Winners of the first two Slams of the season were also the first two winners at the WTA Finals played in Shenzhen this week.
Naomi Osaka opened the year-end event with a tough 3-set win over Petra Kvitova 7-6(1), 4-6, 6-4. Osaka, who began the year with the Australian Open title over the Czech, broke Kvitova twice in the third and then held on.
“I’m not great at first rounds,” said Osaka who went 0-3 last year in the event. “It takes me a little bit to warm up. I think that this tournament forces you to do well early.”
The Asian No. 1 has now won her last 11 matches after Osaka and Beijing titles.
In the second match, French winner Ash Barty had to come from a set down to beat Belinda Bencic 5-7, 6-1, 6-2. And victory sealed her status as the year-end No. 1 player on the WTA.
“It certainly wasn’t something that was in my realm at the start of the year,” said Barty of the achievement. “First and foremost, we’d love to finish off the week here really strongly, then we can worry about celebrating that little thing. Very, very cool for myself, my team. The amount of work and effort we all put in, it does take a village. I have an incredible team of people around me. I think this is more for them than for me.”
On Tuesday, Osaka will meet Barty and then it’s Kvitova and Bencic.
Monday sees play from the Purple Group headlined by the first meeting between the Simona Halep and Bianca Andreescu. Karolina Pliskova and defending champion Elina Svitolina are featured during the day session.
Is this battle between the Wimbledon and US Open champion, Andreescu, who has Romanian roots, is 8-1 this year against Top 10 players.
“It’s amazing what she has done,” Halep told the WTA. “To win a Grand Slam at 19, play few tournaments and win them, it’s a great, great job. I just want to tell her that she deserved because she played really well these tournaments.
“I’m excited also to face her. It’s going to be a big challenge for me because this year was up and down a lot. I just have a very big up during the Wimbledon, and the rest was not that great. I’m not thinking about winning or losing here. I just want to be able to play the matches.”
WTA FINALS SHENZHEN MONDAY SCHEDULE
 Timea BABOS (HUN) / Kristina MLADENOVIC (FRA) vs  CHAN Hao-Ching (TPE) / Latisha CHAN (TPE)
Not before 6.30pm
 Karolina PLISKOVA (CZE) vs  Elina SVITOLINA (UKR)
Not before 8pm
 Bianca ANDREESCU (CAN) vs  Simona HALEP (ROU)
 Elise MERTENS (BEL) / Aryna SABALENKA (BLR) vs  Anna-Lena GROENEFELD (GER) / Demi SCHUURS (NED)
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