• Reuters


Heavy-hitting base liners Garbine Muguruza and Angelique Kerber brushed aside Czech challengers to make a winning start to their WTA Finals campaign on Monday.

Spaniard Muguruza dispatched Lucie Safarova 6-3, 7-6 (7-4) before Germany’s Kerber overcame an error-strewn and unwell Petra Kvitova 6-2, 7-6 (7-3) in a battle of the lefties in another White Group encounter.

The 22-year-old Muguruza served confidently, raining down 10 aces, and controlled the baseline exchanges with aggressive strokes on the slower indoor hard court at Singapore National Stadium.

The world No. 3 from Spain has been in strong form since she lost to Safarova in the quarterfinals of the French Open,

“I think I’m making better choices . . . wait for the perfect ball to really attack,” Muguruza told reporters.

“You have to be aggressive, but in a good way, making good choices.”

Wimbledon runnerup Muguruza broke French Open finalist Safarova in the third game of the first set and pressurised her serve throughout a one-sided opening salvo.

Safarova broke at the start of the second set but the Spaniard, who won the biggest title of her career at the China Open earlier this month, broke back in the sixth game as she regained her rhythm.

The Venezuelan-born Muguruza broke the world No. 9 at love in the sixth game thanks to her heavy ground strokes and dominated the tiebreak from the start.

It was a revenge win after she and compatriot Carla Suarez Navarro lost to Safarova and Bethanie Mattek-Sands in their doubles opener on Sunday.

The day’s second singles lacked the same quality with two-time Wimbledon champion Kvitova all at sea, offering up 44 unforced errors.

A lethargic Kvitova, diagnosed with mononucleosis in August, rallied at the start of the second set to go 3-0 up, only to lose the momentum as world No. 7 Kerber raced 5-4 ahead with a booming forehand down the line.

The German showed nerves as she faltered and lost her serve when attempting to close out the match but Kvitova wasted set points at 6-5 as Kerber forced a tiebreak.

A wild service return then handed Kerber a winning start to the eight-player championships.

“I feel weird,” said world No. 5 Kvitova of her ailment. “It’s really tough to describe.

“I couldn’t really do what I wanted. I felt I wasn’t able to stay in the kind of good rallying that she played.”

Hewitt named captain


Retiring veteran Lleyton Hewitt was appointed Australia’s new Davis Cup captain on Tuesday, succeeding interim skipper Wally Masur.

The 34-year-old, who is calling it quits after his 20th consecutive Australian Open in January, has been positioned for the role since Pat Rafter stepped down earlier this year.

Masur agreed to fill in until Hewitt was ready.

He follows in the footsteps of other Australian tennis greats to hold the coveted role, including Neale Fraser, John Newcombe and Rafter, and becomes the youngest skipper since World War II.

“I’ve been fortunate enough to work under some of the greatest Davis Cup captains in history,” Hewitt said at Melbourne Park.

“For me, it’s about instilling my experience in these younger guys.”

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