The breaking news overnight at the Shiseido WTA Finals Shenzhen was the withdrawal of World No 3 Naomi Osaka, who was due to play Ash Barty on Tuesday night in China.
This is not how I wanted to end this tournament or my season. I look forward to getting healthy and hope to be back here in Shenzhen next year Naomi Osaka
Osaka, who has suffered a right shoulder injury, was subsequently replaced by first alternate Kiki Bertens in the Red Group.
“I’m disappointed to have to withdraw from the Finals,” Osaka said in a statement. “It has been a great event in Shenzhen, and it’s the biggest WTA event of the year.
“This is not how I wanted to end this tournament or my season. I look forward to getting healthy and hope to be back here in Shenzhen next year.”
Osaka, who began her WTA Finals campaign with a 7-6(1) 4-6 6-4 win over No 6 Petra Kvitova on Sunday, and was set to play the World No 1 in a much anticipated contest.
The reigning Australian Open champion finished her season on an 11-match win-streak, having gone undefeated since the US Open and claiming back-to-back titles at the Toray Pan Pacific Open and China Open.
Bertens, a semi-finalist in her debut last year, is ranked No 10 and comes to Shenzhen having reached the final of thew Elite Trophy in Zhuhai.
She now has the opportunity to advance out of the Red Group and into the semi-finals again in Shenzhen.
The final round-robin group standings are determined by the greatest number of match wins followed by the greatest number of matches played so, if Bertens were to finish with an equal number of match wins but fewer matches played, the other player would advance.
Meanwhile, in the doubles competition, defending champions Timea Babos & Kristina Mladenovic started their campaign in the Red Group on Monday with a 6-2 5-7 [10-7] victory over No 5 seeds Latisha Chan & Chan Hao-ching.
French Open champions and No 3 seeds were up a break three times in the second set, and held two match points in the 10th game, but ultimately came back from an early 3-1 deficit in the match tiebreak.
“It was a very, very difficult start,” Babos said after the match. “Every girl says that it’s not easy to start a tournament with this format, because you have to play your best from the very beginning.
“I think we did a really good job from the first point to the last. The sisters played some great tennis towards the end of the match, and I’m just very, very pleased, happy and even proud with how we handled this situation.
“We could’ve been disappointed with not winning in two sets, but I said to Kiki, ‘One hour later, we got it done,’ so that’s the most important.”
The Chan sisters, playing as a pair at the season-ending event for the first time, later levelled the tiebreak at 6-6 from 6-4 down, but lost the final four points to allow Babos and Mladenovic to come away with a win.
No 8 seeds Anna-Lena Groenefeld & Demi Schuurs sprung a surprise on US Open champions and top seeds, Elise Mertens & Aryna Sabalenka, 7-5 1-6 [10-7].
The German and Dutch duo capped off Monday’s play with a big victory against the overall top seeds, with in-form Sabalenka having lifted the singles trophy last week at the WTA Elite Trophy in Zhuhai.
The 8th seeds reversed the result of the pair’s semi-final meeting from the Dongfeng Motor Wuhan Open earlier in the Asian swing, winning 3 straight games to close the first set after they twice lost a break lead.
In the deciding tiebreak, Groenefeld & Schuurs sprinted out of the gates, and won 6 of the first 7 points, but had to hold their nerve down the stretch as the US Open champions got the breaker back on serve from a 7-3 deficit.
“We knew it was going to be a tough match. We played them a few weeks ago in Wuhan, and they beat us easily with the score, but we knew it was a close match because we lost a lot of no-ad points,” Groenefeld said.
“We went out today and tried to be aggressive, and we’re very happy with the performance tonight.”