SINGAPORE - The draw is out at the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global and it will be counter-punchers vs. counter-punchers and power vs. power when play gets underway on Sunday.
With the year-end No.1 ranking on the line between seven of the eight women in the field, who will survive the round robin stage to earn a shot at the most prestigious title on the WTA calendar?
Here's how the groups shook out:
No.1 Simona Halep
No.4 Elina Svitolina
No.6 Caroline Wozniacki
No.8 Caroline Garcia
No.2 Garbiñe Muguruza
No.3 Karolina Pliskova
No.5 Venus Williams
No.7 Jelena Ostapenko
The White Group will kick off Day 1 on Sunday, with No.3 Pliskova vs. No.5 Venus, followed by No.2 Muguruza vs. No.7 Ostapenko.
The Red Group will play on Day 2 on Monday, with No.1 Halep vs. No.8 Garcia, followed by No.4 Svitolina vs. No.6 Wozniacki.
WTA commentators Pete Odgers and Mikey Perera join the WTA Insider Podcast in Singapore to discuss their initial reactions to an exciting draw. Listen to the full episode below:
Counter-punching Red Group
On the whole, the two groups broke out fairly evenly considering the head-to-head records, but the themes of each group are distinct. With Halep, Svitolina, and Wozniacki all drawn into the same group, the Red Group houses all of the field's counter-punchers. If one were to take a guess, the shortest matches of the tournament are certainly not going to come out of the Red Group.
For Halep, the draw represents a great opportunity to get the better of Svitolina, who beat her in the Rome final this year and the Toronto semifinals. Halep won their biggest match of the season, a come-from-behind three-set win in the Roland Garros quarterfinals, but their head-to-head remains deadlocked at 2-2.
Interestingly, Halep and Wozniacki have faced off just once since 2015. That meeting came this year on the grass at Eastbourne, with Wozniacki winning in three sets. The Dane leads the head-to-head 3-2 but Halep has won two of their three hard court matches.
Garcia is the power-player in the Red Group and she'll certainly draw confidence from the fact she bested Halep and Svitolina just two weeks ago en route to the biggest title of her career at the China Open. In Beijing, Garcia saved match point to beat Svitolina in a third-set tiebreak and then edged Halep in the final. The tougher test will be against Wozniacki, against whom she is 0-2.
"I’m really excited about it," Garcia said. "Starting against Simona Halep, I couldn’t dream of a better start than to play against a World No.1. It’s going to be a very intense match for sure.”
Key match-up: Svitolina vs. Wozniacki (3-0).
Wozniacki has never beaten Svitolina in three tries, losing twice to the Ukrainian in finals this year. Svitolina rolled to a 6-4, 6-2 win in Dubai and an even quicker 6-4, 6-0 win in Toronto.
Power-blasting White Group
If you love power tennis, buckle up for the White Group, which will feature a rematch of the Wimbledon final between Muguruza and Venus. Wimbledon champion Muguruza leads the group, with the tour's ace leader Pliskova, Venus, and the most audacious hitter in the field, Ostapenko in the group.
"I feel like we’re playing a semifinals or a final," Muguruza said. "It’s very exciting. You have to play your very best to win. I have some big hitters in my group.”
Venus has a winning or neutral record against the group, but she has lost her last meetings against Muguruza (Rome, Wimbledon) and Pliskova (2016 US Open). This will be her first meeting against Pliskova since that US Open epic, which saw Pliskova save match point in the quarterfinals.
Ostapenko will be looking to get her first wins over Pliskova (0-2) and Venus (0-1), two players who got the best of her at the Slams this year. Pliskova rallied for a three-set win at the Australian Open and Venus ousted the young Latvian from Wimbledon. The 20-year-old debutante is the only player in the field with a losing record against the other women in her group. Not that Ostapenko will worry much about that after her season of stunning wins. She just earned her first win over Muguruza a few weeks ago in Wuhan.
Key match-up: Muguruza vs. Pliskova (2-6).
Pliskova's 6-2 record against Muguruza is a surprising one. The two faced off three times this season on hard courts, with Pliskova winning at Fed Cup and Indian Wells and Muguruza winning in Cincinnati. Their group stage match last year in Singapore was a thriller, with Pliskova battling her way to a 6-2, 6-7(4), 7-5 win.
“I think it’s better for me this group than the other group," Pliskova said. "I think we all play similar styles. I’ve played a lot of times with all the girls, so I know pretty much everything about it. I will prepare my best and hopefully have good matches.”
Play begins on Sunday at 5 p.m. SGT.