Former top-ranked player Serena Williams held the World No. 1 ranking until August 2016, completing the longest streak as World No. 1 at 186 weeks, surpassing Steffi Graf’s previous record of 183 weeks, before being overtaken by US Open winner Angelique Kerber in the wake of the German’s title win in the women’s singles.
Earlier this year, Williams matched Steffi Graf’s Open Era Grand Slam tally of 22 singles titles and has been in strong form all season, but a number of injury struggles saw her US Open and Olympic campaigns end earlier than expected; following her semi-final loss at the US Open, Williams declared she would be taking a break from the remainder of the WTA season; with the 34-year-old having already qualified for the year-ending event in Singapore, she will return for the event to try and end the year in top spot.
Williams lost top spot after a semi-final exit at the US Open to Karolina Pliskova meant the American could no longer make up the points deficit needed to keep Kerber from taking the ranking.
With a very consistent year until the US Open, Angelique Kerber, who won two Grand Slams – the Australian and US Open, ascended to the World No. 1 ranking. But a number of lackluster performances following that rank have meant Kerber may yet again stand to lose that ranking by the end of the year.
Now, however, Kerber has had two back-to-back early exits – at the China Open, where she lost in the Round of 16 to Elina Svitolina of Ukraine, and now, at Hong Kong, the German No.1 has lost to Australia’s Daria Gavrilova in straight sets 3-6, 1-6, in the quarter-finals.
Following her loss, Kerber clarified she had had a “long season,” and that she “need(ed) a break before (the Year-Ending Championships in) Singapore.”
“I am tired and I need a lot of treatment to get ready for the next one. I was not serving at my best,” she said in an interview to the WTA.
Kerber, currently at 7955 points, is ahead of Williams, with 7055. Williams has not played a tournament since the US Open but will return to the Tour Finals to defend her No. 1 ranking.
The champion at the event wins the total number of points they won in the Round Robin stages of the tournament and an additional 810 points, while the runner-up receives their points from the Round Robin stages plus 360.
Serena is currently in second spot behind Kerber on the Road to Singapore, with third-placed Agnieszka Radwanska at a 2075-point deficit. Interestingly, it is Radwanska who is the defending champion at the tournament, with Serena Williams, the first to qualify then, having withdrawn due to injury.
Williams is at a comparatively small 900 point deficit, meaning she could well make up the difference to end 2016 as the top-ranked women’s singles player; given her consistency, it does not seem impossible for the American ace, who first burst onto the scene over a decade ago, to recover from the injuries that have been bothering her for a short part of the season, and make a comeback.