An injury plagued WTA Finals saw four players withdraw hurt over the course of the week, including Belinda Bencic in the semifinals. But still in contention for the title in Shenzhen are world #1 Ashleigh Barty, who enjoyed a fine spell during the Asian swing, and defending champion Elina Svitolina, who last year claimed the biggest title of her career to date in Hong Kong. But will it be the Australian or the Ukrainian who claims the title?
WTA Finals Final Prediction
Ashleigh Barty vs Elina Svitolina
Head-to-head: Svitolina 5-0 Barty
Barty will look to add winning the WTA Finals to her already long list of accomplishments in 2019. She is set to become the first Australian woman to end the year as world #1 and also won the French Open in June. Surely one of the most versatile players on the tour, Barty opened her maiden WTA Finals campaign with a battling 5-7 6-1 6-2 win against Bencic. But in her second match, she fell to a 6-3 3-6 4-6 defeat at the hands of alternate Kiki Bertens, who had replaced the injured Naomi Osaka in the field
But, in typical Barty fashion, the top seed shook of that disappointment and ended the group stage with a comprehensive 6-4 6-2 win against former-champion Petra Kvitova to secure her spot in the semifinals. There she faced world #2 Karolina Pliskova, who has enjoyed another solid year. The Czech claimed the first set, but Barty was once again able to dig deep, rallying to win 4-6 6-2 6-3 to give herself the chance to claim another big title in 2019.
Svitolina, meanwhile, has not yet lost a match. She began her tournament against Pliskova, winning 7-6 6-4. Svitolina then upended Simona Halep 7-5 6-3, before completing the group stage by beating Sofia Kenin, who replaced US Open champion Bianca Andreescu, 7-5 7-6. In the semifinals, she faced Bencic, dropping a set for the first time in Shenzhen. But the Swiss’ challenge faded thereafter, with Svitolina advancing to the final when Bencic retired trailing 7-5 3-6 1-4 with cramping and an injured thigh.
The Ukrainian is one of the best movers on the WTA tour. Her ability to keep balls in play often frustrates big hitters looking to hit through her, allowing her to force errors from her opponents’ racquets. But she may well need to be at her defensive best against Barty. The Australian can call upon unusual variety and possesses superb touch, particularly at the net. Her sliced backhand is also one of the best in the women’s game.
But for all her quality, Barty may be approaching this final with some trepidation, having lost all five of her previous meetings with Svitolina, who has been in superb form so far in Shenzhen. The Ukrainian will also have the added motivation of this match marking her last chance to win a title in 2019 and keep alive her seven-year streak of winning a WTA title every season. But although she leads the head-to-head comfortably, three of her wins came in 2017 and in their most recent, Svitolina won only very narrowly.
The Australian has improved considerably in the interim and on paper this looks like a good matchup for her. Svitolina thrives when defending against power and is one of the best counter-punchers in the game. But Barty will not try to overpower her from the back of the court. Rather, the world #1 will surely look to move forward whenever possible, which could cause even Svitolina’s stellar defence problems. Expect a close contest, but for the crafty Barty to come out on top this time.
Prediction: Barty in 3
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