Karolina Pliskova yesterday put on a ruthless display of big hitting to swat aside crowd favorite Venus Williams 6-2, 6-2 in the opening match of the WTA Finals at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.
The 37-year-old Williams is making her first appearance since 2009 at the elite eight-woman event, but her Czech opponent hit the ground running and never looked back after she broke the American’s serve early in the first set of the group match.
The strategy was pretty much established in the opening game, with Williams, the 2008 champion, looking to come to the net whenever possible, while Pliskova was happy to rely on her powerful groundstrokes from the baseline.
Pliskova found her range immediately for a routine hold in the first game, but Williams struggled when it was her turn to serve as the Czech capitalized on some sloppy play from the American to break with a booming forehand.
A flustered Williams settled in the fourth game to finally get on the scoreboard with a second ace of the match and, after the pair exchanged breaks, Pliskova moved 5-2 ahead with a sumptuous volley after working the American around the court.
Another double fault gave the world No. 3 her first set point and she duly wrapped up the opener in 32 minutes when Williams went long with an errant backhand.
“I think my serve was pretty good today, but the scoreline makes it look easier than it was,” Pliskova said in a courtside interview.
The second set began with both players holding comfortably before Pliskova edged ahead in a pivotal third game when she fended off two break points with a brilliant volley and an ace before sending down two more huge serves to stay in control.
Pliskova held to love for a 5-2 lead before a big forehand winner brought up three match points and, while Williams played her best tennis of the match to stave them off, a wayward backhand on the fourth gifted her opponent victory in just 74 minutes.
“There are no easy matches in Singapore so you have to be ready from the first point. That’s what I was trying to do today and it worked,” Pliskova said.
Williams rued the fact that she made a slow start to the match, needing four games to get on the scoreboard, but was optimistic she would fare better in her final two round-robin matches against Garbine Muguruza and Jelena Ostapenko.
“I played better in the second set, but she just seemed to have all the answers,” Williams said. “You know, some days that’s how it is.”
The Red Group contains world No. 1 Simona Halep of Romania, Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina, Dane Caroline Wozniacki and Frenchwoman Caroline Garcia, with the first matches in that pool taking place today.
After the dust settled on Pliskova’s impressive triumph, Spain’s Garbine Muguruza overcame a spirited Jelena Ostapenko in the second White Group tie of the day, the world No. 2 emerging with a 6-3, 6-4 victory over the French Open champion.
Muguruza is making her third consecutive appearance in Singapore and banked on her experience at the venue to end a sequence of five breaks of serve with a crucial hold to take the first set against her 20-year-old Latvian opponent.
After racing to a 5-1 lead in the second, Muguruza’s cruise to victory hit a roadblock as Ostapenko unleashed a barrage of winners to claim three straight games before the Spaniard finally flopped over the line on her third match point.
“At the end of the match she was making the most of her last opportunities, but I managed to stay composed and turn it around,” Muguruza said. “She is so young and confident so I knew it was going to be difficult.”
’SO CONSISTENT’: The victory gave the world No. 1 and world No. 2 a 21-1 win-loss record and their fourth title of the season after successes in Brisbane, Dubai and Doha Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei and Barbora Strycova of the Czech Republic on Sunday cruised to their fourth women’s doubles title of the season at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome in their first tournament back since the suspension of the WTA Tour due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The top seeds took just 63 minutes to complete a comprehensive 6-2, 6-2 victory over unseeded German-Romanian duo Anna-Lena Friedsam and Raluca Olaru at the Foro Italico. It was the Taiwanese-Czech pairing’s first outing since they won the Qatar Open in February. “After five months, you don’t know what to expect,” Strycova told the WTA Web site.
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