WTA Finals Singapore: Wozniacki and Pliskova into semis, but dazzling Garcia must wait

Karolina Pliskova and Caroline Wozniacki have taken the WTA Finals in Singapore by storm to assure their places in the semi-finals

Marianne Bevis
By Marianne Bevis
Caroline Wozniacki has been in fine form Photo: Dubai Duty Free Championships

Karolina Pliskova in the White Group and Caroline Wozniacki in the Red Group have taken the WTA Finals in Singapore by storm to assure their places in the semi-finals after just two matches apiece.

Pliskova, playing in the tour finals for just the second time, opened her campaign in the first match of this year’s tournament with an impressive win over Venus Williams, 6-2, 6-2. Then yesterday, she repeated the feat against Garbiñe Muguruza, and with Williams’ victory over Jelena Ostapenko—an extraordinary three and a quarter hour three-setter—Pliskova was assured not just of her place in the semis but as the top-placed qualifier.

With two losses, the French Open champion Ostapenko, who is the youngest woman in the draw and playing in the tournament for the first time, is already eliminated, while Muguruza and Williams will contest the group’s last semi-final place tomorrow.

Back in the summer, the Spanish woman beat Williams to claim the Wimbledon title and also beat the veteran American in the Rome Premier quarter-finals. However, Williams beat Muguruza in their previous three matches—all of those on hard courts.

What is more, Williams has the best record of any other woman in the tournament. She made the semis back in 1999, won the title in 2008, and was runner-up the following year. Muguruza, for her part, is aiming to at least equal her best run in 2015 by making the semis.

But if Pliskova’s form has been hot, that of Caroline Wozniacki has been sizzling. After conceding only two games to Elina Svitolina in their opening Red-Group match, 6-2, 6-0, in under an hour, she dealt out similar treatment to the woman who reached No1 just a week before travelling to Singapore, Simona Halep, 6-0, 6-2, and in only 63 minutes.

A former world No1 herself, and one of seven women who began the tournament with the chance of claiming the top spot, Wozniacki is second only to Williams in her previous achievements at the tournament. She was runner-up in 2010 and has made two further semi-finals, but unlike Pliskova, she will not know whether she finishes top of her group or second until the final two matches are concluded on Friday.

The popular Dane will have a hand in who joins her come the weekend, however, for she takes on debutante Caroline Garcia, who produced some dazzling tennis to come back from a set and a break down and beat Elina Svitolina in a contest of high quality, 6-7(7), 6-3, 7-5.

Garcia was the last woman to qualify after an impressive surge through Asia, where she picked up back-to-back Premier titles in Wuhan and Beijing, having arrived in Tokyo, where she made the quarters the week before, ranked No20.

She lost her opening match to Halep, and today she looked overcome by emotion as she talked to coach/father at 2-1 down, having failed to convert set points in the tie-break, too. From there, however, she went on a four-game run to 5-2 and served out the set, 6-3, having regained her free-hitting, uninhibited tennis.

Svitolina, winner of no fewer than five titles this year, showed her mettle with a quick break in the third set, and after conceding a break back, fired up her backhand to make two cross-court winners past the net-bound Garcia. The Ukrainian served for the match, 5-3, but once again the charismatic French woman went on the attack, and made four straight winners for a love break.

The crowd loved it, and Garcia’s father beamed his delight. As she cranked up the winner count, she broke again, and served out her first ever win in Singapore, 7-5.

The statistics suggested that Svitolina had not played poorly: 33 winners to 22 unforced errors. But she did not go for her shots at the key moments, while Garcia piled up 58 winners for only 31 errors.

She admitted afterwards just how much emotion she had felt:

“Everything went so fast for me, so I’m very stressed to be here, but now I enjoy it and it’s the best moment. Yes, it is a difficult experience, but one I wanted, and now it’s another battle against Caroline [Wozniacki].”

The writing is on the wall for the French player, however. She not only needs to beat a Wozniacki playing at her relentless and precision best but must hope that Svitolina bounces back to beat Halep. Only Friday will tell.

And what of No1? Well the number who can end 2017 in the top spot is now down to five, and will be reduced to three if Halep wins her final round-robin match.

Wozniacki put the Race thus:

“Obviously, it’s a huge deal. As a little girl, I think everyone who plays tennis wants to be No1 and it was my dream, and I was very lucky that it happened. If it happens again I’m going to be thankful, but for but now it’s a long way to go.”

In ranking order, the contenders stand at:

Simona Halep
Garbine Muguruza
Karolina Pliskova
Elina Svitolina
Caroline Wozniacki

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