SINGAPORE - The Singapore Elite Eight sat down with the press for All Access Hour at the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global, to discuss the highs and lows of their stellar seasons, how court conditions could impact the match-ups, and react to the results of Friday night's draw ceremony.
Here's what they had to say:
The Red Group is ready to run
Simona Halep: "I have to run a lot in my group (smiling). All the players are moving well. I don't have big hitters, as I know. Garcia is playing a little bit harder and she hits the ball stronger. It's going to be a very tough group. Every match is going to be difficult. But, you know, we have the top eight players in the world, and everyone is playing crazy tennis. I just want to go there and try to win every match I can."
Caroline Wozniacki: "Halep obviously takes the ball very early, and she's played well here in the past, too. And Svitolina runs a lot of balls down. So it's all about just being aggressive but in moderation and you just kind of pick your targets and the right shots. With Garcia, she's been playing really well lately, and I just need to be aggressive with her and keep her moving."
Caroline Garcia: "I think it's a great challenge for me. To improve, to learn a lot of things, to get experience to be ready for next year. Halep, Svitolina, Wozniacki are the best we can do in this kind of styles, and they will have to make me work from the baseline, try to be very aggressive, play with my shots. I can't ask for a better match to play, for sure."
Power rules the White Group
Karolina Pliksova: "I don't know what the other girls prefer, but I'm happy with my group, actually. I think my group [has] more aggressive-style players in the group and the other one is more defending. I just like to play better these players. I played all of them a few times. It's not that I didn't lose to them, but it's just like I like better their style of the game.
"So it's going to be tough. I start with Venus, so I beat her once from match point and once I lost a very close match. This one is open. And then obviously Garbiñe, she had a great year. I lost the last match against her. And Ostapenko, who had a great year, we met last time on the hard court in Melbourne. I think it's not an easy group. I think there is no easy player here. But I prefer my group."
The players agree: conditions are slow.
Jelena Ostapenko: "It's great to play indoors because you have no sun, no wind. But the court I think is pretty slow."
Wozniacki: "It's a little bit of a different surface. I think if the balls hit through, they kind of skid through the court. If there is a bit more spin on it, the ball stops and it's very slow. But I have played well here before, and I'm just excited for the challenge."
Halep: "I practiced every day since I'm here. The court is a little bit slower. The wood makes a difference a little bit, heavy for the legs, but it's a nice court. It's my fourth year playing on the same courts so it is nothing different. It's okay.
"I don't know if it's gonna be the perfect surface for me, but I played, in 2014, good matches here, so I'm just looking forward to playing on it and definitely is a nice stadium, so I will enjoy the moment there."
Venus Williams: "Yeah, the court is extremely slow. So you'll probably see some long points and some long matches, some long points at the end of the year."
The Battle for No.1 culminates in Singapore:
Garbiñe Muguruza: "It is important, I'm not going to lie but I know I have to play well. I know there are so many girls, players, that have the chance. I'm happy that I got it in the past, and now I'm not that nervous or obsessed. I think it's more different. So I'm going to fight for that."
Halep: "I think for everyone it is the most important thing to finish the year No.1, but it is not going to be easy. Here everyone is going to play the best tennis, and every match is going to be like a final, as I said many times.
"So I'm not thinking about that. I play better when I'm not thinking about No.1, so I have a lot of experience this year. I'm just going there to give my best, to try to be focused on what I have to play in each match, and we will see at the end who is going to be No.1."
Elina Svitolina: "Of course I have lots of confidence. I mean, I won five tournaments this year. It was an amazing year for me. Lots of good memories. Hopefully it will continue in this tournament, as well. I'm looking forward to each challenge, you know, and it's been an amazing year with so many good things.
"Of course there have been some very disappointing losses, as well. For me, just the road to the top is never straight. It's always with some curves (smiling)."
Reflecting on their seasons
Svitolina, on whether she would trade any of her tour-leading five titles for a Slam semifinal:
"The small one maybe I could change, but the Premier events I'm not sure because they have all been very, very special. Winning Dubai and turning [for the] first time Top 10 was for me a massive, massive deal. Then winning in Rome on my favorite surface, clay court, was amazing.
"And then Toronto, also -- all the Premier tournaments that I won gave me something new and really pushed me to go for more.
"Of course I would love to be in a semifinal of a Grand Slam, but it didn't happen this year, so I'm going to work hard and try to earn the chance to be there in a semifinal and final maybe, try to win the title, of course. This is the main goal."
Muguruza, on what she's most proud of this season:
"There are a lot of things. At the beginning of the year I had a few injuries and I was a little bit sad because I felt like I worked so hard in the preseason I couldn't really show it on the court.
"I didn't drop my spirit. In the clay season, I was really motivated, and I just cleaned that and started strong at Wimbledon, thinking that my time was gonna come. After that, everything went well. And what I like the most, it's like after winning a Grand Slam I could manage to maintain that level for a couple more tournaments and not just lose."
"It's funny, because -- this whole year since the French Open, I've got the question of if, after the French Open, I was so hungry for revenge or something, and that's why I won Wimbledon? I'm, like, no. I think it's just an important tournament in my career where it was a new experience, very emotional, and once it was finished, I started a new season.
I was like, Okay, it's finished. I have more chances on grass. I know I play well. We'll see this love/hate that I have, if it works this year. That's it. It has nothing to do with the French Open."
Garcia, on finishing the regular season on an 11-match win-streak:
"I don't feel very different on court, winning 11 matches straight, than not. It feels good, for sure, to have so many wins like this behind me, but I know tennis can go very fast in one way or another. So I'm just staying myself, staying humble at practice, [and] keep improving, keep working out.
"I know all these matches were very hard. Some were very tight, and it could change from one way to another. So I just keep doing what I do best and keep working out and staying focused."
Svitolina, on what separates the Elite Eight from the rest of the field:
"I think the main thing is good results, consistent results. This is one of the things that top players do. You know, everyone, of course, can play well in one or two matches or tournaments during the year, but for me it's always been a goal to be consistent throughout the year, so I can not only play a few good matches but also be ready to compete on a high level for a long time.
"So everyone is striving for this kind of goal in their career, to be consistent, to be always at the top. I think this is what separates the players. It's very tough because our season is quite long. It's very tough to be fit all year long, to be mentally fresh, because at some point you can just break a little bit.
"So it's very important to have the right team who can prepare you well, to be ready for these kind of moments."
Halep reflects on finally reaching No.1:
"Inside I can say that something has changed. I'm very happy about what I did. But outside is just normal, normal things. Nothing changes. It's just I have to work harder to keep that (smiling). But I'm here just to enjoy the moment and we'll see what is going to happen.
"The dream came true. It is just the best feeling that I ever had in my tennis career. I'm just enjoying the moment. I cannot describe in words what I feel, but it's a good feeling. I'm happy when I'm going to the courts now."
Venus, on the biggest change in women's tennis she's seen over her career:
"Just the depth in the game. The competition is so much greater. It's a beautiful change, in fact."