Halep serves up a treat
Top seed avenges China Open final loss to Garcia
Just two weeks ago, Simona Halep's first result as the new No. 1 in women's tennis was a 6-4, 7-6 (7-3) loss to Caroline Garcia in the China Open final.
Last night, in her opening match of the BNP Paribas WTA Finals presented by SC Global - Halep's first tournament as the sport's top-ranked player - the 26-year-old exacted revenge on Frenchwoman Garcia with a 6-4, 6-2 victory in 87 minutes at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.
While the Romanian's serve was described as "s***" by her coach Darren Cahill in the aftermath of her first-round exit to Maria Sharapova in this year's US Open, Halep's serve was instrumental in her win over the world No. 8 last night.
"I think today I served really, really well," Halep said in the post-match media conference.
"She's very difficult to play against and I knew how the match was going to be, because we played two weeks ago.
"But also I had in my mind the match from Toronto, where I beat her, and today I think I played similar to that match."
Yet, there was little that separated the two in the first set last night before Garcia started unravelling at 4-4.
On the other hand, Halep decided to follow her instincts after starting with another strategy.
Halep said: "I felt too much that I had to hit one particular shot, and I was not confident to hit that one.
I had in my mind the match from Toronto, where I beat her, and today I think I played similar to that match. Simona Halep on her 6-4, 6-2 win over Caroline Garcia
"I just wanted to relax myself, not think too much and play just by instinct, because I do well when I do that."
The Romanian took her momentum into the second set, where she ran away with the tie after leading 2-1.
Halep said: "At the beginning, she was very consistent and very strong, but then in the second set, already I started to feel that I dominated the match, and I got more confidence.
"I stayed low because she was hitting pretty flat, and the ball on the court here doesn't jump too much. Also, I was running really well (on court)."
Garcia added: "The first set was very intense on both sides. But after I lost the first set, I was not down.
"I was like always trying to come back, but it was couple of tight games in the beginning of the second.
"I couldn't make it. And then I couldn't find my rhythm again. I was just going for too much."
With the monkey off her back, Halep sounded off a warning to the rest of her Red Group opponents, with Caroline Wozniacki up next tomorrow.
In the post-match court-side interview, Halep said: "This is the first tournament that I come in as the No. 1 in the world and I am really happy that I could win the first match. It's a good sign and takes the pressure off.
"I enjoy being in this position and hopefully next round I could be better."
Former world No. 1 Wozniacki will not be a pushover, though, after thrashing Elina Svitolina 6-2, 6-0 in the other tie last night.
The Dane said, with a wide grin, in the post-match court-side interview: "I played extremely well out there...
"I stayed aggressive and went for my shots. It really worked for me today.
"I worked on my serve for 20 years, I am glad it finally started to click. I am going to take it as long as it is going."
- 7.30pm: Venus Williams (x5) v Jelena Ostapenko (x7)
- Followed by: Garbine Muguruza (x2) v Karolina Pliskova (x3)