$230m of grit at WTA Finals

World No 1 Keber leads the world's top eight in-form players battling for bragging rights at the Sports Hub

IAN DE COTTA

TEARS HAVE been shed, sweat dripped onto the court at the Singapore Indoor Stadium, where rackets have been smashed. And — it may be hard to fathom – golden locks have even been sacrificed, on courtside, no less.

And all in the pursuit of glory at the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global.

The world’s top eight tennis women are in Singapore, battling for the honour of beating their most in-form counterparts in this, the season-ending tournament, and it already is shaping up to be a contest of gladiatorial proportions.

This week, there will be several of the sport’s most recognisable women walking around the Singapore Sports Hub, from legends the likes of Martina Navratilova, to the reigning world  No 1 Angelique Kerber, and China’s rising star Zheng Saisai — and they are worth a combined total of some $230 million, in earned prize money alone.

That is $230 million worth of blood, sweat and tears shed on practice courts and centre-courts the world over, for decades.

There is a women’s tennis exhibit at the Singapore Sports Museum titled Graceful Grit, but the real teeth-grinding fortitude is to be witnessed out in the arena.

And those who will do battle out on the courts at the Indoor Stadium, have already shown just how much they are willing to give, to be the last woman standing.

Svetlana Kuznetsova has hogged the headlines for her steel, even snipping off some of her hair that kept getting in her eye as she smashed forehands at defending champion Agnieszka Radwanska.

This just after competing in the last two tournaments before flying to Singapore immediately after she won the Kremlin Cup in Moscow to earn her spot at the Finals.

“I put aside that I’m tired, I put aside emotions, the jet lag … I was trying to think we’re even. We came here both to fight and let’s play the match – put all things aside.

“I’m trying so hard, then I just let it go because I was like — come on — It was just impossible right now. I was trying as much, as hard as I can to fight and just be there — I just did it as I felt,” she said after her almost three-hour struggle with Radwanska.

“At some point I was ready to just let it go and lie on the court and let them take me out of here but I decided to hang in there.”

Kuznetsova then dragged her spent legs off the court on Monday after a deserved victory, but still stopped to sign autographs.

Kerber has had to claw her way back from the brink of defeat, as did Karolina Pliskova, but even those who have been vanquished have shown mettle.

Just 1.61 metres in height, the diminutive Dominika Cibulkova was a giant on the court, taking Kerber to the edge before falling. And even in comprehensive defeat to Simona Halep, Madison Keys was able to take it on the chin, flash that trademark warm smile, and even look forward to only her second ever match at a season-ending Finals.

“I definitely think there were some nerves — I don’t think that’s super surprising. It definitely doesn’t feel like any other tournament, and it all felt new — new nerves and a new occasion — so that was difficult to deal with,” said the 21-year-old American.

She shook off the spectre of defeat to smile and even laugh while chatting after the loss.

“I just think having a match under my belt, there’ll be a little less nerves going out next time, and I can go out and play with nothing to lose.”

The WTA Finals is promising to be a gripping battle of wills, and Singaporean tennis fans — even just believers in the human spirit — will have little to lose, and much to gain from witnessing for themselves the rather unlikely marriage of colourful dainty dresses, and a street urchin’s ignorance of the existence of the white flag.