Halep races to victory, Sharapova wins marathon
By John O'Brien
SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Romania's Simona Halep kicked off her campaign for a maiden WTA Finals title in emphatic fashion with a thumping 6-0 6-3 victory over U.S. Open champion Flavia Pennetta in the first match of the eight-woman season-ending tournament on Sunday.
While the opener proved to be a sprint, the second 'Red Group' tie was a marathon when Maria Sharapova beat Agnieszka Radwanska 4-6 6-3 6-4 in a full-blooded encounter marked by several swings in momentum as both players struggled on serve.
World number two Halep is the highest ranked player in the field after Serena Williams, who has won the tournament for the last three years, withdrew citing the need to rest after a year spent carrying injuries in her quest for a calendar Grand Slam.
Halep crushed Williams in round robin play a year ago before losing to the American in the final and her love of the Singapore Indoor Stadium hard court was evident in a first set she wrapped up in 26 minutes after breaking serve three times.
"I feel the same now as I did against Serena," Halep told reporters of the win. "I can play my best tennis here yet I didn't play my best today, but I played good tennis.
"I played solid and was dominating the match," she added.
The Romanian had arrived in Singapore under an injury cloud after picking up an ankle knock at the start of October, but the 24-year-old moved effortlessly around the court on Sunday and withstood Pennetta's attempts to get back into the contest.
The 33-year-old Italian played more like she had on her way to a stunning victory in New York last month in the second set but her resistance ended in a marathon eighth game when she dropped serve to trail 5-3 after staving off three break points. Continued...