World No. 2 and five-time champion Serena Williams’ decision to pull out of the WTA Finals due to her ongoing shoulder injury has left the door wide open for one more player to qualify for the prestigious season-ending tournament beginning in Singapore on Sunday. The best eight players of a particular season get to compete for the whopping 1500 points on offer and thus it is no surprise that with the American’s withdrawal, a frenzied last-minute race has begun to clinch that coveted final berth.
The event that has become the cynosure of all eyes for this sole reason is the Kremlin Cup, currently being played in Moscow. The Premier tournament is where all the action is taking place this week which will decide who gets to clinch that last spot.
Suarez Navarro drops out
Till today, three players were in the race – the World No. 9 and defending champion Svetlana Kuznetsova, the 12th ranked Carla Suarez Navarro and the 10th ranked Johanna Konta. The first two of this trio had been playing at Moscow while the British No. 1 Konta is currently resting after suffering from an abdominal injury during the Hong Kong Open last week.
Her hopes were almost dashed after putting up her most consistent ever season and becoming the first British woman to break into the top 10 since 1984. But now those fading chances have brightened up with Serena’s exit as she once again finds herself in the hunt.
Her path has opened up even further after today. Suarez Navarro has dropped out of the race following a retirement in her second round match against Daria Gavrilova while trailing 4-6, 0-3.
The Spaniard needed to win the tournament to be guaranteed of the place. With her departure, the onus now lies on the two-time Grand Slam winning Russian.
All-or-nothing for Kuznetsova
If Kuznetsova succeeds in her all-or-nothing quest to defend the title that she won last year, she will qualify for the WTA Finals for the first time since 2009. And the Russian desperately wants it too.
The former World No. 2 has revived her career this year by winning at Sydney and reaching the final at Miami. She took a wildcard this week just to be able to get a chance to make it through to the elite eight. She has also started her campaign at the Kremlin Cup with the same determination, grinding out a gritty 6-4, 7-5 win over the 49th ranked Alize Cornet.
All she now needs to do is to continue in the same fashion and get three more wins on the trot. Being a multiple Major winner, she expects nothing less of herself. Winning is the major goal and Kuznetsova has clearly underlined it during a media interaction.
“If I win the tournament, it would be amazing and that’s what I am expecting,” she has said.
It goes without saying that if the 31-year-old slips by any chance, it will make it possible for Konta to achieve her dream of qualifying for the season-ender for the first time in her career.
Angelique Kerber, Agnieszka Radwanska, Simona Halep, Karolina Pliskova, Garbine Muguruza, Madison Keys, Dominika Cibulkova along with Serena have all sealed their places in the upcoming year-ender. Had Serena gone on to take part, it would have drawn an end to the qualification process, leaving this week bland with hardly any excitement for fans.
But the sudden turn of events has given a new spark to this part of the season and fans will now eagerly wait to see who takes that final spot.