Ah, my love/hate relationship with the WTA Finals. On the one hand, it’s probably my favorite event outside of the Olympics and US Open. But it also means the end of the year is near. And what a year it has been. I would never have guessed back on January 1st that Angelique Kerber would end the season as the world #1, Player of the Year and reach 3 Major finals, winning 2. Yet that’s exactly what happened. Even if Serena Williams had chosen to play the 2016 WTA Finals in Singapore, Angie would still have been the top seed. Let me take a quick look at a few of the qualifiers for Singapore and assess their chances.
With Angie being the top seed, I guess I should start with her, right? Haha! This must be your first time reading one of my tennis posts. Of course I am starting off with my two favorite players in the draw, Madison Keys and Simona Halep. Maddie’s problem is that she is in the Red Group with two players that have a style that frustrates her, Kerber and Halep. I would favor her to get out of the White Group and into the semifinals, but in the Red Group she will need to bring her A game to Singapore to get out of the round robin stage.
Simona Halep once gave Serena Williams her worst ever loss at the WTA Finals. I don’t know if Simona will need that level of effort when she faces Angelique Kerber in the round robin of Red Group play, but it wouldn’t hurt. While fans still await Halep’s breakthrough to win a Major, a title at the WTA Finals would be nice until then…much like what Agnieszka Radwanska did in Singapore last year.
Garbine Muguruza is my new Petra Kvitova. The reigning Roland Garros champion can be brilliant, as she was in Paris, or go on walkabouts, as she does from time to time. Of all the players in Singapore this year, I have to admit, Madison Keys fan that I am, Garbine Muguruza is the most talented player in the draw. The problem is, like Petra, Garbi doesn’t always show it. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Mugu win this or lose all 3 of her initial White Group round robin matches.
The woman who aced Serena out of the 2016 US Open, Karolina Pliskova, has the biggest single weapon at this year’s WTA Finals, her serve. She led the tour in aces this year. Her court coverage and movement has improved, but it is still a weakness. She is a future Major winner, in my opinion. I just don’t think this is the year she wins the WTA Finals.
Johanna Konta, the 2016 Most Improved Player winner, might be new to the party…but don’t for a second think she can’t win this. Jo isn’t my top betting pick to take the title…that would be Angie or Simona, but I would call her my top darkhorse. She was completely worthy of Most Improved Player…and there is still room to grow. A title here in Singapore would make me wonder if next year she could duplicate what Angie did this year.
What else is there to say about what Angelique Kerber, the 2016 WTA Player of the Year, did this season? I almost feel like she could have won both Player of the Year and Most Improved. She was already a top 10 player, sure…but it was amazing to see where she was and where she went to in her game this year. I would say Singapore is hers to win or lose, except that she did show some signs of vulnerability in recent weeks. It’s one thing to chase #1 and get there. It’s another to stay there and defend your ranking.
The 2015 Singapore champion is back. Then again, why wouldn’t Agnieszka Radwanska be back. She just keeps going and going. She has yet to capture that elusive Major title, but she did win her biggest title here last year. I didn’t think she would take the title last. I will not make the mistake of underestimating the little Tennis Ninja again. It’s so wide open this year with no Serena, no Sharapova, no Azarenka and no Kvitova. I will not say anybody is incapable of winning.
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