OCT 20 UPDATE: The WTA announced yesterday that Angelique Kerber was the sixth player to qualify and this report was edited to reflect her status. It has since been retracted by WTA as the announcement was premature. But I am not re-editing this analysis and will see how Kerber’s qualification goes. IAN DE COTTA
Battle is on for the remaining two WTA Finals spots in Singapore, after Radwanska, Kvitova and Kerber secured their places. But the spotlight in Singapore will be on two of women’s tennis hottest properties, Muguruza and Halep
MOSCOW HAS become pivotal in the Race to Singapore WTA Finals, with Lucie Safarova, Flavia Pennetta, Carla Suarez Navarro and Karolina Pliskova—in that order—fighting it out for the remaining three spots.
Simona Halep, Maria Sharapova, Garbine Muguruza, Petra Kvitova and Agnieszka Radwanska are the other five who have already sealed their places at the WTA’s crown jewel tournament at the Singapore Indoor Stadium next week.
Except for Pliskova, the rest of the contenders start their final campaign in the RTS race in Round of 16 in Moscow, after Pennetta and Safarova were given byes in the last 32.
Sitting in 12th spot, Pliskova must win the Kremin Cup to secure her WTA Finals ticket. But the Czech has her work cut out as she is on a collision course to meet Kerber in the quarters, if she gets past Alexandra Dulgheru in her tie today and then win the next match.
But whoever makes the semis in this route will face Pennetta, should the US Open winner get that far. In the route to the other semi-final, Suarez Navarro and Safarova are on a path for a face-off in the last four.
With the qualification battle for the WTA Finals the tensest in recent years, it is anyone’s guess which two players will book their flights to Changi Airport.
But with Safarova recovering from illness and missing the Asian swing of the WTA Tour, strong bets are on Pennetta and Suarez Navarro to complete the Singapore line-up. We shall see.
Of the players who have already secured places, they are an exciting bunch. Apart from Sharapova, the rest are a clutch of rising young stars on the threshold of taking over women’s tennis from the Russian and Serena Williams. Kvitova and Radwanska are also the only two among this crop who have made the WTA Finals without a break since 2011.
The spotlight, though, will be on Romanian Halep and Spaniard Muguruza, who is making her WTA Finals debut. They are the latest additions to the top-10 elite club but are the hottest properties in women’s tennis, and are No 2 and No 4 in the WTA overall rankings.
Two years younger than Halep, 22-year-old Muguruza’s rise has been especially meteoric. In just 19 months since January 2014, she leapt from No 58 in the WTA leaderboard to No 9 in July this year.
Although both the Spaniard and Halep, who broke into the top 10 only 22 months ago after spending most of 2013 outside the elite 20, have yet to win any Grand Slam, they are knocking on the doors on the Big Four tournaments.
The Romanian has already reached the final of the French Open and the semis of Wimbledon last year, the quarter-finals of the last two Australian Open and the last four at the recent US Open.
Muguruza’s record is just as impressive. In the last two years she made the last four at Roland Garros and reached the Wimbledon Final three months ago.
But they have already bag WTA titles, with Halep having 11 under her belt and Muguruza two after winning the China Open eight days ago.
Whatever the outcome in Moscow this week, the WTA Finals is promising to turn into a cracker of a year-ender for women’s tennis.
WTA FINALS ROAD TO SINGAPORE LEADERBOARD
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