WTA Finals Singapore 2017

Tennis: Favourites stamp mark

Karolina Pliskova (left) in action against Venus Williams and Garbine Muguruza (right) in action against Jelena Ostapenko on WTA Finals Day 1 at the Singapore Indoor Stadium on Oct 22, 2017.
Karolina Pliskova (left) in action against Venus Williams and Garbine Muguruza (right) in action against Jelena Ostapenko on WTA Finals Day 1 at the Singapore Indoor Stadium on Oct 22, 2017. ST PHOTOS: KEVIN LIM

No surprises in White Group as Pliskova and Muguruza beat their opponents comfortably

The estimated 7,000-strong crowd at the Singapore Indoor Stadium roared in delight when Venus Williams took the court yesterday, exploding into loud applause and cheers each time the American won a point, and kept their camera phones trained steadily on the seven-time Grand Slam winner.

While it was clear that Williams was the one whom the audience was more excited to watch, it was her opponent Karolina Pliskova who had more to cheer about at the end of their 73-minute encounter.

The Czech won the opening match of the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global, overpowering 2008 champion Williams 6-2, 6-2 in the first White Group match of the day.

Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza also had plenty to celebrate, after holding off a resurgent Jelena Ostapenko 6-3, 6-4 in the second White Group match.

Both matches featured big hitting from the baseline, but unforced errors proved to be the undoing of Ostapenko and Williams.

Seventh-ranked Ostapenko's 19 winners was more than double of No. 2 Muguruza (seven), but the latter had only 23 unforced errors while the 20-year-old French Open champion had 37. Ostapenko will play Williams in the next White Group match tomorrow while Muguruza will face Pliskova.

World No. 5 Williams hit 19 unforced errors to Pliskova's 12. Pliskova was broken only once and the world No. 3 also hit nine more winners than her opponent (16).

Williams, whose stony expression remained in the post-match press conference, rued her missed chances yesterday.

"In the end, she played really well," said the 37-year-old, who saved six out of eight break points she faced in the second set.

"(I) definitely was playing better in the second set but she just seemed to have all the answers... some days, that's how it is."

Pliskova, 25, now leads their head-to-head tally 2-1. During their previous meeting at last year's US Open, she saved a match point en route to her 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7-3) win.

Yesterday, Pliskova needed three match points to seal the win, and confessed that she had "a little thought" in her head about her last battle with Williams.

She added: "But I felt okay, so I was absolutely calm. I knew even if I had lost that game, I still had my serve which I lost once."

In contrast, her next opponent Muguruza showed some nerves, allowing Ostapenko to claw back three straight games when up 5-1 in the second set.

"It's a key moment," said the 24-year-old Spaniard. "I wanted to win so badly and she was just not giving me anything.

"I thought it was normal that she's playing incredible and I'd kind of wait for my moment, until I serve and try to take control... it went well."

Latvian Ostapenko, who trails their head-to-head tally 1-3, was "not very pleased", but said: "The first match is always one of the toughest. If I play well, I can still continue the tournament."


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 23, 2017, with the headline 'Favourites stamp mark'. Print Edition | Subscribe