CANCUN, Mexico -- Marketa Vondrousova has made a nice career of being underestimated and overlooked.

The crafty Czech Republic player was ranked No.105 back in March and No.42 going into Wimbledon. A fortnight later, she was a Grand Slam singles champion and a Top 10 player for the first time.

As the No.7 seed at the GNP Seguros WTA Finals Cancun, Vondrousova might be considered the most unlikely potential winner, even ahead of No.8 Maria Sakkari, who joined the field when Karolina Muchova withdrew with a chronic wrist injury.

Of course, the same thing happened at Wimbledon.

WTA Finals: Scores | Draws | Order of play

“I feel like I’m the smallest here,” Vondrousova told reporters before the tournament began. “I don’t have that much power as other girls maybe. It’s a bit tough sometimes.

“I was always the smallest so I had to find ways. I feel like my lefty [game] is also a bit annoying for other players. Yeah, that’s what I'm trying to do, just to be annoying also.”

It’s a strategy that’s worked wonderfully. Vondrousova is currently ranked No.6 and has a record of 40-14 as she heads into Tuesday’s Day 2 action. The Chetumal Group, which features three of this year’s four major champions, takes the stage at Estadio Paradisus.


[2] Iga Swiatek vs. [7] Marketa Vondrousova, 5 p.m. local time


The case for Swiatek: It will require some assistance from Aryna Sabalenka, but with a clean run here Swiatek can take back the No.1 ranking that escaped her grasp after the US Open.

The 22-year-old from Poland is 2-0 against Vondrousova, most recently defeating her in straight sets in the Cincinnati quarterfinals. This season, she’s won more matches against Top 10 players -- eight -- than anyone.

Swiatek: Ready to tackle Cancun

And here’s a marvelous piece of work from the wizards at Opta Stats: If Swiatek wins two of her round-robin matches, she would be only the third player in the past four decades to have claimed 30 victories within 45 matches against opponents ranked in the WTA’s Top 10, after Steffi Graf (45) and Monica Seles (44).

Now that’s exceptional company.

Swiatek, however, isn’t taking anything for granted. Asked if she was the favorite, Swiatek demurred.

“Honestly, so many things can happen this week,” she said. “I think any one of us can win this tournament. I mean, Caro Garcia last year, she wasn’t in the Top 3 and she still won. Same with [Garbiñe] Muguruza in Guadalajara. History shows that it’s not about who’s the favorite.”

From Swiatek to Gauff, how players are adapting to the wind in Cancun

The case for Vondrousova: Yes, it was straight sets in Cincinnati, but that first one went to a tiebreak.

Vondrousova has been playing lights-out tennis. Going back to Wimbledon, she’s won 16 of 20 matches. It’s the kind of elevated game that carried her to the 2019 final at Roland Garros and an Olympic silver medal.

In between, wrist surgery cost her the bulk of the 2022 season.

“I played great tennis before the surgeries, then I had to stop for, like, six months,” Vondrousova said. “Then coming back to the top level, it’s never easy. You never know what’s going to happen, how you’re going to play.”

She’s determined to take advantage of this window of good health. And the breezy conditions here might knock the big hitters off stride -- and provide some openings for the crafty player with a devastating drop shot.

[3] Coco Gauff vs. [6] Ons Jabeur, to follow


The case for Gauff: She won the US Open at the age of 19, but she hasn’t had much time to reflect on her place in history.

When we’re in season, it’s tough to reflect all of the time," Gauff told reporters at Media Day. "After this last tournament, I think we'll have enough time to reflect and be proud of all the things I've done, but also look for improvement on how I can do even better.”

This is precisely the kind of attitude that has steadily lifted her game to an elite level. Perhaps the fastest player on the Hologic WTA Tour, Gauff sometimes fell into a defensive mode. Now, she’s more aggressive, hitting her spots, playing with a higher risk-reward ratio.

- Insights from
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66.7% Win 4
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ons jabeur

Gauff has won three of the five matches with Jabeur, but the history might be irrelevant; only one came on hard courts, three years ago in Lexington.

Looking for some context? Gauff could become only the second teenager to win the WTA Finals since the event turned to the round-robin format, joining Maria Sharapova (2004).

The case for Jabeur: This would be the perfect ending to an imperfect season.

If she had two wishes for the 2024 season, what would they be?

“I win Wimbledon, that final,” Jabeur said emphatically. “I should have won it. I think that’s easy wish. The second wish is my knee would be better because I struggle with my knee a lot.”

That, in a nutshell, is how it went this year for Jabeur. She underwent knee surgery and lost a heartbreaking final at the All England Club to Vondrousova.

And yet, here she is, in her second straight year-end final.

The fact that she’s got the fewest main-draw victories in this field will only motivate her. And while she has the fewest Top 10 wins of the original eight qualifiers, with four, she dropped only two of those matches.

“I love challenges,” Jabeur said. “It’s going to be great for me to see my level. But the good thing, I try to play freely and no pressure. I can see the trophy in my house really good.

“I know the place. I’m picturing where I can put it.”

Doubles action: The day’s first match features No.2 seeds  Storm Hunter and Elise Mertens vs. No.3 seeds Shuko Aoyama and Ena Shibahara, who won their opening match on Sunday. The final match is between No.5 Desirae Krawczyk and Demi Schuurs vs. No.8 Nicole Melichar-Martinez and Ellen Perez.