Second seeds Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina got off to a winning start to their title defence in Singapore at the 2017 WTA Finals as they put in an incredible performance to defeat fifth seeds Gabriela Dabrowski and Xu Yi-fan with a straightforward and merciless 6-1, 6-1 scoreline, exacting revenge for their semifinal loss in Miami where the Russians could have gotten the number one ranking had they won the title there.
Makarova and Vesnina huge favorites coming into the encounter
Makarova and Vesnina are the current defending champions having impressively defeated Andrea Hlavackova/Lucie Hradecka, Martina Hingis/Sania Mirza and Bethanie Mattek-Sands/Lucie Safarova to claim the prestigious title last year. They are also the current Olympics gold medalists and their career achievements together as a pair would definitely come off as intimidating towards Dabrowski and Xu, who only paired up together in March this year. Nonetheless, Dabrowski and Xu won their first title played together in Miami, a Premier Mandatory event. This was their first-ever appearance in the year-end Championships.
Great start for the Russians
Some net expertise from Makarova allowed Vesnina’s serve to have the maximum effect, holding serve in the opening game for the perfect start. In the longest game of the match, Dabrowski faced a tremendous amount of pressure while serving especially when this is her debut at the prestigious tournament, with nerves playing a crucial factor for the Chinese-Canadian pairing. Constant pressure at the baseline from the Russian pairing proved to be crucial as they saved four game points to make the first breakthrough, before easily consolidating the break for a formidable 3-0 lead.
The first set goes to Makarova and Vesnina
The underdogs continued to struggle in this encounter, and this time it was Xu who was broken to love as Vesnina was just simply peaking. The Russian was dominating the baseline rallies and especially with Makarova acting like a wall at the net, the Olympic Gold Medalists were seen to be invincible. Being 5-0 up, they finally conceded their first game of the night as Dabrowski served two consecutive aces to get on the scoreboard. Nonetheless, Makarova comfortably clinched the first set 6-1 with a couple of excellent backhands, looking incredible out there at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.
Momentum pushes the Russians forward
The second set seemed to have a familiar storyline as compared to the first as Makarova and Vesnina powered themselves to break serve in the opening game after Dabrowski threw in a crucial unforced error on break point. The lefty advantage of Makarova’s serve was used to open up the court for Vesnina to finish off the point at the net, and it was really effective as they easily consolidated the break for a 2-0 lead. Dabrowski and Xu then finally got onto the scoreboard, lessening the deficit to just one solitary game.
The win goes to Makarova and Vesnina
Vesnina then faced a break point on her serve but she managed to fend it off with a huge forehand winner down-the-line. The Russian then narrowly held serve in that tight game for a 3-1 lead, but Dabrowski and Xu just could not find the rhythm on their serves as Makarova and Vesnina kept aiming for the powerful returns in hope to dictate play.
The defending champions claimed their fourth break of the day before holding a 5-1 lead, being just a game away from the straightforward win. Failing to provide any tough challenge, Dabrowski and Xu wasted two game points as they were ultimately broken for the second straight time as Makarova and Vesnina sealed the merciless 6-1, 6-1 win after just a mere 59 minutes of play.