WTA Finals – Draw and opening match previews

By Ros Satar

  • Red Group – Simona Halep [1], Maria Sharapova [3], Agnieszka Radwanska [5], Flavia Pennetta [7]
  • White Group – Garbiñe Muguruza [2], Petra Kvitova [4], Angelique Kerber [6], Lucie Safarova [8]

SINGAPORE – After perhaps a frantic race to the end over the past week or so, the field has been set for culmination of the WTA Season for the top eight players.

Tennis: Full Draws and Schedules

In an all-European line-up, with the absence of World No. 1 Serena Williams, the field has three players making their debuts: Garbiñe Muguruza, Flavia Pennetta and Lucie Safarova.

With a mad rush at the end for the final slots, we have a couple of intriguing groups. In the red corner is last year’s finalist Simona Halep as top seed along with Maria Sharapova looking for some form after another bout of injury played havoc with her season. Agnieszka Radwanska and Pennetta complete the group.

Meanwhile Muguruza finds herself in a group of lefties as former champion (2011) Petra Kvitova and compatriot Safarova are joined by Angelique Kerber. 

The spread of experience varies. Pennetta makes her debut in a group with a former champion, finalist and semi-finalist. With Halep having retired in Beijing, Sharapova having retired in Wuhan and Pennetta pulling out of her quarter-final in Moscow, it might be in Radwanska’s favour as she found a good run of form to pick up the Tianjin title and her spot in Singapore.

In the White group, there are two newbies as Muguruza enters the singles fray for the first time this year, along with Lucie Safarova, with both players also in the doubles field as well. Illness, injury and fatigue also plays a part in this group with Kvitova having taken a break in the season to combat exhaustion, before admitting she had been diagnosed with mononucleosis during Wimbledon. Compatriot Safarova was laid low by a bacterial infection, and is possibly a little match short, while Kerber had the frustration of being told she had qualified only to have to wait it out after withdrawing from Moscow to see how other results panned out.

It could well be Muguruza in the better form, having secured her biggest title so far in Beijing, before heading to Singapore to prepare for the challenges ahead.

 

Simona Halep [1] v Flavia Pennetta [7] – Head to head: 1-4

It’s a tough opener for the top seed. As great a scrambler as Halep is, Pennetta has always seemed to have the better of her, with solid skills at the net and a great variety of shot over the hard-hitting Halep.

Halep has been trying to grapple with the weight of expectation on her after a couple of breakthrough years in 2013 when she won no less than 6 titles in the year, following that up with her maiden Slam final.

The aggressive baseliner is looking to have more than just potent groundstrokes to her name, and although her foots-peed around the court is impressive, she has never really found an answer to Pennetta’s balance of power and finesse. She has at least beaten Pennetta once though, which is more than can be said for her record against Sharapova, so she might fancy her chances, having finally got a win against the Italian earlier this year in Miami. But it was a straight forward win for the Italian at the US Open, and playing free in her final tournament could give Halep a headache to start.

 

Maria Sharapova [3] v Agnieszka Radwanska [5]

If ever there was a time for Radwanska to snap her five match losing streak against Sharapova, this would be the time to do it. Having lost twice to Sharapova in the WTA season-ending finale, it is the Pole that seems to have the best form of the moment in the group, having won the Tianjin final and she seems to have re-ignited her flame since the grass court season.

Sharapova, as always plays cards close to her chest. Even if she knows she is not fully fit, the consummate professional in her doesn’t allow her to admit any frailties to waiting press, but there is no denying her form over Radwanska who will need to deploy all of her trademark ‘ninja’ skills and use of crazy angles to make Sharapova work hard if she wants to extend her winning margin.

It will come down to whether the Russian can capitalise on Radwanska’s comparatively weaker serve which can leave her vulnerable to attack. Sharapova can probably expect a big workout though, and could be pushed to three sets.

Halep and Pennetta are scheduled not before 3pm (7am GMT), with Sharapova and Radwanska scheduled not before 7:30pm (11:30am GMT).

 

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