Emphatic Pliskova cruises past Venus
Karolina Pliskova got her WTA Finals campaign off to a perfect start as she opened up proceedings in Singapore with a comprehensive, 6-2, 6-2 victory over Venus Williams.
Despite winning three titles this season and reaching the summit of the world rankings for the first time in her career, Pliskova may feel somewhat unfulfilled given her performances on the biggest stages in 2017. Her run to the semi-finals at Roland Garros was impressive, but it is a sign of her vastly increased standing in the game that quarter-final exits in Melbourne and New York can arguably be viewed as an underacheivement, as can her second round loss at Wimbledon.
But the world No.3 was in near-flawless form on Sunday, and on this evidence the biggest title of her career may be within her considerable reach.
At the 2016 US Open, Pliskova downed Williams 4-6, 6-4, 7-6(3) in a thrilling fourth round encounter, but this was a much more one-sided affair, with the Czech dominating from the off.
Pliskova won nearly 70% of the points on her serve - as is often customary for her - cracked a remarkable 25 winners to 12 unforced errors, and was also particularly impressive on the return, breaking Williams five times in all.
"I felt pretty good, actually I felt really good," Pliskova said after the match. "I think everything was fine with my game today," said Pliskova.
"I think I was just a little bit better today, even from the baseline, even from my service games. There was no need to panic with anything in my game."
Williams battled gamely throughout, particularly in the second set when she twice held from break point down, and took Pliskova to deuce five times at 1-1. Ultimately, though, Pliskova had all the answers, converting her fourth match point to wrap up the victory.
Muguruza tames Ostapenko
Fresh from being named the WTA's Player of the Year for 2017, Garbiñe Muguruza recorded a comprehensive victory against WTA Finals debutant Jelena Ostapenko.
A match-up between the 2017 Wimbledon and Roland Garros champions, Muguruza was the more solid player throughout, with her heavy-hitting, percentage plays outstripping Ostapenko's go-for-broke approach. Indeed, the Latvian ended up with 21 winners to 25 unforced errors, and took just three of eight break point opportunities.
By way of comparison, Muguruza converted five of her seven break points, and did an admirable job of containing Ostapenko's aggressive play for much of the match. That was until the Spaniard served for the match at 5-2 in the second set, when she began to tighten.
As Muguruza's first serve percentage dipped from its previously high level, Ostapenko started to find her mark with increasing regularity, and when she recovered to 5-4 it seemed a deciding set may be in the offing.
But Muguruza, having been the steadier player throughout, composed herself enough to serve it out at the second time of asking. Forehand errors on her first two match points didn't help her nerves, but she converted at the third attempt after Ostapenko found the net with a backhand.
"I wanted to win so badly, and she was just not giving me anything," Muguruza said, when asked about the closing stages of the match.
"She was playing incredible shots when she was down, and I thought it’s normal that she’s playing incredible. I waited for my moment, where I serve and try to take control, and it went well.”