By John O’Brien
SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Garbine Muguruza feels fit and fresh ahead of the WTA Finals with the Spanish world number two keen to bank on her experience of previous visits to Singapore to emerge from a group containing the tour’s hardest hitters in the round-robin phase.
The Wimbledon champion starts her campaign on Sunday against Latvia’s French Open winner Jelena Ostapenko, the pair taking to the Singapore Indoor Stadium court after a White Group opener between Czech Karolina Pliskova and American Venus Williams.
“Honestly, I had no preference about who I played,” the 24-year-old told reporters of the draw on Saturday.
“Lately I have been playing with the big hitters and I felt a little bit better than maybe in the past, because every aggressive player is complicated to face.
“But I have improved that side of my game, and, yeah, it’s good that I’m going to play with them again.”
Muguruza made a stunning debut in Singapore two years ago, winning all three pool matches before losing a tight semi-final to an inspired Agnieszka Radwanska, but was below-par last year when she failed to progress out of the group stage.
The Spaniard, who was named WTA Player of the Year on Friday, believes her preparation for this year’s tournament has been far better than in the past and knowing that she had qualified relatively early was also beneficial to her cause.
“This year is completely different because for the previous years in Singapore I qualified in the last tournaments, but this year, I felt like I knew in the American swing that I had already qualified,” she added.
“I feel prepared and ready as I regard this as one of the most prestigious tournaments.
“I had a big rest after Beijing (where she retired in the first round of the China Open at the start of the month), because also I was a little bit sick. I took my time and trained for the final push of the year.”
Muguruza also ticked off a “childhood dream” when she topped the world rankings in September and with four other players reaching number one at some point this season, the Spaniard believes the women’s game is more competitive than ever.
“It’s way different than before. I feel like, you know, every week, depends who is playing well, can be in the top,” she said.
“You know, it gives us a lot of options and variety. You know, just more, like, dramatic for the fans and for us too to see that every week everything can change.”
The Red Group includes current world number one Simona Halep of Romania, along with Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina, Denmark’s Caroline Wozniacki and Frenchwoman Caroline Garcia.
The top two from each pool will advance to the semi-finals.
(Reporting by John O’Brien; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)