SHENZHEN, CHINA – The Purple Group get underway on Monday, with defending champion Elina Svitolina opening proceedings, followed by Bianca Andreescu facing idol Simona Halep.
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Karolina Pliskova  v Elina Svitolina  | Pliskova leads H2H 5-3
It is hard to determine just who has the harder job in the Purple group. Karolina Pliskova described herself as the only attacking player in a group of great defenders, and while she has a winning record against defending champion Elina Svitolina, she has lost three matches on the bounce to the Ukrainian, including here last year.
With a court that is also playing quite slowly by all accounts, it could be that Pliskova has her work cut out and will be made to run about all day if she wants to at least match the accomplishment of reaching the semi-finals for the third straight year.
In a year that started well, she won at the start of the Asian swing in Zhengzhou and qualified early this time around for the season-ending finale, which ought to set her up for a decent start.
For Svitolina, it has been a tougher year with a serious knee injury that affected a lot of her season. While in the past she has been more insistent with winning titles and maybe suffering a little at the Slams, she hit a landmark of two Slam semi-finals back to back, but (as yet) not a title to her name in 2019.
The watch-word for this pair through is ‘consistency’. For Pliskova it has been a solid enough and settled year, and on court, Svitolina’s metronomic abilities has kept her very much in the mix.
For a slower court with a few rogue areas and bounces, this feels very much like a marginal match – whoever adapts the quickest will take the upper hand. Given it has been a year since they last met in Singapore, in the group stages in what proved to be competitive three-setter. That in itself is a rarity between the pair, with their matches proving to be a lot more one-sided the majority of the time.
Given the (perceived) speed of the court, perhaps Svitolina has the slighter edge going into this match.
Prediction: Svitolina in three sets.
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Bianca Andreescu  Simona Halep 
It will be a landmark match for Romania as Bianca Andreescu faces one of her idols in Simona Halep. Andreescu’s rise since the start of the year against one of the hardier perennials of the top ranked players.
It is not an exaggeration to say that Halep winning Wimbledon of all Slams was a surprised – both in terms of who she beat (Serena Williams) and the manner in which she won.
She will need that same monumental game plan to take the racquet out of Andreescu’s hand. Having given her the advice on leaving juniors and that she was ready for the main tour, she will face an extremely self-confident teen.
Andreescu’s strength is the ton of variety she has developed at such a young age, but Halep is still at her core the most determined scrambler and will make this physical for the youngest player in the tournament.
You could argue that given her injury problems at the start of the Asian swing, there is little pressure on Halep’s shoulders coming in here. Andreescu herself acknowledged that her results came as the underdog – and it will be fascinating to see how she handles being one of the favourites, given how much interest there has been in her, during pre-tournament press.
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