The long and exciting 2018 WTA season will have its last big tournament in Singapore with the WTA finals. Even though the absence of the world number 1 Simona Halep due to a back injury has taken away a little bit of the luster from the tournament, it still has the next best eight players in the WTA rankings participating.
Unlike the ATP tour which has long been dominated by the big three, the WTA tour has been much more open, especially in recent years with Serena’s absence. Even though Serena has made a comeback this year, she has not yet been able to replicate her earlier success.
There is no doubt that this year’s WTA tour final certainly lacks some of its star appeal thanks to the absence of the world number 1 Halep, the Williams sisters, Garbine Muguruza and Maria Sharapova. But it’s also a sign of the change of guard in the WTA tour.
This year’s Grand Slams saw 4 different winners, including three first-timers in Halep, Wozniacki and Naomi Osaka. The emergence of young and exciting players can be gauged from the fact that the Red group in the WTA finals sees three debutants along with the veteran Angelique Kerber.
Naomi Osaka, Sloane Stephens and Kiki Bertens are the three debutantes who will vie for the two semi-final spots from the Red group which has only one player with previous WTA finals experience. So, does that mean Kerber is a clear favourite to seal one of the semi-final spots from this group?
No, not by a long distance. Stephens actually has a 4-1 head to head record against Kerber. And even though Kerber has a winning H2H record against both Osaka (3-1) and Bertens (2-1), both these players have had a break out year in 2018, and have climbed to career-high rankings. The young Osaka, in particular, seems destined for greatness.
Unlike the Red group, the white group has a set of more established players who have been there on the WTA tour for quite some time. On paper, two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova may seem like a clear favourite to top this group, as she has an astounding 18-6 combined head to head record against the three players in her group – Wozniacki, Svitolina and Pliskova.
But Wozniacki seems to be back in top form having suffered a dip in form after the Australian Open triumph. Svitolina and Pliskova have both had an up and down season, but the big-serving Pliskova and the tenacious Svitolina are certainly capable of putting it across their more experienced opponents.
There are certainly no clear favourites this year to lift the Billie Jean King trophy. But with the White group matches commencing on Sunday, one thing is certain: the next week is sure to throw up some very exciting matches of the highest quality.Published 20 Oct 2018, 14:08 IST