Caroline Garcia's participation at the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore was confirmed only on Oct 12 but her late entry has only strengthened her resolve to seize her opportunity at the season-ending event.
The Frenchwoman may be the lowest seed in the US$7 million (S$9.5 million) tournament at the Singapore Indoor Stadium but is also tennis' in-form player.
She has won her last 11 matches and captured back-to-back titles in Wuhan and Beijing. While she withdrew from the Tianjin Open earlier this month owing to injury, she was all smiles at yesterday's draw ceremony at Marina Bay Sands.
Wearing a red dress and beige heels, Garcia, who is making her singles debut after partnering Kristina Mladenovic in last year's doubles competition, said: "One month ago I was quite far from being able to qualify for Singapore ... the only chance for me to qualify was to win (Wuhan and Beijing).
"I didn't really plan it - I just played my game, tried to improve every single time. I just want to enjoy it and get as much experience as I can."
The 24-year-old has been drawn in the Red group with world No. 1 and top seed Simona Halep, who leads their head-to-head tally 2-1 although their last match in Beijing ended in Garcia's favour.
The pair are joined by Dane Caroline Wozniacki, who returns to the WTA Finals presented by SC Global after failing to qualify for the past two editions. Ukrainian Elina Svitolina, who has won a season-high five titles, makes her WTA Finals debut and completes the group.
World No. 2 and Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza leads the White group, together with third-ranked Karolina Pliskova, French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko and seven-time Grand Slam winner Venus Williams.
WTA FINALS 2017: SINGLES GROUP DRAW
• Simona Halep
• Elina Svitolina
• Caroline Wozniacki
• Caroline Garcia
• Garbine Muguruza
• Karolina Pliskova
• Venus Williams
• Jelena Ostapenko
Williams is the only woman in the world-class field to have won the WTA Finals, having clinched the title in 2008. But the American is not counting on that experience to help her emulate the feat.
"It's really not on my mind, it's nice to have the title but that's the past," said the 37-year-old, who reached two Grand Slam finals (Australia and Wimbledon) this year.
"I want this one now, so that's all I'm focused on ... each player here is equally as difficult (to play)."
Williams faces Pliskova tomorrow in the opening singles match. The Czech is making her second appearance after failing to progress from her group last year. They have split their two career matches, though Pliskova won their most recent encounter in the fourth round of last year's US Open.
The 25-year-old, who has won three titles this year, said: "It doesn't matter which group I'm in. I think every group is tough and every player is tough, so I have to play good tennis and that's it."
Garcia agreed, adding that her desire to go far in Singapore remains strong, despite her "last-minute" inclusion.
"When you're here, you want to compete very well - you need to, because it's only the best in the world (who are here)," she said.
"I want to do my best to continue to improve."