Kerber takes aim at tournament format after bowing out
German Angelique blames tournament format for her exit
If it wasn't already apparent when she muttered angrily under her breath for fluffing her lines, it was more obvious when Angelique Kerber slammed her racket onto the ground.
And it would have been crystal clear to even the most obtuse when the camera creeped up on Kerber and her coach at the break.
One set down to Czech Lucie Safarova and 3-2 down in the second, Kerber was staring in the face of a group-stage exit at the WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global - and she was quivering.
Talking over her coach's words of encouragement, Kerber's voice raised to petulant pitch, as she slammed her racket down again, this time onto her bag.
It was evident that Kerber had already lost the head-game, and the sixth seed climbed off the bench only to step off the cliff, disintegrating on court after that, losing 6-4, 6-3 to eighth-seeded Safarova.
After Petra Kvitova had lost 6-4, 4-6, 7-5 to Garbine Muguruza earlier in the day, this was the only outcome that would have seen Safarova's Czech compatriot, Kvitova, qualify for today's semi-finals at the expense of Kerber.
And the annoyed German didn't mince her words.
"I was actually trying to be in the tunnel and just focusing on my match. But, you know, everybody around... they were counting. Okay, (Kvitova) won one set, now you must win just one set," said Kerber, who didn't specify who were the people she was referring to.
"Whatever. I don't know exactly what they thought, but I think it's fairer like in football if you play (the final group match at) the same time."
In football competitions, it is usual practice to have the final group matches kick off at the same time, to prevent any possibility of manipulation or pile on any added stress on the athletes.
"But, you know, you know the situation, and then you go on court and you try to be focused. I was trying it, but it was like too much at the end," she conceded.
"From the first point, I couldn't find my rhythm. I was actually not there. I was tight and I was not playing my tennis. Lucie played a good match for sure, but for sure it was not my best match today."
Kerber acknowledged that with just one competition court at the Singapore Indoor Stadium, and with the Finals to be hosted here till 2018, it would be impossible to implement such a change, but that did not stop her from speaking her mind.
And she does have a point.
With sports science advancements shrinking margins between one athlete and the next, some go to extreme ends to gain that one per cent of an advantage over their opposition.
But unlike the car analytics used in the Formula 1, where a quick catch of a potential situation could be rectified, there is no diagnostic programme for the athlete mind.
One wonders how the situation would have panned out if the order of play yesterday was switched, and Kerber and Safarova took to the court ahead of the Kvitova-Muguruza encounter.
"There were a lot of moments that I felt frustrated today. Today is about details, very short points, return, serve, double-fault, ace. You don't have that much time for long rallies or just to feel in the court, so it's easy to get frustrated sometimes," said Muguruza, acutely aware of the tiny margins that separated winning and losing.
"It was a very tough match. I was very nervous also because you see you have your opportunities, but you don't like have it until the end."
And Muguruza could not have claimed to have any sort of control of the match that could have passed for a break-dance battle of anything-you-can-do-I-can-do-better.
A Muguruza forehand was matched by Kvitova, a drop shot on one side of the court was followed soon by another across the net, a break of serve was countered - immediately - by another.
Indeed, there were 15 break-points won between the two, seven for Kvitova who lost the game but still won a spot in the semi-finals.
"Yeah, it was really up and down in each set, and then she really (went) forward, going to push the opponent a lot, that's what I was trying as well. I think the serves and returns weren't that strong today probably from both of us," said Kvitova, who had to depend on friend and Fed Cup teammate Safarova, for a massive favour.
And the latter will be getting a little reward for her part in the Czech one-two that knocked Kerber out.
"We met in the locker room and (Kvitova) was really happy and I'm happy for her obviously," said Safarova.
"She said she might buy me some beers."
Results and schedule
Singles (White Group)
- Garbine Muguruza (x2) bt Petra Kvitova (x4) 6-4, 4-6, 7-5
- Lucie Safarova (x8) bt Angelique Kerber (x6) 6-4, 6-3
- Martina Hingis/Sania Mirza (x1) bt Timea Babos/Kristina Mladenovic (x4) 6-4, 7-5
- Raquel Kops-Jones/Abigail Spears (x6) bt Andrea Hlavackova/Lucie Hradecka (x7) 6-3, 3-6 (11-9)
12:30pm: Doubles semi-final 1
- Martina Hingis/Sania Mirza (x1) v Chan Hao-ching/Chan Yung-jan (x5)
Not before 3:30 pm: Singles semi-final 1
- Garbine Muguruza (x2) v Agnieszka Radwanska (x5)
Not Before 6:30 pm: Singles semi-final 2
- Maria Sharapova (x3) v Petra Kvitova (x4)
Followed by: Doubles semi- final 2
- Raquel Kops-Jones/Abigail Spears (x6) v Garbine Muguruza/Carla Suarez Navarro (x8)