SINGAPORE - WTA Rising Star Garbiñe Muguruza made a bright start to her challenge for the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global with a straight set win over Lucie Safarova on Monday.
Having wrapped up her qualification with back-to-back finals in Wuhan and Beijing, Muguruza had the luxury of a few weeks away from the tour ahead of Singapore. This freshness shone through early on, some monstrous hitting bringing her a break in the third game. With the Spaniard's own delivery imperious - she surrendered just four points on serve in the opener - the set was soon in the bag.
Safarova rallied in the second, building an early lead, but she was unable to deny Muguruza, who restored parity before closing out a 6-3, 7-6(4) win when the Czech's forehand found the net.
"It was a very tough match, I was very nervous as it was my first time here playing singles," Muguruza told Andrew Krasny on court after the match.
In the second singles match, No.6 seed Angelique Kerber turned the tables on nemesis and No.4 seed Petra Kvitova, upsetting the 2011 champion, 6-2, 7-6(3).
"I'm so happy to win, Petra's an unbelievable player and had a great year. I'm just enjoying playing here, it's my first time here and the fans are amazing," said Kerber, whose previous outings at the WTA Finals came in Istanbul.
Kvitova had won the pair's four previous matches, but this streak looked under threat from the outset, Kerber recovering from an early break to rattle through a one-sided first set.
The second was a far tighter affair, in which both players had their chances. Kvitova made the early move, leading 3-0 and 4-2, but was unable to ram home the advantage as Kerber clung stubbornly to her coattails.
The Czech, who contributed to her own downfall with 44 unforced errors, was made to pay for her inability to hang onto these leads, Kerber fighting back to force a tie-break before closing out victory with a pin-point serve out wide.
Meanwhile, the top doubles teams continued to cruise on Monday, as Martina Hingis and Sania Mirza won their first round robin match against No.6 seeds Raquel Kops-Jones and Abigail Spears, 6-4, 6-2.
"I think we played pretty well; it was nice to get that break really early in both sets. Sania came out with some great serves when it was needed. We were able to hold on and finish off," Hingis said after the match.
Mirza remains undefeated in Singapore (4-0), having captured the title last year with partner Cara Black, but has gone from strength to strength with the Swiss Miss, capping their initial successes in Indian Wells, Miami, and Charleston with a first major title at Wimbledon. Since arriving to Flushing in search of a second major, Mirza and Hingis haven't lost a match, riding a winning streak that now totals at 18 after titles at the US Open, Guangzhou, Wuhan, and Beijing.
"It's always great to come back to a tournament where you've done really well in the past. It's great to come back to Singapore; I always keep saying this, but it's as close to home for me as possible. It was great to get that first win, and just to warm-up - we haven't played together in a couple of weeks, so it was great to get that win today."
While the top seeds lead the Red Group, rivals Chan Hao-Ching and Chan Yung-Jan got off to a good start in the White Group. The No.3 seeds - and the last team to beat "Santina" at the Western & Southern Open - edged past No.5 seed Caroline Garcia (who is coming off a run to the final of the WTA Rising Stars Invitational - and Katarina Srebotnik, 6-4, 7-6(4).
"We were a little bit nervous, but definitely excited, and it was quite a good first match for us," said elder sister Yung-Jan, who also goes by Latisha. "They're not a weak team; everyone here could be in the finals of a Grand Slam. Everybody's trying their best, and I'm happy we got the advantage in the first round."
Tuesday's schedule features No.5 seed Agnieszka Radwanska and No.7 seed Flavia Pennetta, both of whom remain in search for their first win of the week, while top seed Simona Halep will fight for supremacy over the Red Group against No.3 seed Maria Sharapova. In doubles, the Chans go head to head with No.2 seeds Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Lucie Safarova, while Garcia and Srebotnik close the day against Carla Suárez Navarro and Garbiñe Muguruza.