No.1 seed Barbora Krejcikova, No.8 seed Beatriz Haddad Maia and No.12 seed Zhu Lin opened their Huafa Technology WTA Elite Trophy Zhuhai campaigns with straight-sets victories to take pole position in their respective groups.
Krejcikova came from 3-0 down in the second set to defeat No.11 seed Magda Linette 6-2, 6-4 in the Azalea Group. Earlier, Haddad Maia had come through 6-4, 6-4 over No.2 seed Madison Keys in the Camellia Group.
Zhu, the Chinese wild card, posted a 7-6(5), 6-1 upset of No.5 seed Veronika Kudermetova in the Rose Group to wrap up opening day.
On Wednesday, Krejcikova will bid to seal her spot in the semifinals against No.6 seed Daria Kasatkina, while Keys will face No.9 seed Caroline Garcia as she seeks to keep her hopes alive. No.7 seed Zheng Qinwen will kick off Orchid Group action against No.10 seed Donna Vekic.
How Krejcikova defeated Linette: Despite the straight-sets result, which improved Krejcikova's record against the Pole to 3-0 overall, the match was tighter than the scoreline suggests.
The former Roland Garros champion had to come through a trio of three-deuce tussles on serve in the first set, and faced a point to go down a 4-0 double break in the second. She also struggled with inconsistency on her serve, committing nine double faults in total.
But Krejcikova was able to find her best deliveries and most accurate winners when she needed to. She saved all six break points that she faced in the first set, and nine of the 10 she faced overall. In the second set, Linette held a point to go up 4-0 and two to go up 4-1. However, after Krejcikova had denied her in that pair of key games, the Czech took back the momentum and reeled Linette in, winning six of the last seven games.
Krejcikova has been enjoying an autumn resurgence following an injury-afflicted season, highlighted by a seventh Hologic WTA Tour title in San Diego and a runner-up showing in Zhengzhou two weeks ago.
How Haddad Maia defeated Keys: Haddad Maia came into Zhuhai seeking a turnaround in her form, and opened with a solid performance that should boost those chances.
The Brazilian had only won five matches since retiring due to a back injury against Elena Rybakina in the fourth round of Wimbledon. A freak hotel shower accident in Guadalajara left her requiring stitches in both hands, and she won only one match in her next three tournaments.
But Haddad Maia was reliable in the most important moments against Keys, saving six of the seven break points she faced. In the first set, she leapt out to a 4-1 lead, only for Keys to hit a hot streak of net play to level at 4-4. However, it was Haddad Maia who held firm at the end of both sets, sealing each with a break to love.
Serving at 4-5 in the first set, Keys was undone by a slew of miscued forehands; at the same stage in the second, she coughed up two of her four double faults, before Haddad Maia converted her first match point with a clean return winner. The result sealed her first Top 20 win since defeating Ons Jabeur in the Roland Garros quarterfinals in June.
Keys owns the most Zhuhai experience of any player in this year's field, having competed here three times previously. However, the American has only made it out of the round-robin stage once, in 2018 -- and even then, was forced to withdraw ahead of the semifinals due to a knee injury.
How Zhu defeated Kudermetova: World No.37 Zhu was down a break two times in the opening set of the Monday evening match. In fact, Kudermetova held two set points on the Zhu serve at 5-4, and a third at 6-5. However, Zhu escaped each of those instances with gritty holds to line up a tiebreak.
The first 11 points of the tiebreak went with serve, resulting in Zhu's first set point at 6-5. There, Kudermetova was the first to drop serve in the breaker, sending a forehand miscue into the net and allowing Zhu to eke out the opening frame after 83 minutes.
Following that comeback, Zhu maintained her momentum deep into the second set, powering to a 4-0 lead. At 5-1, Zhu's second ace of the day brought her a first match point, and she converted her second match point when Kudermetova sent a service return long.
The 2-hour and 12-minute triumph by Zhu avenged her loss to Kudermetova in their only prior meeting, in the first round of Roland Garros last year. By beating World No.16 Kudermetova, Zhu picked up her seventh career Top 20 win, five of which have come this year.