SINGAPORE - The BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global doubles draw was finally released on Tuesday. WTA Legend Martina Navratilova was on hand to help host a star-studded ceremony at the convent-turned-dining hall known as CHIJMES in downtown Singapore.
The 2017 season saw yet another exciting doubles field take shape, led by top seeds and newly-crowned WTA Co-No1.s Martina Hingis and Chan Yung-Jan, who won a whopping nine titles, the US Open, and arrive to the Lion City on an 18-match winning streak. We caught up with three of the top teams on the Porsche Race to Singapore leaderboard as they prepare for one last push to determine who will take home the Martina Navratilova Trophy.
Hingis/Chan draw nemeses Groenefeld/Peschke to kick of Singapore campaign: The top seeds will likely find their winning streak under threat from the first match, where they face WTA Finals debutante Anna-Lena Groenefeld and three-time finalist Kveta Peschke. At 42, Peschke is at the season-ending championships for the first time since 2011, pairing up with the German veteran last year after over 12 months away from the game.
The two teams faced off six times this season, and though Hingis and Chan lead 4-2 - winning their most recent match at the Dongfeng Motor Wuhan Open with the loss of just one game - Groenefeld and Peschke were tough opposition this summer, winning back-to-back encounters at Wimbledon and the Rogers Cup, and remain the last team to beat the WTA Co-No.1s.
“It’s my third straight year in Singapore, and it’s the best of the best who make it here,” Chan said shortly after ascending to the top spot on Tuesday. “There are quite a few strong teams, and we’re ready for the battles.”
Chan and Hingis have each made it to Singapore since 2015, and were on opposite sides of the court in their opening rounds one year ago - Chan with sister Hao-Ching, and Hingis with former partner Sania Mirza.
“It always takes a little bit of practice to get used to the court, but it’s the same for everyone,” Hingis said. “It’s not that slow, and I think it’s a very fair surface for everybody. The past few years have shown some great tennis, because it allows for great points and rallies.
“It also lets you get away with murder!” the Swiss Miss, sometimes called the Smiling Assassin, added with a laugh.
As they aim to add a 10th tournament victory to their awe-inspiring season, Chan may find it hard to shake off the afterglow of achieving her maiden Slam victory and new No.1 ranking in such quick succession. But a few intense practices - including one with No.2 seeds and defending champions Ekaterina Makarova - may have already gotten the Taiwanese star into the competitive mindset.
“She’s the best person and has been the best partner to share everything with,” she said of Hingis. “When I was a little girl, I couldn’t have imagined this happening. I really cherished this year, and hopefully with one last push, we can win again.”
Team ABCD swing into Singapore debut: Aussies Ashleigh Barty and Casey Dellacqua made a thunderous debut on the doubles tour in 2013, reaching three Grand Slam finals and falling just short of making it to the WTA Finals - then held in Istanbul.
Hardship and misfortune soon intervened, as Barty took time off to deal with burnout while Dellacqua endured the traumatic aftereffects of a concussion back in 2015, after having already booked her Singapore ticket with then-partner Yaroslava Shvedova.
Both made tentative steps back onto the doubles circuit last year, but soon regained their elite form in 2017, winning three titles and reaching another Grand Slam final at Roland Garros.
“From our first match back together, it felt like we’d never stopped,” Barty said. “We were a little bit rusty on a few things early on, but we’re very lucky to be able to come out here and play. I’m able to play tennis with my best friend, and we gel on court and off court really well. It’s nice to be able to spend time together again.”
Some of that time was spent having fun around Singapore, enjoying the Marina Bay Sands’ Infinity Pool and indulging in some #SelfieCoffee, but most of their week has been dedicated to the practice courts, adjusting to a tricky new surface at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.
“We came early to prepare as best we could, and with a few more training sessions on the court, we’ll be fine,” Barty said. “I think it’s a court that can suit us both very well. It’s just going to be an exciting week with some really good tennis.”
Barty and Dellacqua open their Singapore campaign against surprise No.8 seeds Kiki Bertens and Johanna Larsson, who edged into the final position on the back of four titles in 2017 - two in the last six weeks (Seoul, Linz).
Live with Makarova and Vesnina: Defending champions Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina clinched their spot in Singapore ahead of the US Open after taking home the Wimbledon trophy and becoming the first team in the Open Era to win the Montréal-Toronto Rogers Cup double.
The Russians were utterly relaxed in a Facebook Live interview where they discussed returning to the site of one of their biggest successes and learned just how in sync they were when subjected to a game of Mind Reader.
Check out the full interview right here, and catch their first match against Xu Yi-Fan and Gabriela Dabrowski on Facebook.