Tennis: Angelique Kerber drawn in Red group with 3 WTA Finals debutantes, defending champ Caroline Wozniacki in White group

(From left) Kiki Bertens, Elina Svitolina, Petra Kvitova, Caroline Wozniacki, Angelique Kerber, Naomi Osaka, Sloane Stephens and Karolina Pliskova pose with the Billie Jean King trophy at Gardens By The Bay on Oct 19, 2018.
(From left) Kiki Bertens, Elina Svitolina, Petra Kvitova, Caroline Wozniacki, Angelique Kerber, Naomi Osaka, Sloane Stephens and Karolina Pliskova pose with the Billie Jean King trophy at Gardens By The Bay on Oct 19, 2018.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - It looked off balance.

The top seed drawn in the Red group, with three rookies who have never been among tennis' top eight women to qualify for the singles draw of the season-ending BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global.

And over in the White group, the defending champion alongside three others hardened by battle on the women's tour.

All eight turned on the charm at Friday's (Oct 19) draw for the fifth and final edition of the Finals in Singapore, gliding into the Sands Expo & Convention Centre with glamorous eye-shadow, spectacular ear-rings and even brushed glitter that made skin sparkle with every little move.

But they all took the same firm stand - there will be no easy matches when the tournament proper kicks off on Sunday at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.

Even Naomi Osaka, one of three Finals debutants - with Sloane Stephens and Kiki Bertens, who will face top seed Angelique Kerber in the Red group - looked at ease in the exalted company.

She appeared to be perched on that thin edge shared by confidence and nonchalance, barely a hint of a smile appearing on her face as she received the loudest cheers of the night from the Singapore crowd.

And when on stage, she was asked if she - a player who won the Rising Stars tournament just 36 months ago in Singapore - could believe that she is now back as one of the best eight players of 2018, the US Open champion did not even flinch.

"Yeah, I'm here talking to you, aren't I?" quipped the 21-year-old.

The Rising Stars Invitational is aimed at showcasing the next generation of tennis talents.

Osaka perhaps showed her youth, speaking with both her hands clasped behind her back, but the confidence was unmistakable.

 
 
 

And it was balanced by Elina Svitolina - in the White group, alongside defending champion Caroline Wozniacki and the pair of Petra Kvitova and Karolina Pliskova - who bristled at the suggestion that the groups were unbalanced.

"What do you mean?" said the 24-year-old, frowning. "These are the best eight players in the world right now. Everyone is playing well, and you really cannot choose a weaker one from any group."

Wozniacki won the Billie Jean King trophy here last year, and she wants to win again to add to her three 2018 titles - including her first Grand Slam win, the Australian Open.

But even the world No. 2 is not taking the absence of the legendary Serena Williams, and the injured world No. 1, Simona Halep, for granted.

"All the best players are here so there are no easy matches. I'm just excited to start the competition and do my best. As defending champion, I want to retain my title and end the season on a high," said the Dane.

The tournament starts on Sunday at 5pm, the White group taking to the courts with Kvitova taking on Svitolina, and the Wozniacki-Pliskova tie ending the evening.