WTA Finals Singapore 2017

Tennis: Court familiarity gives returnees edge

Czech Karolina Pliskova during her straightforward win over Venus Williams yesterday. She was more comfortable on the court compared to last year.
Czech Karolina Pliskova during her straightforward win over Venus Williams yesterday. She was more comfortable on the court compared to last year.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Yesterday's winners Pliskova and Muguruza feel that experience helps to a certain extent

Karolina Pliskova's two previous encounters, both on outdoor hard courts, with seven-time Grand Slam winner Venus Williams had been close.

But yesterday, on the hard court at the Singapore Indoor Stadium, the Czech romped to a 6-2, 6-2 win over the American - and Pliskova believes her past experience playing here has provided an advantage.

The 25-year-old is making her second appearance at the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore while Williams, 37, is making her first appearance at the season ender since 2009.

Pliskova admitted that she had struggled in practice and during matches on her debut last year, but is feeling more assured this time.

Said the world No. 3: "I felt a little bit more calm on the court... I don't know how she felt, but I think I was trying to take advantage (of the fact) that I was here last year, that I had some matches, I had some good practices this year.

"So I felt pretty confident."

World No. 2 Garbine Muguruza, who yesterday beat WTA Finals debutante Jelena Ostapenko, played in the doubles competition at the inaugural Singapore edition in 2014 and qualified for the singles at the past two editions.

She too felt that prior knowledge of the conditions at the stadium helped her in her 6-3, 6-4 win over Ostapenko.

"In my mind I was prepared for a dark court, a pretty slow court, very aggressive and I think it kind of suits me," she said.

ROUGH TIME

I was struggling a lot because the bounce is different from the courts we play (on) during the year.

JELENA OSTAPENKO, Latvia's world No. 7, complaining about the conditions during her loss to Garbine Muguruza.

Ostapenko, making her first appearance here, admitted however that she had struggled to get used to the court during the match.

The Latvian could not warm up on the same court as the Pliskova-Williams match had been held there before hers.

"I couldn't really get used to the court, especially in the first set," said the 20-year-old world No. 7.

"I was struggling a lot because the bounce is different from the courts we play (on) during the year.

"It would have been great to warm up before the match also on centre court, but unfortunately today we couldn't."

But Muguruza noted that while being familiar with the court surface does provide some advantage, last year's title was won by first-timer Dominika Cibulkova.

Said the Spaniard: "Cibulkova never played (here) before and then she comes and she won last year.

"So sometimes I don't really know how much importance there is."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 23, 2017, with the headline 'Court familiarity gives returnees edge'. Print Edition | Subscribe