SINGAPORE - The 2018 BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global draw was revealed on Friday, with former World No.1 Angelique Kerber and defending champion Caroline Wozniacki leading the Red and White Groups, respectively.
Play begins on Sunday with two White Group matches, the first between No.4 seed Petra Kvitova and No.6 seed Elina Svitolina, and the second between Wozniacki, seeded No.2, and No.7 seed Karolina Pliskova.
Monday's order of play begins with a battle of US Open champions, No.3 seed Naomi Osaka and No.5 seed Sloane Stephens, followed by Kerber's first match against No.8 seed Kiki Bertens.
The reigning Wimbledon champion became the top seed when Roland Garros winner Simona Halep was forced to withdraw due to a back injury. Runner-up at the WTA Finals back in 2016, Kerber will nonetheless face stiff competition from newly crowned US Open champion Naomi Osaka, the second highest seed in the Red Group.
“I’m really excited to be back here in Singapore," Kerber said. "It’s great to finish the year here at the WTA Finals. I think it doesn’t matter in which group you are, we are the eight best players in the world right now, so I’m feeling good and ready to go.”
"I think everyone in my group is a really good player so I’m just really excited to get to play them," Osaka added. "I’m just looking forward to every match.”
WTA Finals: Watch the draw ceremony live from Singapore
Wozniacki rode the momentum from winning last year's WTA Finals into the start of 2018, capturing a long-awaited maiden major title at the Australian Open, and ended the regular season on a high note with a second China Open crown to head into Singapore as the second seed. The Dane drew two-time Wimbledon winner Petra Kvitova as her highest seeded rival in the White Group.
"All the best players are here so there’s no easy matches," noted Wozniacki. "I’m just excited to start the competition and do my best. As defending champion I want to defend my title and end the season on a high."
"Everyone here is a great player and they are here because they had a great season," Kvitova said. "It means that no matter the draw, every single match is going to be tough and we have to be ready. You really cannot choose, that’s how it is and that's what makes it exciting."
Wozniacki and Kvitova will be joined by Elina Svitolina, who is making her second straight appearance in Singapore. Svitolina defended her Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships and Internazionali BNL d'Italia titles earlier in the year, and made the quarterfinals of the Australian Open.
“Singapore is very special for me," said Svitolina. "Last year was the first time when I qualified for the Finals. Always when I come to Singapore I have a special feeling. Definitely when I step on that court, I have goose bumps. You play for those kind of moments. Both groups are very, very tough. We have the best players in the world here. You cannot really choose a weaker one.”
Joining Kerber and Osaka in the Red Group is 2017 US Open champion Sloane Stephens. Stephens won her first Premier Mandatory title at the Miami Open and finished runner-up at the French Open.
"It’s been a great first day," said Stephens. "Very busy. Very eventful. Super excited to be here. Excited for another great opportunity to compete with the best players in the world. It’s a really good group, really strong girls. I think it will be some great match ups and I’m really looking forward to it.”
Rounding out the Red and White Groups are Kiki Bertens and Karolina Pliskova, the last two to qualify for Singapore after the results this week at the VTB Kremlin Cup. Bertens was a doubles finalist at the WTA Finals last fall, and achieved a breakthrough season in singles this year, winning the Western & Southern Open and the finals of the Mutua Madrid Open.
“I think it’s nice to see who you’re going to play, but it’s all great players," Bertens said. "They’re all going to be tough matches but I’m really looking forward to playing them.”
Pliskova, the No.7 seed, took home the Toray Pan Pacific Open title to stay in the Singapore conversation for a third straight season, and won the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix on clay back in the spring.
"Basically, I know all the players. I’ve played against everybody," Pliskova said. "There is defending champion, Wozniacki, so it’s going to be tough. But, of course Kvitova is tough, I never beat her. I think there is no easy player here, so we will see and I will do my best.”
Before the draw was unveiled, the eight singles players dressed up, donning red and black dresses and outfits, and took to the waterfront for the last WTA Finals Iconic Photo in Singapore.