• AFP-JIJI, KYODO

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Karolina Pliskova got off to a winning start in the singles competition at the WTA Finals by continuing her dominance of Garbine Muguruza with a 4-6, 6-2, 7-6 (8-6) victory over the Spaniard.

Czech No. 3 seed Pliskova, who at 29 is the oldest player in this year’s edition of the elite season-ending event, has won nine of 11 career meetings against Muguruza. Her latest win puts her atop her group’s standings alongside Estonian Anett Kontaveit, who beat second-seeded Czech Barbora Krejcikova 6-3, 6-4.

After dropping the first set, Pliskova produced a superb serving effort to take the second, putting 16 of 18 first serves in play and dropping just two points on serve.

Muguruza saved two match points while serving at 4-5 in a tense third set.

But she was unable to capitalize on two break points that followed as they went to the tiebreaker.

Muguruza saved another match point to knot the decider at 6-6, but Pliskova won the next two to polish it off after two hours, 26 minutes when Muguruza hit a forehand wide.

The tournament was moved to Mexico from its usual home in Shenzhen, China, due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The switch means the field must adjust to the thin air of Guadalajara, which is around 1,550 meters above sea level.

Red-hot Kontaveit kicked off group stage action with her straight-sets win over French Open champion Krejcikova.

Kontaveit, the last player to secure her spot in the event, notched her 11th straight match victory, continuing a superb season that has seen her capture four WTA titles and rise to eighth in the world.

She needed just half an hour to pocket the first set — sealing it with an ace.

Kontaveit, who didn’t face a break point, secured the win when Krejcikova fired a backhand into the net on match point.

“I’m definitely very thrilled to get the win, it was a very tough match,” Kontaveit said. “I think I managed to win a lot of points on my first serves once they actually went in.”

Krejcikova, the only reigning Grand Slam champion in the field, remained optimistic after a “difficult” match, noting that the round-robin format was more forgiving than a traditional tournament — and she has doubles to contest as well.

“I’m going to have another five matches that I can play, so I’m looking forward to that,” she said.

In doubles, Japanese No. 2 seeds Shuko Aoyama and Ena Shibahara defeated No. 7 seeds Darija Jurak of Croatia and Andreja Klepac of Slovenia 6-0, 6-4 in their debut at the WTA Finals.

On the first day of action at Akron Tennis Stadium, Aoyama and Shibahara needed just 67 minutes to win their Group Tenochtitlan doubles opener against the oldest team in the finale to the women’s tennis season. Jurak is 37 and Klepac is 35.

According to the WTA Tour, Aoyama and Shibahara are the fifth and sixth Japanese women to qualify for the season-ending championships, joining Kimiko Date, Rika Fujiwara, Ai Sugiyama and Naomi Osaka.

No Japanese singles player qualified for the 2021 WTA Finals.

The WTA tournament features the top-eight singles and doubles teams on the women’s tour. The semifinals of both the singles and doubles take place on Nov. 16 and the finals the next day.

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