Harimoto, 12, youngest to reach main draw of ITTF event
WTA stars ready for battle
All potential winners, Halep, Sharapova and Muguruza grab the spotlight
When Spanish darling and the No. 2 on the WTA Road to Singapore singles leaderboard, Garbine Muruguza, was introduced by emcee Andrew Krasny, schoolgirls' shrieks of "Simona!" could be heard in the background.
A few seconds later, her name was called out again, this time by a hefty-looking male fan.
Finally, Simona Halep, the one so many seemed to be waiting for, appeared.
Judging by the response the Romanian drew from the estimated 600-strong audience as she made her way up the stage, the top seed was clearly a big favourite.
Any concerns that this year's BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global would suffer from a lack of star power, after world No. 1 Serena Williams' pullout through injury, were erased at the public draw ceremony at The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands skating rink yesterday.
Halep will certainly occupy much of the attention over the next few days.
She thumped Williams 6-0, 6-2 in a group match at the Singapore Indoor Stadium last year, made the final but fell to the American superstar.
The world No. 2 said she was not used to being top seed, but admitted she was excited to be back where she pulled off her greatest win 12 months ago.
"I'm really happy to be back here," said the 24-year-old.
"I have great memories from last year. It was an amazing tournament and an amazing week.
"Yeah, I'm nervous a little bit, of course, being first seed.
"But I just want to enjoy being here and fight for my chance."
The only other player who could match the reception from the crowd was, of course, Maria Sharapova.
The 28-year-old Russian is one of only two players in the field of eight who has won the WTA Finals before, achieving the feat in her tournament debut 2004.
The other player is Czech Petra Kvitova, who lifted the Billie Jean King trophy in 2011.
Dressed in a flared floral print dress, Sharapova, No. 3 on the leaderboard, looked relaxed, always smiling.
When Krasny pointed out she was at her eighth WTA Finals, the five-time Major champion and former world No. 1 joked: "Don't tell me that! It makes me feel really old."
Even though she has played just one match in the last three months because of a leg injury, Sharapova wants to end 2015 on a high.
"I'm so happy to have been able to make it this year, even though I haven't played much in the last few months," she said.
"I'm really excited to hopefully finish the year off strong."
While the local crowd were familiar with Halep and Sharapova, intrigue and excitement filled the air when Muguruza took to the stage.
The 22-year-old beauty looked stunning in a black toga dress, accompanied by dangerous-looking stilettos that accentuated her already-imposing 1.82m-tall figure.
She enjoyed her best tennis season this year.
She reached her first Grand Slam final in Wimbledon, where she was defeated by Williams, and also reached the quarter-finals at the French Open.
Now the world No. 4 - a career high - Muguruza is seen as a future No. 1.
Melissa Pine, tournament director of the WTA Finals and vice-president of WTA Asia Pacific, said Williams' absence could give this year's finalists added impetus.
"I know that the sentiment of the players is that the title is up for grabs," said Pine.
"It's anybody's title and we don't know who it's going to be.
"The players want this badly. It's a huge opportunity.
"So I think we'll see some very tight matches.
"One thing we do know for certain is there will be a new champion who will hoist the trophy."
Halep and Sharapova drawn in tough group
Great excitement as two top guns drawn together for opening stage of WTA Finals
It drew oohs and aahs from the crowd, and a few gasps as well.
But, when Singapore Tourism Board chief executive Lionel Yeo drew top seed Simona Halep and five-time Grand Slam champion Maria Sharapova in the same group for the season-ending BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global, it hardly drew a reaction from either player.
From the reaction of the 600-strong crowd at the public tournament draw at The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands skating rink yesterday, Halep and Sharapova look to be the local favourites, with defending champion Serena Williams absent through injury.
Both played it cool when they were drawn in the Red Group, along with Poland's Agnieszka Radwanska and newly minted US Open champion Flavia Pennetta of Italy but, when they do meet on court at the Singapore Indoor Stadium, expect fireworks as the Romanian and Russian vie to finish off the year in style.
The White Group features 22-year-old Spaniard Garbine Muguruza, a finalist at this year's Wimbledon, US Open quarter-finalist Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic, German Angelique Keber and Ukrainian Lucie Safarova, who qualified for the Finals barely 24 hours before the draw was conducted.
The WTA Finals - which features the top eight singles players and doubles teams - opens with a round-robin stage, and the top two players in each group advance to the semi-finals.
Their mouth-watering clash between Halep, the world No. 2, and No. 3 ranked Sharapova is clearly the pick of the 12 round-robin matches that will be played among the eight finalists, but they won't have it all their own way in their group.
Radwanska, 26, reached the semi-finals of last year's WTA Finals and has good momentum after winning the Toray Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo last month, and then the Tianjin Open last weekend.
Pennetta, 33, meanwhile, enjoyed a fairytale run at the US Open last month - winning at Flushing Meadows for her first Grand Slam.
She also achieved a career-high world ranking of sixth.
Matches kick off tomorrow at the Singapore Indoor Stadium, while tournaments such as the Legends Classic and Rising Stars Invitational will run alongside the 10-day event.
Melissa Pine, tournament director of the WTA Finals and vice-president of WTA Asia Pacific, said "Gosh, the player field here is exceptional.
"Every single one of these players is an incredible athlete, they're the best in the world.
"It certainly looks like an exciting top half of the draw.
"Simona, Maria, Radwanska, Flavia... These are women who have won so many titles, so it will really be exciting to see who emerges from both sides.
"It's really anybody's title this year."
- Simona Halep (Romania)
- Maria Sharapova (Russia)
- Agnieszka Radwanska (Poland)
- Flavia Pennetta (Italy)
- Garbine Muguruza (Spain)
- Petra Kvitova (Czech Republic)
- Angelique Kerber (Germany)
- Lucie Safarova (Czech Republic)
Masked man with sword kills two at Swedish school
Boy's head stuck in wall gap
A young boy got his head stuck in a small gap in the wall of his house in Semenyih near Kajang, Selangor.
Luckily, the Fire and Rescue Department officers were quick to respond to the child's cry for help and managed to get his head dislodged.
The seven-year-old was playing at the house porch at 8am on Thursday, reported The Star. He stuck his head in and out of the gaps of the wall for fun.
Unfortunately, he got his head stuck in one of the gaps and could not free himself.
Semenyih Fire and Rescue Department station chief Khairul Anuar Yaacob said the boy's father phoned for help.
"We sent our officers to the house in Bandar Tasik Kesuma. They covered the boy's head with a canvas tarp (protective covering) and then used rescue tools to smash the wall plaster to wriggle his head free from the gap," said Mr Khairul.
"We got him out in 15 minutes."
Mr Khairul added that the boy is autistic.
"He was restless while we were working to free him," he said.
"So we distracted him by letting him wear our goggles and talked to him about himself while we tried to free him."
I couldn’t save my wife from burning office
Lawyer recalls in court events on the day his wife was killed
The lawyer rushed from the rear entrance of the building to his sixth-storey office when he heard that it was on fire.
Knowing that his wife could be inside, Mr Rengarajoo Rengasamy Balasamy braved the thick smoke at the door of the office and called out to Madam Low Foong Meng, 56.
"Foong Meng, come out," he shouted twice very loudly, according to his statement that was read out in court yesterday.
"I then heard my wife scream once, it was very loud."
Mr Rengarajoo could not go to her rescue when he realised that it was too dangerous for him to remain inside. So he stepped out and immediately called the police.
The lawyer from B Rengarajoo & Associates took the stand yesterday on the fourth day of a murder trial involving his wife's alleged killer, Govindasamy Nallaiah, now 70.
The cabby, who used to be Mr Rengarajoo's client, is accused of killing Madam Low in the office at Afro-Asia Building at Robinson Road on Aug 10, 2011.
Mr Rengarajoo appeared stoic when he stepped into the courtroom yesterday afternoon.
But emotions soon got the better of him and his voice cracked as he recited his oath in the witness stand. He dabbed away tears from his eyes as he took his seat.
He first met Madam Low about 30 years ago. They later had a marriage ceremony but did not register the union.
They had three daughters together and in 2005, Madam Low joined his firm to help him with administrative, paralegal and secretarial work.
Mr Rengarajoo said that in 2003, Govindasamy, who was then a Customs officer, approached him over a corruption case.
In his statement, Mr Rengarajoo said: "We discussed the fees for my services and agreed on $25,000."
The cabby said that his children would help him pay the amount.
Govindasamy, who was found guilty of corruption after a trial, was sent to jail.
After his release, he failed to pay Mr Rengarajoo, who took action against him and his two children. This includes demand letters and a writ of summons.
In his statement, Mr Rengarajoo said that on July 26, 2011, Govindasamy's son, Mr Ramanathan, went to his office and offered to pay him $1,000, which he rejected. This contradicts Mr Ramanathan's earlier testimony that he had offered $10,000.
By then, the outstanding legal fees, including interest, was $38,000.
Mr Rengarajoo suggested that he pay at least half the amount upfront and settle the rest by instalments.
Mr Rengarajoo's statement said Govindasamy went to his office on Aug 1, 2011, to ask for more time.
The lawyer said: "The accused explained that he was trying to sell his car and offered to pay me $3,000 at first. I suggested that he should pay at least $10,000 upfront and the rest by instalments.
"The accused asked me for time until Aug 10, 2011, and I agreed."
After Govindasamy left the office, the lawyer conducted an online search and found out that the cabby was an undischarged bankrupt.
Govindasamy returned to the office a week later and offered his Rolex watch, which he said was worth S$35,000.
Mr Rengarajoo told him that since he was still an undischarged bankrupt, he did not have any legal status to enter into any financial agreement with him.
"I then told him to leave my office."
The court heard yesterday that two days later, Mr Rengarajoo dropped off Madam Low near their office as usual and saw her walking into Afro-Asia Building.
It was the last time he saw her alive.
The trial resumes on Tuesday.
THE NEW PAPER, YESTERDAY