By Ros Satar, in Singapore
- Petra Kvitova  v Elina Svitolina 
- Caroline Wozniacki  v Karolina Pliskova 
SINGAPORE – After dashes over the finish line, glamour at the draw, it is time to get down to business as former WTA Final champions Petra Kvitova and Caroline Wozniacki swing into action.
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Petra Kvitova  v Elina Svitolina  | H2H: Kvitova leads 7-1
The 2011 champion Petra Kvitova is first off the blocks when she takes on Elina Svitolina in the first match of the WTA Finals. Svitolina may have won their first encounter in 2014, but since then it has been one-way traffic to the Czech.
Kvitova’s comeback from the knife attack which threatened to end her career was nothing short of miraculous, and she reached the final on her last time out here in 2015. This has been an outstanding year now that Kvitova has come full circle since December 2017.
She has won the most titles this season and had the longest winning streak (14 matches on the bounce) in amongst that spree of titles, but her consistency has waned a little – surprisingly on the grass and towards the end of the Chinese swing, but she is still very much a favourite to make a deep run here.
Svitolina, in the other hand may well want to forget what felt like a miserable first time out at the season ending finale. She had a bruising encounter with the eventual champion Caroline Wozniacki before losing to Caroline Garcia, at which point she looked like she wanted to be anywhere but here.
This year her participation came down to the wire, initially qualifying as Kiki Bertens was knocked out early in Moscow – and she had half an eye on Zhuhai!
She said, during the media access day: “It was until the last moment almost we didn’t know. But, you know, I was just trying to really don’t think so much about it.
Of course, it was in my mind, but, you know, I was preparing to play in Zhuhai, actually (smiling).
“I would be more sad if I would be preparing to play here and then not got in. That’s why I was, like, okay, I’m going to play in Zhuhai.”
With Kvitova reckoning that the courts are a little faster this year (while Svitolina has consigned the whole sorry episode to a distant blur), you have to give the Czech the advantage in this first match.
Svitolina is not without some aspects to her game that could trouble Kvitova. She has powerful and mostly consistent ground strokes and a decent enough serve, and good movement around the court, but she can be a bit of a mess at the net when she gets there.
Kvitova’s serving is key, not to mention being a tricky leftie, and she is one who will use her serve placement very much to her advantage. She can hit a heavy ball and can create sharp angles and if she can keep the errors that somehow creep into her game, she ought to breeze through her opener. She has only been taken to a decider by the Ukrainian once.
Prediction: Kvitova in straight sets.
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Caroline Wozniacki  v Karolina Pliskova 
Defending champion Wozniacki is a player who by her own admission, seems to have stood the test of time. She has seen many of her generation of players come and go but has managed to hang on in a game that has changed and evolved over the nine years since her debut at the season ending finale in 2009.
With the exception of 2011, she has come through the group stages, and last year this was her biggest title win to date. Karolina Pliskova seems to have a bit more of a steady progression – going out in the group stages of her debut and making it to the semi-final of the event last year.
She has been pretty consistent through the year, winning the title and a car she had no licence ot drive in Stuttgart, and reached the quarter-finals of the US open. Her Asian swing gave her some momentum in the chase for the final berths in Singapore, and like Svitolina, her place was secured when Bertens fell early in Moscow – a relief for Pliskova who had a horror of a trip back to Europe, losing in the first round to home crowd favourite Vera Zvonareva.
The early years of this match-up was all the Dane’s way but since the Doha Final last year, where Pliskova finally snapped a three-match losing streak, they have passed the baton back and forth, which makes this a far more even match up than their head to head would suggest.
The faster court should suit the Czechs a lot more with a hefty serve and attacking style of play. Wozniacki’s famed defence will come to the for as she looks to get on the end of those serving bombs to get herself into the game.
Wozniacki’s title run last year gave her the momentum to back that up with a maiden slam at the Australian Open, and in a sense she has nothing to prove, but defending her crown will be a strong motivation to break the cycle of their swapping wins, especially seeing as their last encounter was here in the semi-final.
Prediction: Wozniacki in three sets.
Kvitova & Svitolina are scheduled on Centre Court at 5pm (10am BST), with Wozniacki & Pliskova not before 7:30pm (12:30pm BST).
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