SHARAPOVA’S AGE PRESSURE

From left to right: Kvitova, Muguruza, Halep and Sharapova. Photo FOO CHUAN WEI, SIX-SIX.COM

WITH LEFT fist on hips, Maria Sharapova lifted her gaze up towards the crowd on the two tiers of floors overlooking the stage at the Marina Bay Sands. She hardly smiled. It was a scene setter for the Russian.

At the public draw for the WTA Finals that gets under way tomorrow night at the Singapore Indoor Stadium, her unspoken message was clear: Keep your eyes on me.

The 28-year-old has qualified for WTA Finals singles competition eight times, but won only once at her debut in 2004. The only other player in the field who has also won the competition is Petra Kvitova in 2011. But what rubs, especially for Sharapova, is that they are not the top two seeds.

The respective Nos 1 and 2 are Simona Halep and Garbine Muguruza, women’s tennis hottest properties at the moment. The bets are that either of them will take home the 45th edition of the WTA’s showpiece competition.

This must bother Sharapova. Without Serena Williams, she is, after all, the most accomplished player lining up for the US$7 million tournament. There are the Big Four Grand Slams, including twice at the French Open, to boast and 35 career WTA titles.

Compared to the rest, the highest-paid female athlete in the world has had a better season, in terms of titles won and Grand Slam results. There were the two wins in Brisbane, a Premier 12 event, in January and at Rome (Premier 5) four months later, and the Australia Open final and Wimbledon semi-final appearances.

Only 33-year-old Flavia Penetta among the eight finalists in Singapore has won a Grand Slam, at the US Open last month. But her career record is nowhere near the Russian’s.

What surely irritates the No 3 seed Sharapova is that against the crop of high-powered young players in the field, her star may be fading too soon. It is not without reason. Kvitova (No 4) is 25, Halep is a year younger, and Muguruza just turned 22.

So when the evening’s host Andrew Krasny greeted Sharapova on stage and said she must be proud to be playing in her eighth finals, the five-time Grand Slam winner shot back, “You are making me feel old.”

Singapore is serious business for Sharapova. And the truth is she must prove her best tennis has yet to come. Add in the glamour game, Muguruza is proving to be a hot number as the next women’s tennis next poster girl and that hurts, too.

There is a lot of pride at stake in winning the WTA Finals in Singapore. So, don’t count Sharapova out yet, it’ll get hot on court.

THE DRAW

WTA FINALS SINGLES ROUND ROBIN
Red Group White Group
Simona Halep Garbine Muguruza
Maria Sharapova Petra Kvitova
Agnieszka Radwanska Angelique Kerber
Flavia Pennetta Lucie Safarova

 

2015 WTA FINALS DOUBLES ROUND ROBIN
Red Group White Group
Martina Hingis and Sania Mirza Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Lucie Safarova
Timea Babos and Kristina Mladenovic Chan Yung-jan and Chan Hao-ching
Raquel Kops-Jones and Abigail Spears Caroline Garcia and Katarina Srebotnik
Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka Garbine Muguruza and Carla Suarez-Navarro

 

TALE OF THE TAPE

Source: WTA

(1) Simona Halep (ROU #2)

~ 2015 Titles: 3 (Shenzhen, Dubai, Indian Wells)
~ 2015 Record: 48-15
~ Best Grand Slam result in 2015: Semifinalist (US Open)
~ WTA Finals history: 2nd appearance (3-2 record – finalist in 2014)
~ Heah-to-Head vs rest of group: 5-13 (0-5 vs Sharapova, 4-4 vs Radwanska, 1-4 vs Pennetta)

(2) Garbiñe Muguruza (ESP #4)

~ 2015 Titles: 1 (Beijing)
~ 2015 Record: 38-18
~ Best Grand Slam result in 2015: Finalist (Wimbledon)
~ WTA Finals history: 1st appearance
~ H2H vs rest of group: 3-4 (0-0 vs Kvitova, 3-3 vs Kerber, 0-1 vs Safarova)

(3) Maria Sharapova (RUS #3)

~ 2015 Titles: 2 (Brisbane, Rome)
~ 2015 Record: 34-8
~ Best Grand Slam result in 2015: Finalist (Australian Open)
~ WTA Finals history: 8th appearance (18-10 – champion in 2004)
~ H2H vs rest of group: 19-5 (5-0 vs Halep, 12-2 vs Radwanska, 2-3 vs Pennetta)

(4) Petra Kvitova (CZE #5)

~ 2015 Titles: 3 (Sydney, Madrid, New Haven)
~ 2015 Record: 35-13
~ Best Grand Slam result in 2015: Quarterfinalist (US Open)
~ WTA Finals history: 5th appearance (8-5 – champion in 2011)
~ H2H vs rest of group: 11-2 (0-0 vs Muguruza, 4-2 vs Kerber, 7-0 vs Safarova)

(5) Agnieszka Radwanska (POL #6)

~ 2015 Titles: 2 (Tokyo [Pan Pacific], Tianjin)
~ 2015 Record: 48-23
~ Best Grand Slam result in 2015: Semifinalist (Wimbledon)
~ WTA Finals history: 7th appearance (6-10 record – semifinalist in 2012 & 2014)
~ H2H vs rest of group: 11-19 (4-4 vs Halep, 2-12 vs Sharapova, 5-3 vs Pennetta)

(6) Angelique Kerber (GER #7)

~ 2015 Titles: 4 (Charleston, Stuttgart, Birmingham, Stanford)
~ 2015 Record: 52-20
~ Best Grand Slam result in 2015: Third Round (French Open, Wimbledon, US Open)
~ WTA Finals history: 3rd appearance (1-5 record)
~ H2H vs rest of group: 6-8 (3-3 vs Muguruza, 2-4 vs Kvitova, 1-1 vs Safarova)

(7) Flavia Pennetta (ITA #8)

~ 2015 Titles: 1 (US Open)
~ 2015 Record: 27-17
~ Best Grand Slam result in 2015: Champion (US Open)
~ WTA Finals history: 1st appearance
~ H2H vs rest of group: 10-8 (4-1 vs Halep, 3-2 vs Sharapova, 3-5 vs Radwanska)

(8) Lucie Safarova (CZE #9)

~ 2015 Titles: 1 (Doha)
~ 2015 Record: 31-19
~ Best Grand Slam result in 2015: Finalist (French Open)
~ WTA Finals history: 1st appearance
~ H2H vs rest of group: 2-8 (1-0 vs Muguruza, 0-7 vs Kvitova, 1-1 vs Kerber)