I had reservations about picking Maria Sharapova as a favorite coming into the 2015 WTA Finals in Singapore. She had played only one match since Wimbledon and didn’t even finish that one, retiring with an injury. However, while I might question Masha’s health and match readiness, I have never questioned her grit and determination. She needed every ounce of her will to finally overcome Agnieszka Radwanska in her first Red Group round robin match, 4-6 6-3 6-4. This one was as tight as it could get, with Aga pushing Masha for 2 hours and 47 minutes. Final point totals: Sharapova 111, Radwanska 110. It wasn’t pretty, but at this point a win is a win.
The top overall seed at the 2015 WTA Finals, Simona Halep, had no problems avenging her US Open semifinal loss to eventual champion Flavia Pennetta. Halepeño crushed Pennetta 6-0 6-3 to open her Red Group round robin play. Like Masha, Simona came in with injury questions. She retired in her last match (Beijing) with an Achilles injury. She says she’s ok now, and she sure looked like it in how she handled Flavia, who came in with a 4-1 head to head advantage over Halep. I still worry about a player coming in right off an injury, especially an Achilles. If she can hold up physically, Simona has a chance to improve on last year’s runner-up finish in Singapore.
I also wanted to take a moment to congratulate Naomi Osaka on her title at the WTA Finals Rising Stars Invitational. The 18-year old, whose father is Haitian and mother is Japanese, currently plays under the flag of Japan. Naomi defeated the odds-on favorite, Caroline Garcia of France, by saving four match/championship points against her. They played short sets (first to 4 games, must win by 2 games, tie-break at 4-4) with Osaka prevailing 3-5 5-4 (6) 4-1. Naomi first made noise on tour when the then-17 year old upset Samantha Stosur at the 2014 Bank of the West Classic. The fitness and power of today’s women’s game generally prevents as many teenagers from breaking through and winning Majors as they once did in the past. So give Naomi some time to mature and grow into her game. It might take two or three years before she puts things together. This victory was a great step in that direction.
ALL PICS CLICK TO ENLARGE
1 SIMONA HALEP (won 6-0 6-3 vs 7 Flavia Pennetta)
3 MARIA SHARAPOVA (won 4-6 6-3 6-4 vs 5 Agnieszka Radwanska)
RISING STARS INVITATIONAL
NAOMI OSAKA (won 3-5 5-4 (6) 4-1 vs Caroline Garcia)