SHENZHEN, CHINA (AFP, DPA) - Defending champion Elina Svitolina continued her dominance over world No. 2 Karolina Pliskova with a straight-sets victory at the WTA Finals in China on Monday (Oct 28).
Opening the Purple Group, the eighth seed started her title defence impressively with a 7-6 (14-12), 6-4 win in one hour and 53 minutes at the Shenzhen Bay Sports Centre.
It was Svitolina's fourth straight victory over a misfiring Pliskova, who had 42 unforced errors.
"I was trying to be ready for her big serve and then take on the second serve," Svitolina said after the match. "The surface is a little bit slow and I had more time... it benefited my return."
In the later match, Wimbledon winner Simona Halep saved a match point en route to a gripping 3-6, 7-6 (8-6), 6-3 victory over US Open champion Bianca Andreescu.
The Romanian former world No. 1 was on the brink of defeat against the wily 19-year-old, who entered the match with a remarkable 8-1 record against top-10 opponents, but Halep rallied back to claim bragging rights over the Canadian teen in their first-ever meeting.
After dropping the opening set, Halep twice inched ahead with a break in the second, but Andreescu pegged her back each time. Halep saved match point in game 12 to force a tiebreak and converted on her third set point to take the contest into a decider.
Both players received medical time-outs before the third set, Andreescu for her lower back and Halep for her foot. A visibly struggling Andreescu took the initiative in the final set but after a string of service breaks, it was the 28-year-old Halep who sealed the deal, proudly pounding her chest upon victory.
In the night's first match, it was a disappointing result for Pliskova who started well, mixing trademark hard-hitting blows from the baseline with a softer touch - including an exquisite drop shot to capture a break in the first game.
But Svitolina slowly clawed her way back into the match and broke in the fourth game as Pliskova's radar went awry.
It was a tense contest extending into a nerve-jangling tiebreaker with the Czech's bold approach saving six set points, but she miscued on the seventh as the Ukrainian finally drew first blood.
A frustrated Pliskova was broken immediately to open the second set and never seriously threatened to stage a comeback against an increasingly confident Svitolina.
The 25-year-old is hoping to end a barren season on a high having not captured a title since last year's WTA Finals triumph in Singapore.
Pliskova, 27, who has a tour-leading four titles this season, is making her fourth straight appearance at the round-robin tournament and has reached the semi-finals for the past two years.