The WTA Finals begin this week with the eight best players in the world ready to battle it out in Singapore to be crowned the best of the best. Just like the ATP’s World Tour Finals the eight players are divided into two round robin groups with the two best out of each four progressing into the semifinals. From there it is a straight knockout. Although there are still some tournaments to be played thanks to the WTA’s confusing scheduling, including the WTA’s Elite Trophy the purpose of which is unclear, the WTA Finals remain the single most important WTA run event of the calendar. But will the tennis live up to the billing?
World #1 Simona Halep leads the Red Group in Singapore. The Romanian will be desperate for a strong performance as despite her sitting on top of the pile, she has added only one big trophy to her cabinet after winning in Madrid. In fact, Halep hasn’t won a title since her victory in Madrid, having lost her last four finals at the Italian Open, the French Open, the Cincinnati Masters and the China Open. More to the point, if she underperforms her world #1 ranking will be in serious peril. Joining her in Red Group is Elina Svitolina the Ukrainian world #4. Svitolina has had a historic 2017 winning five WTA titles. That includes three Premier 5 titles in Dubai, Rome and Montreal. A win in Singapore would be the perfect end to a great season for the 23-year-old.
Caroline Wozniacki, the former world #1, who is making her first appearance at the WTA Finals since 2014 is also in Red Group. Wozniacki only won one title this year but did make it to the final at the Premier 5 events in Dubai and Montreal, losing to Red Group rival Elina Svitolina on both occasions. She also reached the Miami final, falling to Briton Johanna Konta, who just missed the cut for Singapore. The final member is Caroline Garcia, whose superb form in recent weeks allowed her to overcome Johanna Konta to take the final berth for Singapore. That form saw her pick up Premier titles in Wuhan and Beijing. Although Garcia is out of the running for world #1, don’t rule her out for the title in Singapore. She’s probably the form player coming into the WTA Finals.
Second seed Garbine Muguruza is the highest ranked player in White Group. The Spaniard won her second Grand Slam this year at Wimbledon and briefly topped the rankings between the US Open and the China Open before Halep dethroned her. But, a good performance in Singapore could well see her return to the top of the pile, so she certainly shouldn’t want for motivation. She is joined in White Group by Karolina Pliskova who has also topped the rankings this year, reigning between Wimbledon and the US Open. Ultimately it’s been a disappointing year for the Czech who didn’t manage to make an impact at any of the Majors. That being said, the fact that reaching the WTA Finals with a chance of finishing as year end #1 constitutes a disappointing season for Pliskova is in many ways a marker of how far she has come.
Williams, the world #5, is the only woman in the world class field to have won the WTA Finals, having clinched the title in 2008. She joins Muguruza and Pliskova in White Group. Despite making two Slam finals, Williams’ season is missing the big trophy that would surely complete it in the veteran’s eyes. In a group of inexperienced opponents, with Pliskova having never won a match at the Finals and Muguruza just one, she may well get her chance. The final member of White Group is French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko. The Latvian is the youngest competitor at the Finals and is making her debut. Her form has tailed off a little since her exploits at the French Open and Wimbledon, but she has shocked the tennis world before and it would be a brave bet to rule her out of doing so again.
Matches to watch?
With the round robin draw already made there is no shortage of exciting matches awaiting the fans at the WTA Finals. But one of the standout matches will surely be the rematch between Muguruza and Williams, who last met in the Wimbledon final. Muguruza finished that contest in dominant style, winning the second set to love. But in the first set, the two looked evenly matched in an entertaining battle. Any repeat of that and a thrilling battle could be in order.
In Red Group, Halep will have the opportunity to get her revenge on Svitolina who twice denied her this season at Premier 5 level. The Rome final was a close fought affair, and another match of that quality would surely be greatly appreciated by the Singapore crowd. Both Svitolina and Halep have recently been defeated at the hands of Caroline Garcia and would surely dearly love to revenge themselves on the Frenchwoman.
Caroline Garcia has timed her end of season burst to perfection and has picked up wins over a number of her rivals coming into the season-ending championships. Whilst a number of players seem to be struggling with niggling injuries Garcia looks to be fit and firing. She is also free of the burden of competing for the year end #1 ranking. Expect that freedom to fire her to her third title in her last four tournaments.
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