The 2017 WTA Finals in Singapore continued on Monday with the first matches from the red group. Just like yesterday, both matches were done and dusted in straight sets as Simona Halep and Caroline Wozniacki produced brilliant displays to start with wins. Read on for reviews of the matches and links to match highlights and press conferences from the WTA’s social media pages. For a preview of day 3, click HERE.
1. Simona Halep d. Caroline Garcia, 6-4 6-2 (Singapore, Round Robin)
In her first official match as world number one, Halep produced a convincing display to snap Caroline Garcia’s 11 match winning streak with a 6-4 6-2 victory.
Halep was forced to fight hard in her first service game, a five-deuce, nine-minute game where she saved two break points. After an exchange of breaks to love, it was Halep who drew away at 4-4 to win the opener. Halep’s coach, Darren Cahill, had advised her on a changeover to focus on the Garcia backhand and not to leave the ball short in the court because Garcia was moving around onto her more lethal forehand side. Halep did a good job at sticking to the tactic and forcing errors off the backhand wing.
Garcia saved a break point at *4-4 *30-40 with a terrific kick second serve, but ultimately two double faults in the game cost her including one on break point. Halep served out the set on her third set point with a rousing redirected backhand winner down-the-line. Garcia had saved the first set point with a wow return winner, yet Halep kept landing decisive second serves in court to bring up set points. Halep’s second serve was on the money as she continually took risks and actually won a higher percentage of points behind it than the first serve – 71% compared to 50%.
The second set was as good as it gets for Halep. The highlight was two games from 2-1 up which she won from 0-40 down. The first of those on serve, she had rather inexplicably lost her way with two double faults. Halep reacted in stunning fashion and was both confident and clinical in turning defence into attack with an array of winners. Garcia’s game rather unravelled in the second set with a rush of errors as Halep’s relentless baseline consistency carried her home for the straight sets win in one hour and 27 minutes.
Simona Halep – 62% of first serves in, 62% of first serve points won, 71% of second serve points won
Caroline Garcia – 61% of first serves in, 58% of first serve points won, 43% of second serve points won
Nothing groundbreaking from Simona who seemed happy with her performance.
I thought this was a brilliant display from Halep, particularly the second set, and she played better than Garcia in the big moments. The serve again was a big deal and carrying on from Beijing where it was vastly improved. I was impressed how Halep really went after the second serve and seemed to take more risks. It’s clear to see she is thriving right now in Singapore.
For Garcia, I thought she started well but it kind of went away from her. The Frenchwoman struggled to close at the net on occasion (often letting the ball drop too low) and then keep up with Halep who had a really good day. The stats had Garcia at 16 unforced errors but it felt a lot more than that!
2. Caroline Wozniacki d. Elina Svitolina, 6-2 6-0 (Singapore, Round Robin)
In a fourth straight setter at this year’s WTA Finals, a super-aggressive Wozniacki won the last ten games to beat a lacklustre, Svitolina for the first time, 6-2 6-0! This was a real shocker and it’s rare to see Svitolina on this end of such a one-sided scoreline.
As many of the matches have done so far this week, the early signs were promising for a high quality and competitive match through the first five games. Svitolina looked decent early doors and was coming forward and even serve and volleyed!
It was Wozniacki though who was winning free points off her serve and from 2-2, she completely ran away with the match. The Dane looked so comfortable and was absolutely ripping the backhand. Svitolina’s coach, Andrew Bettles came on at a changeover towards the end of the first set and advised Svitolina to direct more to Wozniacki’s forehand and to vary the height – this seemed a decent tactic, or at least something to try, but Svitolina struggled to implement it as an increasingly aggressive and confident, Wozniacki took the opener.
The second set was a quick one as Wozniacki rolled through for the loss of just nine points! Bettles asked for more intensity from Svitolina but she just couldn’t get her feet moving, producing a series of uncharacteristic errors. Based on the stats, Wozniacki didn’t hit an unforced error in the second set as she scored a big win to continue her excellent record in Singapore.
Caroline Wozniacki – 72% of first serves in, 76% of first serve points won, 62% of second serve points won, 16 winners and 5 unforced errors
Elina Svitolina – 69% of first serves in, 52% of first serve points won, 8% of second serve points won, 10 winners and 18 unforced errors
It was a tough day for Svitolina but I liked her attitude and she was smiling/laughing at the end. Svitolina said she had a terrible day and described it as one of the worst matches from her side in a few years BUT she did give a lot of credit to how well Wozniacki played. There was a funny moment at the end as Svitolina didn’t realise she was playing Garcia next…
Wozniacki talked about how staying healthy has been key to breaking the top ten again and her go-to Karaoke song 😂
Svitolina was all smiles coming out onto court but certainly wasn’t by the end. I really felt for her as she blazed out in error-strewn fashion looking devoid of ideas about how to turn it around. I felt like Svitolina could have directed more to Wozniacki’s forehand and taken on her coach’s advice. Her energy was lacking and the second set just went away too fast. It’s easy to say what Svitolina could have done differently from my position but it was just a bad day. If anyone’s going to turn it around and particularly with her positive mindset (see her press conference) then it is Elina.
Wozniacki continued on from her stunning Asian swing with another terrific display. The forehand has impressed me of late, but it was the backhand today that was razor sharp. It’s great to see Wozniacki being so aggressive – what i’d like to see is the Dane keeping up with the gameplan when challenged by a power player. Perhaps we will see that later this week. The serve is becoming more of a weapon and from this match, there were no signs she was bothered by the elbow injury picked up in practice in Hong Kong.
Four matches and four straight setters! Interesting stat to note – the four debutants in Singapore went 0-4 which I think is a valid stat and shows that this is a court that you need matches on to get used to it.
Fingers crossed for more competitive matches tomorrow. I had a rare Monday off work and it was so nice to focus on tennis (and baking!). Back to work tomorrow…