WTA Finals Preview
This will be the third year that the WTA finals will be talking place in the city state that is Singapore. The showcase event has been purposely placed in the far east to try and encourage further growth in tennis for this area of the world. Shanghai has previously hosted the ATP finals and with great success, Singapore though has taken a leaf out of Londons book and has run it in a similar way to how the O2 showcase the ATP stars. Lets hope that it continues to bring in the numbers and Singapore can hold on to this event for as long as London has hosted the ATP finals.
So who are the players?
World no.1, 2016 Australian and US Open champion, and the Silver Medalist at Rio 2016 is quite the list of accomplishments. Adding the WTA finals to this would put her in quite a dominating position for the 2017 season.
Defending champ Agnieszka Radwanska ‘Aga’ has produced another solid year with very consistent results. This high level of consistency has kept her in the top 10 and during every grand slam event she is always knocking on the door desperate to get in. The game style that Aga brings to a tennis court is very unique and great to watch, look out for those drop shots, slices and angles that she can create from anywhere on the court.
Another solid year from one of the youngest players repressed here this year. Pocket rocket Simona Halep has raced through the tennis calendar picking up 3 titles and two semi finals in the Australian and French opens. Surely a grand slam victory will be hers in the next few years.
US Open final and a great second half to the year makes the new Czech no.1 a strong contender for the title here. Karolina has had a break through year in 2016 and by reaching the US Open final and only just losing in three tight sets to the no.1 player in world. Pliskova’s big hitting game intertwined with some soft hands makes her extremely tough to beat.
French open champ and 2015 Wimbledon champ has now cemented her place in the top 10 and another strong contender. Gabine has had some injury issues in the last few months which has held her back, but if she can reproduce the form she had during the two weeks in Paris this year, then she can beat anyone in the field.
Classic big hitting American, Keys has become much more comfortable in 2016 as a top ten player and is getting stronger as she gains more experience on the WTA circuit. With one title this year coming at the WTA grass court event in Birmingham and solid slam results all year, Keys is in a good position to continue rising the rankings in 2017. Watch out for that huge 1st serve and big powerful forehand.
Back in the big time after some injury issues, she has always been a hard worker and with her solid ground game along with being a very powerful athlete, she could cause a few surprises in the far east. Her consistent results throughout the year has got her a spot in the top 8.
Svetlana Kuznetsova was the last player to sneak into the event having defended her title in Moscow just last week. By winning that event she pushed out brit Jo Konta into 9th place in the race. Former French and US open champ, Kuznestova has had a steady year and this has enabled her to get back into the top ten for the first time since 2009. She could cause a huge upset in this tournament as she has come into some good form in the build up to this event.
Konta just misses out.
Jo Konta has had a unbelievable 2016 and only just missed out on the end of season finals by one spot. She may still play in this tournament as she will travel as an alternate meaning if someone gets injured then she will get in. Either way this will be the cherry on the cake for Konta’s amazing season. What a turn around she has had coming from a ranking of 146th in 2014, to the top ten in just under two years, and there are no signs that she will let up as her game is so mentally strong at the moment and players find it so tough to match her in that department.
I have to mention the exclusion of both William’s sisters from this years event and although their absence will be sorely missed it doesn’t mean that the remaining 8 won’t give the punters their moneys worth. Other notable absentees from the event include Petra Kvitova who made it to the final last year but has had an inconsistent year. Caroline Wozniaki just ran out of time even though she has had a solid comeback from injury and a welcome back to good form. Another player who won’t be here is Victoria Azarenka as she is taking time off to start a family.
The favourite has to be the new world no.1 Angelique Kerber, she has produced a stellar 2016 and has really matched the might of Serena throughout the entire year. The speed at which Angie is able to get around the court and dig balls out has made her one of the toughest players to finish a point against. As even as this field is and in my opinion it is a very very open event in terms of the attributes of each of the top 8, I just think that Kerber will have mental edge when it comes to the crunch. She can fall back on a number of moments throughout a long season that will get her over the line.
This section has been a tough one to place just one player as a dark horse. Tough in terms of the fact that we are looking at the best 8 players in the world here. But never the less if its not going to be Angie, who is my pick to lift the trophy this year? A tight decision but my pick is defending champion Agnieszka Radwanska, the tricky Pole has had another solid year and the indoor conditions suit her game style well as she showed last year. The rest of the field is very much even and all players have a chance at winning this title.
Review of the first 2 sessions
The first two days of the event have shown us just how open this event is with some stellar performances from all 8 players. On day 1 the favourite had to work hard to get through in three high quality sets against Cibulkova. The second match on Sunday was a little more straight forward for Halep who looked in good form against Keys. On day two my dark horse pick Radwanska had a match point but eventually lost to the in form Russian Kuznestova in three epic sets of tennis. The other match from this group pipped Pliskova against Muguruza and again a match point was saved by the eventual winner. Pliskova coming back from 4-1 saving a match point in the third set to take it 7-5 on her debut at this event. If the quality keeps up this pace we could be in for a fantastic next few days of tennis, since this is a round robin event everybody is still in with chance of getting through their group. The next two sessions are looking very intriguing, tomorrow will see Keys vs Cibulkova, with both players losing their opening matches this is a must win for both. The second match is between Kerber and Halep, with both players winning their first matches the winner of this tie will be a strong favourite to make to the semi finals.
The doubles event at both the men’s and women’s end of year finals is always a great showcase for the art of doubles and each player sees it as their chance to play in front of the big crowds. This year the WTA have decided to run it like a tour event with a knock out draw which starts on Thursday.
So who are the teams?
1. Caroline Garcia and Kristina Mladenovic
2. Martina Hingis and Sania Mirza
3. Bethany Mattek Sands and Lucie Safarova
4. Elina Vesina and Erkatrina Makarova
5. Yung-jan Chan and Hao-Ching Chan
6. Yaroslava Shvedova and Timea Babos
7. Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka
8. Julia Georges and Karolina Pliskova
This will be the last tournament that Hingis and Mirza will play together and what a run they have had as a doubles team since Hingis came out of retirement these two have dominated the doubles tour, but they have only won two slams. This year alone the have won 5 titles together one of them being the Australian Open. Can they win this event to put a cherry on top of a very successful partnership, I think so and this will be the pair I would put my money on.
Fresh off winning the last slam of the year in New York, the US open champions Mattek-Sands and Safarova have been together for a few years now and have struck up a good partnership. They have won every slam but Wimbledon since they decided to work together full time. I wouldn’t be surprised if they pull off this title as their team work on and off court is extremely strong – just check out their Instagram updates and you’ll know what I mean. These two get on like sisters and its great to see that they are able to bring to the court with them.