WTA FINALS: BATTLE FOR SINGAPORE SPOTS HEATS UP

The WTA Finals in Singapore is a priority for world No 3 Sharapova. Photo World Sport Group

AFTER THE first day of competition in the Wuhan Open yesterday, 21 players are in with a chance to fight for the remaining five spots in the WTA Finals in Singapore. That is, if they win all the tournaments on their schedules.

It was cut down from 23 after Sara Errani and Andrea Petkovic lost their respective first round single matches to Caroline Garcia (6-7, 6-4, 6-2) and Johanna Konta (6-4, 7-5) in the Chinese city.

With the cut-off for qualification currently at 3,900 points, the pair won’t be able to rake in the necessary points before the Finals at the Singapore Indoor Stadium from Oct 25-Nov 1.

So far, only Serena Williams, Simona Halep and Maria Sharapova—the top three in the Road to Singapore leaderboard—have booked their places.

But there was some drama on court yesterday when world No 3 Sharapova’s first match in nearly three months was cut short midway through the final set by an arm injury.

Indicating she did not want to aggravate the injury, the five-time Grand Slam winner retired and later told reporters the WTA Finals next month and the Fed Cup in November were her priorities. Her presence at the China Open in Beijing later this week is now in doubt.

The Russian had looked on course for victory in her second round tie when she led by a set and a break against Barbora Strycova in her opening match.

But an error-strewn game handed the break back to Strycova and things went from bad to worse when a visibly troubled Sharapova dropped the subsequent tie-break.

She called for the trainer to look at the troublesome right forearm after the first game of the decider and, despite persevering for a few more games, signalled to the umpire that she would be unable to continue at the following changeover.

“I got pain in my left forearm. It just got worse and worse as I continued,” Sharapova said later. “I just don’t think it’s smart to continue trying to run around the court and trying to hit forehands from the backhand side and compensate other things.

“I haven’t played a match in many months. I guess this is the consequence of that. I just have to work on getting it better.”

Strycova, who was trailing 7-6 (1), 6-7 (4), 2-1 at the time of the retirement, will face either Coco Vandeweghe or Caroline Garcia in the third round.

Sharapova can add her forearm to a growing-list of ailments that has disrupted her career in recent years. However, the Russian was quick to dismiss fears that it may prematurely curtail her season.

“I’ve had my fair share of serious injuries, and I know this is far from it, something I just have to take care of,” Sharapova added. “I mean obviously Singapore and Fed Cup is a big priority for myself. I’ll do everything in order to be healthy for that.”

THE BATTLE FOR POINTS BEFORE WTA FINALS:
Sept 27-Oct 3:  Wuhan Open (WUH)
Oct 3-11:            China Open (CHN)
Oct 12-18           Generali Ladies Linz (LIN)
Oct 12-18:          Hong Kong Open (HKG)
Oct 12-18:          Tianjin Open (TIA)
Oct 19-25:          Luxembourg Open (LUX)
Oct 19-24:          Kremlin Cup (KRE)

ROAD TO SINGAPORE LEADERBOARD
After first day of competition in Wuhan

RANK PLAYER COUNTRY POINTS WUH CHN LIN HKG TIA LUX KRE
PRE CUR       900+ 1000 280 280 280 280 470
[1] 1 Serena Williams* USA 9945
[2] 2 Simona Halep* ROU 5736
[3] 3 Maria Sharapova* RUS 4322 R32
[4] 4 Petra Kvitova CZE 3379
[5] 5 Lucie Safarova CZE 3222
[6] 6 Flavia Pennetta ITA 3034
[7] 7 Angelique Kerber GER 2970
[8] 8 Carla Suarez Navarro ESP 2960
[11] 9 Agnieszka Radwanska POL 2955 R64
[9] 10 Karolina Pliskova CZE 2955
[10] 11 Gabrine Muguruza ESP 2928
[12] 12 Belinda Bencic SUI 2865
[14] 13 Caroline Wozniacki DEN 2621
[13] 14 Timea Bacsinszky SUI 2483
[16] 15 Madison Keys USA 2430
[15] 16 Sara Errani ITA 2410 R64
[17] 17 Elina Svitolina UKR 2355
[18] 18 Victoria Azarenka BLR 2276
[18] 19 Roberta Vinci ITA 2275
[20] 20 Ekaterina Makarova RUS 2202
[22] 21 Ana Ivanovic SRB 2182
[21] 22 Jelena Jankovic SRB 2175
[21] 23 Venus Williams USA 2073
[23] 24 Andrea Petkovic GER 1987 R64
[25] 25 Kristina Mladenovic FRA 1760
[26] 26 Samantha Stosur ** AUS 1720 R64
[29] 27 Anna Karolina Schmiedlova SVK 1675
[28] 28 Sloane Stephens ** USA 1621
[27] 29 Sabine Lisicki ** GER 1569
[30] 30 Irina-Camelia Begu ** ROU 1562
*      Players who have already booked their places in Singapore
**    Players out of contention before arriving in Wuhan
+       Maximum points available for tournaments at each city
++     ‘R’ indicate the round a player was defeated
✓     Tournaments players are scheduled to play before the WTA Finals

UPDATE: First paragraph was edited to read as “21 players are in with a chance to fight for the remaining five spots” and not that 21 players can make the WTA Finals. Only eight players can make the finals. Thank you to the reader and apologies for the oversight.