WTA Insider David Kane | Top seeds Caroline Garcia and Kristina Mladenovic lead a thunderous crop of doubles stars, including a reunited Martina Hingis and Sania Mirza.
WTA Staff

SINGAPORE - A stormy Tuesday evening set the stage for an exciting doubles draw ceremony at the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global. By Sunday, only one of the eight pairs will walk away with the Martina Navratilova Trophy, but four women could also earn the Year-End No.1 ranking.

Caro&Kiki Lead The Field: Two are top seeds and reigning Roland Garros champions Caroline Garcia and Kristina Mladenovic, who had a clear game plan for staying dry even as torrential rain signaled their welcome to the stage.

"When you're the No.1 seed, you get to be in the middle, and not off to the sides," joked Mladenovic to WTA Insider.

The French team is back in Singapore for a second straight year, but together for the first time since pairing up in January.

"We started the year pretty good in Sydney, we made the final and were pretty close to beating Martina Hingis and Sania Mirza for the first time," Garcia recalled.

"Everything came up together on the clay season, and finished in French Open, our home Grand Slam. We had a great year, and we're still two young players. I think it's unusual that there's two players that are 23 years old as top seeds in Singapore."

Opening against No.8 seeds Karolina Pliskova and Julia Goerges, Garcia and Mladenovic won't be thinking too much about wresting No.1 from Mirza - they'll need to go a round better than the Indian star, unless projected semifinal opponent Bethanie Mattek-Sands wins the title - but for ones so young, the two admitted it would be an auspicious end to an amazing year.

"It's one of our dreams, on our wish list, I guess," explained Mladenovic. "It's a big privilege to be No.1, with all those other great champions in the past that have been and to share the history of the WTA with them."

SanTina Reunite: No.2 seeds in Singapore, Hingis and Mirza started the season on top of the world, sharing the top spot and winning their third straight major title at the Australian Open. Falling one Slam shy of the Non-Calendar Year Grand Slam, the pair split after the Rogers Cup, but Mirza insisted little time has passed.

"We literally played five tournaments without each other. It's not like we split in January and we're just coming back now. So I think it's pretty easy for us to find each other on court, so to say."

The defending champions first take on the Chan sisters, Chan-Hao Ching and Chan Yun-Jan; Mirza will not only aim to hold onto the No.1 ranking she's held for 81 consecutive weeks, but also win a third straight WTA Finals, having also won in 2014 with Cara Black.

"I think we just have to go positive into the tournament," Hingis said. "Every match will be a tough one. No round robin this year, it's a knockout, so you have to be 100 per cent from the start."

Bucie Shining Bright: A WTA Finals crown would guarantee Bethanie Mattek-Sands the No.1 ranking. The American and Lucie Safarova ride a 16 match winning streak into Singapore, taking titles at the US Open and the Dongfeng Motor Wuhan Open.

"We've been having a lot of fun, and I think that's helped us get some of the results we've had the last couple of years," noted the Olympic Gold medalist in mixed doubles.

"We'd been struggling with health in the first half of the season," added Safarova, explaining the team's late surge. "I was sick, then Bethanie broke her finger, so it was difficult for us. But then we got a strong end of the season and qualified here for Singapore, which is amazing."

The team also survived the near-heart-attack-inducing Facebook video the 31-year-old Mattek-Sands posted after the Olympics, one that many believed would announce her retirement.

"I got scared! Like, how do I don't know anything?" Safarova said with a laugh.

"I had to text a few people and be like, don't worry!" Mattek-Sands clarified. "If anything, if I was either a) pregnant or b) retiring, I would let some people know before announcing it on social media!"

"Team Bucie" plays their first match against No.7 seeds Timea Babos and Yaroslava Shvedova.

Format Blues: The 2015 WTA Finals was the first year to feature a round robin doubles event, something that will be sorely missed by No.5 seeds Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka.

"I think we prefer to play round robin," Hlavackova said. "I think it would be a good idea to play two groups, and then have the top from each move onto a final. I think that'd be better when eight teams qualify and then you face more teams, rather than just one and be eliminated.

"But we're happy to be here and hopefully use this new format for our advantage to get even further in the tournament."

For Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina, their first-round opponents and Olympic Gold medalists, sitting out last year's event due to injury means they'll have little to miss.

"We actually like this change to a draw, and not round robin," Vesnina said.

"We first played in Istanbul, when it was only four teams, which was crazy - one match and we were in the final! We never played in a round robin, so a draw is a normal competition for us."

Babos and Shvedova were split on the issue; like the Russians, Shvedova qualified for Singapore last year but a concussion to partner Casey Dellacqua kept her out of contention. Babos played with Mladenovic, falling in the round robin stage.

"For Slava, it doesn't really change, because every time she's played it's a draw," Babos said. "But for me, it's my second time here and last year it was round robin. It's a big change, and we definitely have to be full on from the first point. It could be that we come all the way here to lose in an hour, but it's the same for every team."

Exploring Singapore: Goerges and the Chan sisters were both late arrivals to Singapore, but the former arrived just in time to watch her partner win her first round-robin match in singles.

"They just started when I opened my hotel room door. So it was good timing, and for me good to watch because then afterwards I could finally go to sleep!"

Experiencing Singapore for the first time - barring a short layover - Goerges is excited to go shopping in the city's many malls, and plans to take her team with her for a spree.

"I have two men by my side, and it's very rare that they'd be very happy about shopping, but they are! But we are going to look around a little bit as well, and do some sight-seeing."

The Chans also plan their share of exploring in an area much closer to home.

"Imagine you're going somewhere in Europe for three months, and you don't get to eat your favorite food, see your friends, and the culture's a little different," Chan Yung-Jan said. "We love Western culture, but it doesn't make us feel like home.

"We feel at home during the Asian Swing; even when we don't do well, we think, 'Oh, we can go back home for a couple days.' It's so convenient for us, and also easier for our friends and family to come visit us. When we come to Singapore, they ask me about food, which, I'm really good at! I know a lot about Singapore, so there's a lot more to talk about."

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