I’ve followed the tour fleetingly through the Asian Swing so these thoughts are coming from my viewing position high up! The polls will be updated throughout the week.
Sunday Final Poll
Thoughts about both semi-finals, Svitolina vs. Bertens and Pliskova vs. Stephens, are up on the main page here
Saturday’s SF Polls
Naomi Osaka vs. Kiki Bertens: This is yet another red group match-up where there is very little data to go on in the head-to-head record. Osaka won their only previous match, 6-4 6-2 in Acapulco over two years ago. Osaka spoke in her press conference about the serve letting her down. Osaka has been very inconsistent throughout the week but still managed to force a third set in both her matches. I’ve been impressed by Bertens who produced fighting displays against both Kerber and Stephens, just coming up short in the latter. Osaka remains unpredictable to say the least. I think this one will depend on whether she can find her serve. If she does, big if, i’d fancy her to bag a first win.
Angelique Kerber vs. Sloane Stephens: Stephens dominates the H2H, 4-1 against Kerber and hasn’t dropped a set in any of her wins with their most recent match taking place in Miami earlier this year. Stephens won, 6-1 6-2 on the slow hard courts. Kerber battled hard in her last round against Osaka and it was definitely her best win since Wimbledon, much for the way that she weathered the Osaka storm and kept fighting away in the decider. The win over Osaka was huge for Kerber but I find it hard to go against a rock-solid Stephens on these slow hard courts.
Friday’s RR Polls
Petra Kvitova vs. Karolina Pliskova: Of the four matches in Singapore on Thursday, there are seven (!) Czech players in action including this all Czech singles match. Kvitova improved against Wozniacki compared to her opening match, but seemed to run out of energy in the third set. Pliskova too looked a little flat at the end of her match against Svitolina, not a surprise considering her brutal schedule over the past few weeks.
Interestingly, Kvitova leads Pliskova, 3-0 in their head-to-head. I remember heading into their Madrid clash earlier this year being quite confident that Pliskova would turn the H2H around but Kvitova was the better player on that day and won in straights. I tend to think Kvitova is going to summon some late wizardry in this tournament and score her first win of the week.
Caroline Wozniacki vs. Elina Svitolina: I’m really surprised by Svitolina’s resurgence this week because there was absolutely no warning of it from her recent form! I really liked Svitolina’s positive energy in a three set win over Pliskova. Wozniacki has been pretty steady this tournament, certainly not with same confidence and aggression as last year. Still, she was very solid in the third set against Kvitova, serving very well.
Svitolina had owned this match-up until Singapore last year where Woz dished out a pretty shocking beatdown, 6-2 6-0. Svitolina has spoken in press about being too nervous last year and this was her first ever match at the WTA Finals. Svitolina only needs a set but I think she will be all-out for the win and not be thinking about that. I’ve gone against Svits in both her first two matches so i’m wary to ruin her chances 🤔😂. I do think the match-up favours Svitolina…
Thursday’s RR Polls
Angelique Kerber vs. Naomi Osaka: I feel this could become a classic match-up over the next few years with the contrast in styles. Along with Stephens-Osaka, this was one of the matches I was most looking forward to from the round robin stage.
Osaka was very frustrated in her opening match and I feel it’s physical and mental tiredness from everything that’s happened over the past few months. I also feel Osaka needs more time to adjust to the court and conditions. Kerber was relentless at the start of her match against Bertens but became increasingly passive as the match wore on.
Kerber leads the head-to-head against Osaka, 3-1 and won their most recent match at Wimby. This was a super match and surely one of Kerber’s best performances of the entire year. She served so well and made so few errors. I expect this to be a very different match. I feel a bit like I did for Woz-Kvitova on this one. I feel like Kerber is the safer pick but Osaka is an enigma and difficult to gauge, which makes it fascinating to me to see how this pans out. I’ll take a whirl with Osaka on this one.
Sloane Stephens vs. Kiki Bertens: I didn’t get a chance to write about Kerber-Bertens so here we go. From all eight players, I think I was most impressed with Kiki from the first round of matches. The way she managed to come back against Kerber from a set and a break down was mightily impressive. She started playing with more intensity and hitting aggressively in the second set, ripping on the Kerber second serve. Ultimately she backed herself and her game, and it paid off. I was most impressed with Stephens’s attitude in her first match as she was very positive and did most things well. I’m looking forward to this match with the pair having played just once before back in 2013. Similar feeling to the first match but ultimately not as inclined to take a whirl so sticking with Stephens.
Wednesday’s RR Polls
Caroline Wozniacki vs. Petra Kvitova: The pair will be playing each other for the third time at the WTA Finals. I thought Wozniacki played OK on Sunday and just simply missed her opportunities in that second set. Kvitova was quite positive in press despite her opening round loss. Based on what I saw on Sunday and with the court, I feel Woz should win this? However, I know from experience that Kvitova can turn it on without much warning so i’m not prepared to write her off just yet. I’m torn…
Elina Svitolina vs. Karolina Pliskova: After losing five times in a row, Svitolina has recently enjoyed success against Pliskova winning their last two matches on tour in straights. Svitolina took a funny turn in her press conference after the win over Kvitova so hopefully she will be OK to compete. I’m generally favouring Pliskova in this match who really impressed me on Sunday with her tactics, showing both patience and positivity in her play. Pliskova seems well attuned to the court and I think she has what it takes to not be perturbed by Svitolina’s impressive defence and to be able to dictate.
Tuesday RR Polls
Naomi Osaka vs. Sloane Stephens: Of the four matches across the first two days, this is my stand-out favourite match by a long, long distance. The pair have played just once before in Acapulco two years ago where Stephens won, 6-3 7-5. There’s little to be read into the H2H though considering the advances both players have made in the last two years.
I was surprised to see Osaka as the clear favourite with the bookmakers because i’m personally struggling to separate the pair. I wouldn’t read too much into Stephens’s loss in Moscow as her qualification for Singapore had already been tied up so surely her mind was on getting to the Finals. The court still seems to be playing pretty slow (I always struggle to analyse court conditions 😂) which I think will favour Stephens because she can be an absolute wall at times. Osaka though is such an enigma in how she responds to situations. She loves the big stage so I tend to think she’s going to come out and play a great match.
Can’t wait for this one and hoping my morning meeting won’t overrun so I can catch some of this live!
Angelique Kerber vs. Kiki Bertens: Kerber and Bertens have played just the once this year in a superb third round match at Roland Garros that produced a surprise result, considering the surface, with Kerber winning, 7-6(4) 7-6(4). Bertens has played Kerber well in the past and at least has experience of Singapore from doubles. While I don’t think she will feel too much pressure, I do wonder how Bertens will react to the situation and whether she will be overwhelmed.
In her last appearance in Singapore, Kerber made the final and won four of her five matches. I can’t figure out if this is a surface that suits Kerber. Clearly she’s not opposed to it after 2016 but i’ve always thought she is at her best on speedy courts. Kerber’s form has been so-so since Wimbledon. I think she will get up for this event and I would pick Kerber to win in straights.
Monday RR Polls
Petra Kvitova vs. Elina Svitolina: The opening match of the tournament will feature arguably the two most out of form players in Singapore. Kvitova won just one match in Asia, a surprise considering it is somewhere that she has flourished in recent years. I think I read Kvitova had been ill in Asia though? Svitolina lost three matches in a row between the US Open and Beijing for the first time in nearly three years.
The head-to-head is pretty one-sided with Kvitova leading 7-1 and winning their last seven matches. I’m intrigued to see how the court plays after the WTA Insider account tweeted that the players were saying in the Saturday’s media day that it was playing faster. This would most likely favour Kvitova, who is generally at her best on a fast indoor court. Kvitova will be the clear favourite based on record and conditions but I feel Svitolina has more of a shot than the H2H lets on. A difficult one to call with both not exactly in form.
Caroline Wozniacki vs Karolina Pliskova: In all honesty, I was hoping for the red group on day 1. This match doesn’t do much for me tbh! On a positive note, they did play out a high-quality semi-final in Singapore last year where Wozniacki won, 7-6(9) 6-3. The pair played six times in 2017 but this will be their first encounter in 2018.
Both have won titles during the Asian Swing with Woz winning Beijing and Pliskova triumphing in Tokyo. I was surprised by Woz’s win in Beijing as her form had been pretty average since Eastbourne. I do think a lot of that comes down to health as the Dane has been ravaged by injuries. There’s been a clear correlation over the years with Wozniacki – when she’s fully fit and healthy, I think she is more willing to take risks and be aggressive. More than most, in my opinion, she needs to be close to full fitness to be successful on court. It will be interesting to see how a potential change in court speed affects proceedings. Last year’s court conditions was absolutely perfect for Wozniacki who played arguably her most convincing tennis to date as she absolutely tore through the field.
Pliskova produced a series of gutsy displays in Tokyo, saving match points en route to winning the title, but I don’t think she has been particularly convincing since. There’s been a general sense for me that she has become increasingly passive over the last year or two. I do like her current coaching set-up with Rennae Stubbs and Conchita Martinez both helping out.
The pair have split their last six meetings on tour. On that basis, Pliskova wins this one! Aside from patterns, I was leaning more to Woz.
Sunday RR Polls