Williams, Halep enjoy opening wins at WTA Finals

Mon Oct 20, 2014 11:21am EDT
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By John O'Brien

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Serena Williams shook off the rust and a feisty challenge from Serbia's Ana Ivanovic to open the defense of her WTA Finals title with a 6-4 6-4 victory in the opening match of the elite eight-player tournament on Monday.

In the second match, Romania's Simona Halep joined Williams at the top of the Red Group standings after the world number four brushed aside Canada's Eugenie Bouchard 6-2 6-3 on the purple hardcourt at Singapore's Indoor Stadium.

Illness and a knee problem forced the American world number one to withdraw from her last two tournaments since winning a third straight U.S. Open title last month and Williams struggled early in an arena hosting the event for a first time.

Pre-match pyrotechnics left the Indoor Stadium looking as hazy as the city-state's streets on a polluted day but once the smoke had cleared, Williams was forced to dig deep in her first service game, staving off two break points before holding.

Ivanovic, making her first appearance in the season-ending event since 2008 when it was held in Qatar, had no such problems on her own serve in the early skirmishes but once Williams found her range the American broke and held to love to move 4-1 ahead.

The Serb overcame two double faults in her next service game to hold and then started to mix up her strategy, refusing to go toe-to-toe with her powerful opponent with her drop shots causing Williams all sorts of problems.

A lucky net cord brought up three break points for Ivanovic in the seventh game and she only needed one of them as Williams double-faulted to hand back her early break.

With the crowd cheering her on, Ivanovic suddenly had the momentum and she began to make Williams scurry all over the court and even had a break point to move 5-4 ahead before her opponent dug deep to stave off the scare.   Continued...

Serena Williams of the U.S. celebrates her victory against Ana Ivanovic of Serbia during their WTA Finals singles tennis match in Singapore October 20, 2014. REUTERS/Edgar Su