shenzhen with Belinda Bencic in the same half, had been managing the pressure well thus far. Overcoming the lethal Kaia Kanepi from a set and several breaks down, the Dutchwoman knew she had to get further than Bencic who did the same thing in her own match - in order to qualify. But it would be Mladenovic who started the best, taking advantage of a slow Bertens start, taking the opening set 6-4. The world no. 8 would roar back to take the second set 6-2. However, while the Frenchwoman played devious slices and approached the net with confidence, her Dutch opponent looked like she´d seen a ghost. Muttering to herself and throwing her racquet at the ball, Mladenovic would storm to take the decider 6-1 and claimed her fourth top-10 scalp of 2019 in doing so.<br /><br />In this matchup, the Frenchwoman will face another top-10 opponent in Belinda Bencic. After a great season, the Swiss had one mission, and one mission only coming into this week: Snatch the last spot in the Race to Shenzhen from the clutches of world no. 8 Kiki Bertens. Trailing by 165 points, in order to accomplish that feat, she needed to reach the finals. Which, as the pair were drawn in the same half, meant either beating the Dutchwoman in the semifinal - or hope that someone else did. Bencic slipped up badly in Linz, losing in her first match and lost valuable ground in doing so, but the world no. 3 has battled well to overcome the tricky Polona Hercog in her first match here, coming back from both a 1-6 first set, and 0-3 in the deciding set:</p><p><a href="http://a.oddsmarket.com/record/v?c=164&a=f339dce1-88de-4994-ab6a-c24e019bdf3b&f=3" target="_blank"><img alt src="https://cmscdn.staticcache.org/assets/image/0003/1348572/WHC_27064_Updated-In-Play-Tennis-Insurance_1280x480NEW.jpg" style="width:100%" /></a><br />"She has a difficult game style for me. I don’t like it so much and I had a hard time adapting to it but I’m happy with my fighting spirit today,"<br />Bencic said afterwards.</p><p>"Everyone’s very tired now it’s the end of the season. It’s all about your mentality now. I’m trying to relax and play how I’ve played this season."<br /><br />In the quarterfinal she faced a tricky test in Kirsten Flipkens. The veteran and former world no. 13 tried throwing all kinds of balls back into play against the Swiss world no. 10 to force her into errors. Working very hard and hanging well with her higher ranked opponent, the first set was tightly contested and went to a tiebreak. After saving two set points, it was Bencic who won the set 10-8 in breaker, and from there on there wasn´t any doubt. Redlining her game in the second set, the nuumber 3 seed stormed to a 6-1 scoreline to wrap up the match.<br /><br />This matchup will pit a counterpunching phenom against a power hitting opponent, where Mladenovic will look to step into the court and dictate proceedings - and happily rush forward and finish points at the net. It´s actually the Frenchwoman who has dominated this H2H matchup, winning four in a row and leading the way 4-1. All but one of these matchups came over two years ago however, at a time where Bencic was struggling for fitness and motivation.<br /><br />The Swiss is a completely different player since then, and leads the hold/break numbers over the last 12 months on hard court by a whopping 10.5%. Furthermore, Belinda holds an <strong>overwhelming 178 point ELO edge </strong>this season. However, Mladenovic has been playing with enormous confidence and battled her way through three straight three-setters to get here and won´t be an ease out. But Bencic often plays her very best counterpunching tennis against power hitters. I expect her to be able to redirect Kiki´s power and use it against her quite successfully. With Bertens out, the Swiss holds her Shenzhen fate in entirely in her own hands. Expect Belinda to take full advantage. The -2.5 games handicap pays 1.78 with Pinnacle, and will be our selection in this one.<br /><br /><a href="http://a.oddsmarket.com/record/v?c=155&a=6a145d2b-505f-491b-a70e-2f5f31742828&f=1" rel="nofollow" target="_blank" title="Tennis Betting Odds"><strong><em>Best bet: Bencic -2.5 games at 1.78 (7/10) with [Pinnacle] 1.5u</em></strong></a></p></div>