The 2017 WTA Finals in Singapore will start on Sunday with round robin action. The focus of the first day is the white group, aka the big hitters group, featuring Garbiñe Muguruza, Karolina Pliskova, Venus Williams and Jelena Ostapenko. The two winners of these match-ups will play each other on Tuesday. Let’s take a look at the best matches on day 1…
1. Karolina Pliskova vs. Venus Williams (Sunday, 5pm local time)
The 2017 WTA Finals in Singapore will open with the number three seed, Karolina Pliskova taking on the number five seed, Venus Williams – this is one of the potential match-ups that I really wanted to see! The pair last met at the US Open in 2016 in one of the matches of the year.
Since reaching the latter stages of the US Open, neither player has been in great form – Pliskova remained reasonably consistent with quarter-final showings in Tokyo and Wuhan, but came up short in both and then lost out in the third round of Beijing to Sorana Cirstea where her serve evaded her in a 1-6 5-7 loss. Williams played just one tournament through the Asian swing in Hong Kong where she struggled on serve in a 5-7 2-6 second round loss to Naomi Osaka.
Head-to-head record: The pair are split at 1-1 in their head-to-head – Williams won their first encounter in the final of Zhuhai in 2015, 7-5 7-6(6), a high quality affair. Their most recent match at last year’s US Open saw Pliskova save a match point to win, 4-6 6-4 7-6(3) en route to reaching her first Slam final. As I wrote in my review of that match, the first two sets were so-so and the final set was sensational. More of that third set please…
Interesting stat/news: There are some interesting developments on the coaching front for Karolina Pliskova (😬) yet for this tournament, the Czech player will be supported by Rennae Stubbs. Williams is returning to the WTA Finals line-up for the first time since 2009. The American last triumphed at this event in 2008 in Doha when she beat Vera Zvonareva in the final.
Final thoughts: You’re going to hear this a lot during the course of the week… I could see this one going either way. Going on instinct – Venus? 🤷😂. Pliskova has been super consistent of late at getting through the early rounds of tournaments but hasn’t always found her A-game in the big matches at the top tournaments. Williams has been tremendous at the Slams this year and Singapore is the next best thing so i’d guess she is relishing the prospect of playing against the top eight.
2. Garbiñe Muguruza vs. Jelena Ostapenko (Sunday, NB 7:30pm local time)
Just two of the four 2017 Slam champs are in Singapore and they will meet on the first evening in a blockbuster match-up – the first of many this week!
Garbiñe Muguruza will play her first match since retiring due to illness in Beijing. The Spaniard had also been playing with heavy strapping on her leg through Asia. Muguruza had built a superb 23-6 W-L record since the start of Wimby – the losses she took during this period were not bad ones. During the second half of the season, Muguruza has been focused and consistent, driving forward with her brand of aggressive baseline hitting and becoming a really difficult player to break down and ultimately beat.
Jelena Ostapenko had her first wobble post-French Open during the summer hard court season where she lost her first matches in Toronto and Cincy. However, the Latvian player has rallied in Asia with a series of consistent results including a second title in Seoul. The serve remains an area for concern and has broken down in many matches, yet she has managed to power through on return and with her baseline game which both remain lethal.
Head-to-head record: Muguruza leads Ostapenko, 2-1 in their head-to-head. Both of their matches this year have gone the distance with the winner coming from a set down. Ostapenko won during this year’s Asian Swing in Wuhan, 1-6 6-3 6-2 in the quarter-finals.
Interesting stat: Both players have built stunning records in three set matches through the course of 2017 – Muguruza is 17-6 and Ostapenko is 22-7. Since Charleston, Ostapenko has 21 of 24 three setters!
Final thoughts: Key to this match will be whether Muguruza has managed to recover from injury/illness after she looked a little broken towards the end of the Asian Swing. I’m fascinated to see whether experience plays a part in this match. This will be Ostapenko’s first showing in Singapore and at the WTA Finals. Based on how she tore through the latter stages of the French Open, i’d guess not. The slower court (based on previous years) may be more of an issue for Ostapenko although if anyone can hit through it, it will be Ostapenko.
I could see this one going either way 😂😂😂.
White Group Poll – who will qualify?