The Shiseido WTA Finals Shenzhen kicked off on Sunday with Naomi Osaka and Ashleigh Barty coming through tough tests to win their opening round-robin encounters in the Red Group.
After losing all three of her matches on her tournament debut last year, Naomi Osaka opened the Red Group action in the inaugural Shiseido WTA Finals Shenzhen by defeating Petra Kvitova, the only player in the draw who has a title from this event in her résumé.
In a rematch of their first career meeting that happened in the 2019 Australian Open final, Osaka again squeezed past the two-time Wimbledon champion, this time recovering from a break down to win the first set, then dropping the second set despite being a break up and completing the victory on her third match point, two games after failing to convert two match points on serve at 5-2 in the decider.
The 7-6(1) 4-6 6-4 victory over Kvitova extends Osaka’s winning streak to 11 matches, as the Japanese won the last two tournaments she played — the Toray Pan Pacific Open in Osaka and the China Open in Beijing.
World No.1 Ashleigh Barty rebounded from a set down to beat fellow WTA Finals debutante Belinda Bencic 5-7 6-1 6-2. Serve was Barty’s strongest asset in her first career meeting with Bencic and the Australian finished the match with her 10th ace.
The 22-year-old Bencic enjoyed a confident first set, hitting an ace to save the only break point she faced and converting her sole break point to go ahead, but in the second and third sets she was stunned by Barty:
I think her serving is what really makes the difference because it’s more like a guy’s serve than, yeah, a woman’s serve.
Monday’s schedule will kick start the Purple Group, as Karolina Pliskova will face defending champion Elina Svitolina, followed by the match between reigning US Open champion Bianca Andreescu and reigning Wimbledon champion Simona Halep.