By Ros Satar
- Simona Halep  v Caroline Garcia 
- Elina Svitolina  v Caroline Wozniacki 
SINGAPORE – Simona Halep begins her reign as the World No. 1 against Caroline Garcia, Elina Svitolina faces Caroline Wozniacki.
Simona Halep  v Caroline Garcia  | H2H: Halep leads 2-1
Simona Halep begins her bid to clinch the year-end crown, and her biggest title to date, as she opens her account on Monday against Caroline Garcia. Halep has had the biggest rollercoaster of a year coming into this tournament, finally gaining the World No. 1 spot with her win over Jelena Ostapenko in Beijing.
There was a hint of swagger to the fifth woman in 2017 to hold the top spot as she took to the stage in the pre-tournament press conferences, her responses giving a little insight into the journey she has gone through to get to this point.
“It’s a great feeling, for sure. I’m really excited to be here and to be No. 1 in the world. Inside I can say that something is changed. I’m very happy about what I did.
“The dream came true. Is just the best feeling that I ever had in my tennis career so far. It’s nice. I’m just enjoying the moment. I cannot describe in words what I feel, but it’s a good feeling. I’m happy when I’m going to the courts now.”
Halep leads the red group, and all the players made a point of commenting on how slow the court is.
She continued: “I have to run a lot in my group (smiling). All the players are like moving well. I don’t have big hitters, yeah, as I know. Garcia is playing a little bit harder and she hits the ball stronger.
“It’s going to be a very tough group. Every match is going to be difficult. But, you know, we have the top eight players in the world, and everyone is playing crazy tennis.”
Halep’s run of form in Beijing ended though at the hands of Garcia. The emotions of the win over Ostapenko that finally brought her the No. 1 spot left her spent and leaden, and with Garcia coming in on an 11-match winning spree having done the Wuhan and Beiing double makes this an intriguing encounter.
While Garcia is the only one of the last eight to not figure in any of the No. 1 scenarios, she will be a tough start for the Romanian. Both are great movers on the court, Garcia’s doubles prowess stands her in good stead to handle the net and she has a lot of variation to her game.
While Halep falls best under the guise of an aggressive baseliner, she can scramble around the court with the best of them and can go toe-to-toe with some of the powerful servers.
She has the experience of playing both at the Finals, and at this event, and that might be the small margin she needs to edge her opener.
Prediction: Halep in three sets.
Elina Svitolina  v Caroline Wozniacki  | H2H: Svitolina leads 3-0
Svitolina leads the title tally of all the eight players, having scooped five wins in 2017. Wozniacki could have been right up there having made six finals before converting on lucky number seven, and keeping her record intact of having won a final every year since 2008.
What makes slightly less good reading for the Dane is that she trails Svitolina in their head to head, with two of those defeats coming in the finals of Dubai and Toronto this year.
Wozniacki is best known as one of the tour’s enduring counter-punchers. She can switch from defence to attack, but will always make her opponent play an extra ball.
Equally consistent, Svitolina prefers to play a sold baseline game, with steady groundstrokes and decent power behind them. Her backhand tends to be a bit more dangerous, but she can certainly match Wozniacki for court coverage and speed, but if Wozniacki can pull her towards the net, she could do some damage – the Ukrainian is not renowned for her volleying prowess.
Neither had an amazing Asian swing, but the edge might have to go to Svitolina, and Wozniacki will have her work cut out to take her first win over the Ukrainian.
Prediction: Svitolina in two sets.
Halep & Garcia are scheduled at 7:30pm (12:30m BST), followed by Svitolina & Wozniacki.
Main Image: Jimmie48 Tennis Photography
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