The 2018 WTA Finals in Singapore are officially underway after the first set of matches were played out on Sunday from the white group. I’m disappointed that I have not been able to blog regularly over the past month. I’m going to try my best to keep up with Singapore and Zhuhai, the latter which I am arguably more intrigued by with a superb line-up emerging. This post reviews Sunday’s matches which saw the two underdogs both triumph in straight sets. Previews and polls for each day can be found on the separate page linked in the banner at the top of the page.
Elina Svitolina d. Petra Kvitova, 6-3 6-3
Brushing aside recent form and a lopsided head-to-head, Elina Svitolina got off to a good start in Singapore with a 6-3 6-3 win over Petra Kvitova. Svitolina had lost her last 12 sets (!) against Kvitova and arrived in Singapore on the back of a poor spell of form. The Ukrainian player produced a steady display to score a first top ten win since Rome. I was most impressed by Svitolina’s depth and her ability to keep feeding Kvitova balls.
Kvitova looked increasingly sluggish as the match wore on and was off on both serve and return. Kvitova landed only 55% of first serves in and hit seven double faults. Kvitova was unable to take advantage of a plethora of mini openings on Svitolina’s serve – every single game in the second set went to 30-30 or deuce, yet Kvitova was unable to consistently find her rhythm on return.
Coming into Singapore, I think there was very little pressure and expectation on Svitolina as she arrived out-of-form and seemingly out-of-contention. It’s a cliché but it does feel like Elina has nothing to lose. While she played a good match, I don’t think I was as impressed as the commentators on WTA TV!
I keep having to remind myself that qualifying for Singapore is an incredible achievement for Kvitova. It’s very easy to lose sight of what she has been through and expect more. It does feel as if all the matches during the first half of the year may be catching up with Kvitova. Still, it’s great to see Petra in Singapore. The joy of the WTA Finals is that she is still in the running and is the type of player that can produce wildly contrasting displays from day-to-day!
Karolina Pliskova d. Caroline Wozniacki, 6-2 6-4
The second match of the day was yet another high quality edition in the Pliskova-Wozniacki rivalry. The pair fought out a closely contested semi-final in Singapore last year and their Eastbourne final from 2017 was also excellent. Still, this match-up doesn’t draw me in like others and that is perhaps just of personal taste to me.
This was one of the best performances that i’ve seen from Pliskova all year. I thought her tactics were spot on. She was patient, yet forceful and scored a whole host of winners struck sweetly down-the-line. Pliskova made few errors and surprisingly, seemed to win the majority of lengthy exchanges. The key stat was that Pliskova saved all ten break points that she faced. I thought this was a result of both players – Pliskova was clutch landing many first serves, but Wozniacki seemed to back off on return.
Wozniacki made a slow start but did improve in the second with her only main downfall being the conversion rate on break points. This was Wozniacki’s first ever straight sets loss in Singapore. I’m still content for Wozniacki’s chances this week based on the overall performance.
The press conferences (posted on the WTA Facebook page) were interesting to say the least. You wouldn’t have believed that Kvitova had lost as she was jolly as ever! The Czech player was positive about her performance as she noted that there were a lot of games where she had openings. Wozniacki was also relatively upbeat considering the result. The Dane did remark that the court seems to be playing differently this year.
Svitolina was forced to halt her press conference after taking a funny turn. Hopefully nothing serious for Svitolina. She did mention about proving the haters who had questioned her participation in Singapore wrong.
The first matches from the white group on Monday will see Naomi Osaka take on Sloane Stephens and Angelique Kerber play Kiki Bertens.