WTA Championships: One Month To Go

KEY BISCAYNE, FL - MARCH 29: Serena Williams of the United States poses for a photograph with the Road to Singapore sign after her straight sets victory against Li Na of China during their final match during day 13 at the Sony Open at Crandon Park Tennis Cente on March on March 29, 2014 in Key Biscayne, Florida. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

The WTA Championships start on October 23, meaning that little more than a month is left for players to qualify and ensure their status as one of the elite eight.

2016 has been quite a surprising year, as far as women’s tennis results are concerned. The gold medal won by Monica Puig (although Olympics doesn’t give count for ranking points) was clearly the most unexpected. It certainly wasn’t the only one though. Angelique Kerber’s tremendous season, with two Grand Slam titles and the number one spot, was unpredictable at the beginning of the year. Likewise, Karolina Pliskova’s appearance in the final of New York, despite winning Cincinnati the week before. The fact that she had never reached a Slam fourth round made her runner-up ending surprising.

With the conclusion of the US Open, 2016 Grand Slams are officially over. The last crucial points to qualify for Singapore are available in the Asian Swing. Wuhan and Beijing in particular are the biggest two WTA Premier Tournaments to be played. Indeed, the winner of these two tournaments have the opportunity to earn 900 and 1000 points respectively, a godsend in the final rush.

Who is definitely heading to Singapore?

The WTA Championships qualification cut is 4330 points. Currently, only Angelique Kerber and Serena Williams have overcome it. The former has gained a total of 7800 points, the latter 7050. Though Kerber’s amazing performances in 2016 make her total amount of ranking points unsurprising, one may be concerned about Williams’ points. However, in Grand Slams alone she was able to earn 5380 points – 6280 if her victory in Rome is added. 89 percent of her ranking points come from just five tournaments, an amazing statist.

Moreover, Simona Halep is just 71 points away from qualification which makes her participation in Singapore almost certain. It is similar for Karolina Pliskova and Agnieszka Radwanska, who won the last edition of the WTA Championships. It seems likely that we are going to see these five players fighting for the last WTA title of the season.

Who is still yet to confirm their plane ticket to Singapore?

The sixth position in the race is Garbine Muguruza’s. Since winning the French Open the Spaniard has struggled for consistency. She lost to Jana Cepelova in the second round of Wimbledon, and to Latvian Anastasia Sevastova at the same stage of the US Open. Even though she has 500 points more than Dominika Cibulkova, ranked seventh, she’ll need some good results in the last part of the season to secure her spot at the WTA Championships. After Muguruza, all of the other players have earned, as for now, a total less than 3000 points. Victoria Azarenka is the exception, but she clearly will not be in Singapore due to her pregnancy. This scenario makes the final rush entertaining to say the least.

Only eighteen points separate Cibulkova in seventh and Madison Keys. Carla Suarez Navarro is in the middle of the pair. However, only two of them are going to make it to Singapore. Or, perhaps, one, or maybe none. Johanna Konta together with Svetlana Kuznetsova are piling pressure on their shoulders. Kuznetsova is just 433 points away from Cibulkova. However, neither Konta nor the Russian are scheduled to play a WTA tournament this week, so that their qualification seems to be quite tough.

Apart from big upsets, it seems quite reasonable to state that the following have little chance of earning a spot. Timea Bacsinszky, Venus Williams, Roberta VinciElena Vesnina and Samantha Stosur seem to be too far away to have a possibility of getting a ticket to Singapore. This is exacerbated by the fact that none of these are going to be on court this week.

How does the WTA Championships line-up differ to 2015?

Now that a general overview of the 2016 situation has been outlined, it is interesting to look at the eight who participated in the 2015 edition of the WTA Championships. Serena Williams, ranked #1 in 2015, decided to skip the last part of the season after her loss to Roberta Vinci in the US Open semifinals. The number one seed belonged to Halep, a player whose tremendous consistency will allow her to probably participate this year. Same for Radwanska and Kerber, respectively fifth and sixth seeds in 2015. Garbine Muguruza probably won’t be seeded as high as in 2015, where she was #2. Regardless, we’ll probably see her fighting to claim the title alongside the seven other competitors.

The situation though, is very different as far as the four remaining players are concerned. Maria Sharapova and Flavia Pennetta won’t be able to be there this year. The Russian was banned earlier this year, and it is still unsure when she will to return. The latter officially called an end to her career after Singapore in 2015. Despite being asked to return to tour and play some further competition, it has been a year since she last played a professional WTA match. Funnily enough, that was her loss to Sharapova in the round robin stage of last year’s WTA Championships. The Czechs, Petra Kvitova and Lucie Safarova are still playing full time. Due to lack of consistency and injuries they’re now respectively 21st and 60th in the live race rankings. Therefore, neither will be in Singapore.

Singapore’s 2016 edition will inevitably provide a different scenario than last year. With a month left to see who’ll make it there, let’s see, let’s wait and let’s cheer!

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