Finals rookies ready to rock in Singapore

By John O’Brien

SINGAPORE, Oct 21 (Reuters) – All three debutants at the WTA Finals will be hoping to continue their stellar campaigns for at least another week by making a positive impact at the season-ending elite eight-woman event in Singapore.

The trio of newcomers are Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina, who won five WTA Tour events in 2017, Latvia’s French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko, and Frenchwoman Caroline Garcia, who snared back-to-back tournaments in China to seal the final berth.

Svitolina’s appearance will feel like her graduation after playing in the last two WTA Elite Trophy tournaments in Zhuhai, China — a 12-woman event for those who did not qualify for Singapore — where she reached the final last year.

“All my career has been step by step, and, you know, it was quite a good thing to play in Zhuhai, something like preparing you to be here. I made a semi-final, then final last year, so I think it can help me,” she told reporters on Saturday.

“We’ll see how it’s gonna go, but for sure I enjoyed my previous years in Zhuhai and this year in Singapore. It’s of course a big achievement for me. I’m very, very happy that I did it this year.”

Ostapenko’s stunning success at Roland Garros was the first title of her professional career and after following it up with a second tournament win in Seoul last month, the 20-year-old plans to continue her big-hitting tactics in Singapore.

“The French Open was a great tournament for me. I was always aggressive player and trying to hit the ball hard if I have a chance, and I think there, especially the court and everything, it fitted me. So I had a great result,” she said.

“Of course it’s going to be interesting matches (here), but the good thing is that I played against all the players in my group, so I kind of know how they play, and I’m going to try to show my best.”

Garcia may have been the last player to qualify for Singapore following tournament triumphs in Wuhan and Beijing but the Frenchwoman will hope to continue enjoying success with the same formula that has led to an 11-match winning run.

“I don’t feel very different on court winning 11 matches straight than not. I mean, it feels good, for sure, to have so many wins like this behind me, but I know tennis can go very fast in one way or another,” she said.

“So I’m just staying myself, staying humble at practice, keep improving, keep working out. I know all these matches were very hard. Some were very tight, and it could change from one way to another.

“So I just keep doing what I do the best and keep working out and stay focused.”

Svitolina and Garcia have been drawn together in the Red Group and open their campaigns with respective round-robin matches against Denmark’s Caroline Wozniacki and Romanian world number one Simona Halep on Monday.

Ostapenko is in the White Group alongside fellow big-hitters Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic, American Venus Williams and Spanish world number two Garbine Muguruza, who she faces in her opening match on Sunday. (Reporting by John O’Brien; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)

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