WTA Finals RR: (1) Simona Halep vs (7) Flavia Pennetta
The group stages of the 2015 BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore commence on Sunday afternoon when 2014 runner-up Simona Halep takes on U.S Open champion Flavia Pennetta. This looms as a critical match for the top seeded Romanian, Flavia has a dominant 4-1 head-to-head record over Simona, including a crushing 6-1 6-3 victory at the semi-final stage of the U.S Open a couple of months ago. Simona will be desperate to avenge that loss and make a winning start in Singapore but Flavia will be confident heading into this match and will fancy her chances given the head-to-head record.
Simona Halep enters her first match in Singapore with a big question mark surrounding her form and fitness. The Romanian struggled throughout the Asian swing, clearly hampered by an achilles injury. Simona suffered a bizarre quarter-final loss to Allertova in Guangzhou where she was the top seed before giving up a 5-1 third set lead to lose to Johanna Konta in Wuhan. Simona tried to compete in Beijing despite the injury, but didn’t manage to complete a set, retiring in her first round match. The good news for Simona is that she has had a couple of weeks off and a good amount of time in Singapore to get used to the conditions. The Romanian is still one of the favourites this week, especially considering how well she played at the event last year.
Flavia Pennetta will be competing in her very first WTA Finals campaign, in what will be the Italian’s last tournament of her career. Flavia shouldn’t be underestimated, her U.S run showed exactly what she is capable of, playing some stunning tennis on route to claiming her first career Grand Slam. However her form after the U.S Open was less than convincing, highlighted by a humiliating first round loss to Lyudmyla Kichenok in Tianjin. Flavia has had limited time to adjust to the conditions in Singapore, having just arrived at the event from Moscow. Simona will present a big first up challenge for the Italian.
As mentioned above, Flavia Pennetta holds a 4-1 head-to-head record over Simona Halep. The Italian thrashed Halep 6-1 6-3 at the U.S Open, Simona was clearly not at her best in that match and may have been hampered by injury but Flavia did play very well and certainly has the game to trouble Simona. The Romanian did win the only other match between the pair in 2015, a 6-3 7-5 win in Miami.
This should be a pretty close match, both ladies are bound to be pretty nervous heading into this match and may take a while to get into their rhythm and adjust to the conditions. I’m going to side with the Romanian top seed, I think Simona would have been really hurt by her semi-final loss to the Italian and will be eager to avenge that loss. Simona has had a good amount of time to prepare for the event and get used to the conditions, the slower conditions in Singapore really suited Simona last year so I expect her to be a little too solid for Pennetta on this occasion. It will be hard for Pennetta to hit through Simona on a surface like this.