By Ros Satar, in Singapore

  • Karolina Pliskova [3] def. Venus Williams [5] 6-2 6-2
  • Garbiñe Muguruza [2] def. Jelena Ostapenko [7] 6-4 6-4
SINGAPORE – Karolina Pliskova opened the WTA Finals with an impressive display over Venus Williams while Garbine Muguruza edged past Jelena Ostapenko.

 

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Karolina Pliskova [3] def. Venus Williams [5] 6-2 6-2

Despite all the comments in the pre-tournament press about the speed (or lack thereof) of the court, experience won out in the opening match of the WTA Finals in Singapore.

Karolina Pliskova’s first year in the Singapore Indoor Stadium may have started well with a bruising win but petered out. Somehow it feels that will not be the case as she played controlled attacking tennis, shutting seven-time Slam champion Venus Williams out.

Venus Williams at the WTA Finals, Singapore 2017

Venus Williams at the WTA Finals, Singapore 2017 (c) Jimmie48 Tennis Photography

It was a whirlwind start for the Czech who quickly jumped out to a 3-0 lead over the veteran American. Williams found her feet to break back in the next brace of games, but Pliskova put the hammer down with an immediate break to love, before another to wrap up the first set.

The second set looked like we would see the comeback as Williams worked to put more pressure on Pliskova, but was unable to make two break point chances count, with the Czech making her pay with a break straight after.

Williams fended off another in her next service game to keep the deficit to just a single break but to no avail – she made Pliskova work for the match though saving three match points, but succumbing on the fourth.

No stranger to the round robin format, Williams was hardly effusive post-match, but knows this is by no means over for her.

She said: I have been in this position before. So I will be back on Tuesday. Definitely was playing better in the second set but she just seemed to have all the answers. You know, some days that’s how it is.

“I’m already on to the next one.”

Pliskova, one of the more laid back character on the tour, allowed herself a rare moment of satisfaction as she summed up her performance of the day.

She said: “I felt pretty good. Actually, I felt really good (smiling). I think everything was fine with my game today.

“I was absolutely calm about it. I knew even if I will have lost this game I still had my serve, which I lost once. So I was okay.”

It is difficult to know which ought to be considered the ‘group of death’ with the big hitters in one and the tricky scramblers in another but one year on from her Singapore debut, Pliskova is happy with how the chips fell.

“I think the game of Venus and maybe the game of all the girls, it’s better than what I had last year in my group. I always feel better against those [aggressive style] players.”

There was a further stillness of soul as Renee Stubbs came out on court with positive reinforcement for her charge, whose second serve was and mid-court game was proving to be brutal.

Pliskova would not, however, be drawn on any comments regarding Barbora Strycova’s accusations of coach-rustling.

“I just want to focus on those matches what I have here, on my weeks, on my team, and not any other things.

“It’s not my problem what she’s doing. My team is absolutely fine. It’s going to be fine even for next year, so I don’t have any problems with that.”

 

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Garbiñe Muguruza [2] def. Jelena Ostapenko [7] 6-3 6-4

Garbine Muguruza in the WTA Finals, Singapore 2017

Garbine Muguruza in the WTA Finals, Singapore 2017 (c) Jimmie48 Tennis Photography

Garbiñe Muguruza had to see off some opening match jitters against the tricky and feisty Jelena Ostapenko who, at times, reminded her that all it would take is a simple lapse for life to get very complicated.

While it was another straight sets win on opening night, the Spaniard was made to work for it as they traded breaks in the first set with Muguruza just hanging on to the advantage.

Things looked a little more comfortable in the second set, with a 4-1 lead behind her, but Ostapenko was tenacious, to say the least, and tugged another break out of her as Muguruza was serving for the match.

It was a case of third time’s the charm as Muguruza finally converted on her third try.

She said, after the match: “I wanted to win so badly, and she was just not giving me anything. I think she was even playing incredible shots but she was down. And, you know, I thought it’s normal that she’s playing incredible and I’d kind of wait for my moment, where until I serve and try to take control. It went well.”

Experience once more was key as Muguruza adjusted quicker to the conditions that Ostapenko, who wished she could have had more time on the court to get the feel of the ball.

Muguruza continued: “Every game counts, every set, because at the end only two are going to pass. And previous winners had lost twice and they have won, which is incredible. I take it as a final, honestly, every point, every game, every set.”

The White Group play on Tuesday starting with Ostapenko v Williams, followed by Muguruza v Pliskova. Play continues on Monday at 7:30pm (12:30pm BST).

Main Image: Jimmie48 Tennis Photography

 

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