WTA Finals 2017: Analysing the chances of the eight qualifiers
The 2017 WTA season has galloped to reach a smashing closure for the calendar year at the WTA Finals in Singapore. The best eight players will be a part of this elite squad at the year-ending championships.
It will be very much interesting to watch the 2008 WTA Finals champion Venus Williams along with the French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko, who weave into a nice blend of the iconic great and the Generation Next at this event. This year has been a very distinguished one for WTA tennis with three different players grabbing limelight at the remainder of the Grand Slams after Serena Williams won the Australian Open. Ostapenko lifting the French Open, Garbine Muguruza the Wimbledon and Sloane Stephens the US Open had tennis fans convinced that sheer determination indeed can move mountains.
The highlight of the 2017 WTA Finals is the close tussle between the points of the players. It will be intriguing as seven of the eight players in the draw have a chance to grab the No. 1 ranking at the end of the tournament.
Here's a look at their current points:
1. Simona Halep - 5,675 points
2. Garbine Muguruza - 5,635 points
3. Karolina Pliskova - 5,105 points
4. Elina Svitolina - 5,000 points
5. Venus Williams - 4,642 points
6. Caroline Wozniacki - 4,640 points
7. Jelena Ostapenko - 4,510 points
The players are placed into two groups.
World No. 1 Simona Halep will head the Red Group while Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza will head the White Group. The other six players will be spread across the two groups, with each group consisting of four players. Each player will play the other three in her group in round-robin matches through the first six days with the top two players in each group advancing to the sem-ifinals.
The Red Group
This group will see Simona Halep, who is into a fourth WTA Finals of her career along with Svitolina, Wozniacki and Caroline Garcia.
Leading this group, the Romanian, who has had a dramatic season, will look to prove herself worthy of the latest No. 1 crown that has adorned her when she made her first final in Beijing. Having no Grand Slam title yet against her name, it will be challenging for Halep to battle it out and cliffhang to the World No. 1 spot.
Being the only one among the three who has made the final at the season-ending championships along with the 2008 champion Venus Williams and 2010 runner-up Caroline Wozniacki, the Beijing runner-up Halep is surely riding a wave of confidence stepping into the battle.
The year-end extravaganza will see the World No. 8 Caroline Garcia taking on the World No. 1 Halep much to a deja vu of the China Open final, the result of which saw the Frenchwoman lifting the title and the Romanian finishing as the runner-up. The 24-year-old Garcia earned her place in Singapore among the elite by lifting back-to-back Wuhan and Beijing titles.
However, she is the only one among the eight who is not in the race for clinching the No. 1 ranking. By reaching the quarter-finals at Roland Garros and then showcasing a brilliant fortnight in China, Garcia burst into the top 10 and is now into her maiden WTA Finals.
World No. 4 Svitolina of Ukraine will also debut in Singapore. Having won five titles in this season, namely Taipei, Dubai, Istanbul, Rome, and Toronto, the 23-year-old will certainly be pushing herself to the limits. The quarter-final appearance at Roland Garros was certainly a career best for Svitolina. Not having shown any impressive results at the Majors, she will still fancy her chances at the year-end finals.
Caroline Wozniacki has been a true example of consistency. The former World No. 1 reached seven finals in this season, namely Doha, Dubai, Miami, Eastbourne, Bastad, Toronto, and Tokyo, albeit she won only the Tokyo Open. Reaching the second week of the French Open and Wimbledon have also been feathers in the cap for the Dane. After having last qualified in 2014, this is a fifth WTA Finals of her career. She has made the final of this tournament in 2010.
The White Group
Leading the White group is the second seed and Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza. Having earned the Player of 2017 honour recently for her second Grand Slam title and for having clinched the No. 1 ranking, the Spaniard has been exuding rays of confidence that have lit up her way like never before.
The 24-year-old has won the title at Cincinnati and has reached the semi-finals at Stanford and Tokyo. Just 40 points behind Halep, she also boasts of having reached the second week of all the four Slams of the season.
Muguruza, who beat Jelena Ostapenko in her first match in Singapore, is making her third straight appearance at the event. It is very much possible for Muguruza to make it to the semi-finals if she vows to and is fit.
The 20-year-old Ostapenko of Latvia has been the sweet poster girl of tennis ever since she swept fans off their feet by clinching the French Open title despite being an unseeded player on the tour. The World No. 7 has made the semi-finals in Wuhan and Beijing and has also won a WTA title in Seoul but she has a losing record against everyone the group. It will still be exciting to watch Jelena as she will be hitting with almost gay abandon, a fearlessly hitting trait that she is known for.
Karolina Pliskova has recorded a very impressive first seven months of her season. She, however, was later seen running out of steam when the No. 1 ranking was perhaps a burden on her.
She won three titles in the first six months -- Brisbane, Doha and Eastbourne -- but the Asian Tour registered a dwindling form for Pliskova. Leading the Tour with 423 aces and 37 hardcourt wins, the Czech can certainly make it deep in Singapore.
2008 champion Venus Williams is playing the WTA Finals for the first time since 2009. She has had a splendid season by reaching the final of two Slams -- the Australian Open and the Wimbledon.
For the American, this will be a fifth appearance in the season-ending championships. The 37-year-old is the third oldest player to qualify for it. It will be extremely intriguing to see if Williams can bring in the Slam form of hers to break records and script more stories in the coming week in Singapore.
In this group, if Muguruza is fit, she surely can snatch back the No. 1 ranking. Her confidence and consistency have been commendable in the latter half of the season. Muguruza is the best bet to reach the semi-finals from this group. It should not be forgotten though that Ostapenko has all the weapons too to bring about a wild change like she does. Time will tell.