WTA Finals Draw: Can Agnieszka Radwanska successfully defend her title?
A look ahead to the year-ending finale in womens' tennis.
Last year, Agnieszka Radwanska made her way to her maiden WTA Finals title pretty much as an underdog. She resurrected herself after a 1-2 record in the group stage to produce a stunning effort in the semi-finals and the final against Garbine Muguruza and Petra Kvitova respectively en route to the crown.
How is the defense of her prestigious season-ending championships title shaping up with eight of the year’s best players all vying for it? Let us have an in-depth look:
White Group: A group of opportunity for Radwanska
The White Group
Johanna Konta or Svetlana Kuznetsova
One year after the colossal win at Singapore, the Pole comes to the scene of her biggest triumph, riding high on confidence with the Premier Mandatory title at Beijing in the fall season to show for. As the second seed at the year-ender in the absence of the five-time champion Serena Williams, she finds herself heading the White Group, stacked with two power-hitters – Garbine Muguruza and Karolina Pliskova – with the identity of the eighth seed still unknown.
Should that be a cause of concern for the 2012 Wimbledon runner-up? Perhaps not.
For, this is an opportunity that Radwanska would like to grab with both hands. As most of her peers have started to get fatigued, the Pole has looked fresh and highly motivated in the last few weeks.
Post-US Open, she has won 12 matches that is quite a high number compared to how the other competitors in her group have fared.
World No. 5 Karolina Pliskova, who had a fiery run to the US Open final following her upset of Serena, mellowed out and had hardly done anything of significance since then. She managed just three wins in the fall and her record against the Pole is a lopsided 0-6 too – clearly, the Czech has a lot to worry.
Garbine Muguruza is in the same boat as the US Open runner-up as well. All the promise that the Spaniard showed by winning the French Open, amounted to nothing. Her performances have been dismal and she won just 12 more matches for the rest of the year since her Paris breakthrough. Her record against Radwanska is a competitive 4-3 but she did lose their last meeting right here in Singapore.
To add to her woes, Muguruza has to share her group with Pliskova, who is one player the Spaniard would have seriously liked to avoid. The French Open champion has lost to the Czech the last three times and her last and only victory over the Czech came way back in 2013.
If Muguruza falters yet again, things could look even rosier for the defending champion. The only groupmate that Radwanska needs to be wary of is Svetlana Kuznetsova. The latter has a whopping 11-4 head-to-head record over the Pole and she came back from match point down to beat the World No. 3 in their most recent showdown at Wuhan.
But then the Russian’s spot at the year-ender is not guaranteed yet. Even if the 31-year-old does succeed in winning at the currently ongoing Kremlin Cup and clinches the last available berth, she will come to the season finale with hardly anything left in the tank.
The eighth seed is supposed to play Radwanska on Monday and that could be a welcome news for the Pole if it is an exhausted Kuznetsova. Even if the two-time Major champion fails to qualify and the British No. 1 Johanna Konta takes that final spot, that should also augur well for the 2015 winner. Konta recently faced off with the Pole in the Beijing final and lost to her in straight sets.
Under the circumstances, Radwanska looks the most probable player to qualify from this group for the semi-finals. Pliskova has a winning record over both Kuznetsova and Konta and if she plays to her potential, the Finals debutante can be the second player to emerge from this group.