With only a few weeks left in the WTA season, there’s very little time left to qualify for the WTA Finals in Singapore. Six players have already qualified, with Jelena Ostapenko and Johanna Konta likely to grab the last two spots. This week’s Premier Mandatory event in Beijing is the last big event for players to accumulate considerable points. With the top six players within about 1,000 points of each other, the race for year-end number one should be intense. Let’s take a look at how the top eight players performed in Q3, and their chances at the WTA Finals.
Garbine Muguruza – 5,680 points
The third quarter of 2017 was the best few months of Muguruza’s career. She won her second major at Wimbledon, and followed it up by winning the Premier 5 event in Cincinnati. Even though she was upset by Petra Kvitova in New York, she debuted as the new world number one after the US Open. Since becoming number one, she only managed two games in the Tokyo semifinals against Caroline Wozniacki, and was upset by Jelena Ostapenko in the Wuhan quarterfinals. It’s hard to know what to expect from Muguruza from week-to-week, but the pressure that comes with being number one will likely take her some time to adjust to. Much like Karolina Pliskova, Muguruza may be the latest newly-crowned number one to disappoint once reaching the top of the rankings.
Karolina Pliskova – 5,085 points
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Despite her second round exit at Wimbledon, Pliskova claimed the number one ranking following The Championships. As noted above her results since that time have been poor, and she didn’t advance to a final at any tournament in Q3. Will dropping the number one ranking take some pressure off Pliskova and help her to raise her level? If the last two weeks are any indication, the answer is no. She lost to Angelique Kerber in Tokyo and Ashleigh Barty in Wuhan. She also recently fired her coach, David Kotyza, citing a difference in opinions regarding how to get her game back on track. Pliskova appears a bit lost for the time being, and it’s easy to see her continuing to struggle for the remainder of 2017.
Simona Halep – 5,026 points
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Halep has suffered a series of heartbreaking losses this year, including several cases where she was just one match win away from becoming the new number one. She lost a tight match to Johanna Konta in the Wimbledon quarterfinals. Though she advanced to the semifinals and final in Toronto and Cincinnati respectively, she won just a total of three games over four sets in her losses at those tournaments. She then of course drew wild card Maria Sharapova in the first round of the US Open, losing a highly competitive match to the five-time major champion. Last week in Wuhan, she won only three games in her opening round against Daria Kasatkina. It would be understandable if Halep is mentally and emotionally exhausted at this point, but can she bounce back one last time this year and make a run at number one? That would be a monumental effort.
Elina Svitolina – 4,815 points
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Svitolina leads the tour with five titles this year, including her superb run in Toronto where she beat four top 10 players to take the title. She’s yet to achieve the same success at the majors, as she was eliminated in the fourth round of both Wimbledon and the US Open. Trailing Muguruza by less than 1,000 points, it’s possible she could end the year as world number one without advancing past the quarterfinals at a major. This will be Elina’s first appearance at the WTA Finals. Will she find success there as she’s found outside the majors, or will the biggest non-Grand Slam tournament be too big a stage for her to excel?
Caroline Wozniacki – 4,620 points
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After losing in six tournament finals in 2017, Wozniacki finally took her first title of the year in Tokyo, which included a 6-2, 6-0 victory over new world number one Garbine Muguruza. This will be Wozniacki’s fifth WTA Finals appearance, where she has an overall record of 9-7. Her best result was reaching the final in 2010. If Caroline plays aggressively, and the top 3 continue to struggle with their form, she could be a significant factor in Singapore.
Venus Williams – 4,612 points
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Surprisingly, this will only be Venus’ fifth appearance at the year-end championships, and her first in nine years. She’s played well at the round robin tournament in the past, with a record of 11-5, and winning the 2009 title. She also won the WTA Elite Trophy in 2015, a similar tournament for players ranked just outside the top eight. Williams was the most consistent performer at the majors this year, with 20 overall wins. Venus should be considered one of the favorites in Singapore.
Jelena Ostapenko – 4,121 points
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The surprise French Open champion impressed by coming back just a few weeks later and making the Wimbledon quarterfinals. Her level dropped off a bit on the summer hard courts, but she’s had a great Asian swing thus far. Ostapenko won the title in Seoul, and upset world number one Muguruza on her way to the semifinals in Wuhan. Ostapenko should easily qualify for Singapore, and it will be interesting to see how the 20-year-old does at her first WTA Finals. She’s doesn’t shy away from tough competition, and currently has momentum on her side.
Johanna Konta – 3,655 points
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Konta thrilled the home crowd by reaching the semifinals at Wimbledon, but is just 3-5 in her last five tournaments, with four opening round losses. Konta has an almost 1,000 point lead in the race for the eighth and final spot in Singapore. She will likely limp her way into the tournament, but it’s hard to see her performing well in her WTA Finals debut considering her recent form.
There’s a considerable gap in points between Konta and the remaining contenders, and it’s hard to see anyone passing her by. Kristina Mladenovic (2,876 points) is currently on an eight match losing streak. Svetlana Kuznetsova (2,847 points) is only 3-4 since her quarterfinal at Wimbledon. CoCo Vandeweghe (2,754 points) made the quarterfinals or better at three of the four majors in a breakout year, but trails Konta by too many points with only a few weeks left before Singapore. US Open Champion Sloane Stephens (2,712 points) had the best run in Q3 of anyone, going 15-2 over a five-week period including winning her first major, but her lack of play during the rest of the year leaves her almost 1,000 points away from qualifying.
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Emma Raducanu Needs Less Hype And More Consistency To Be Among The World’s Best
COMMENT: Raducanu is a sensation of tennis, but she has a way to go to become a great.
Three months have passed since the world of tennis was stunned by the run of a British teenager at one of its most prestigious events.
Emma Raducanu entered the US Open surrounded by hype following her performances earlier in the year. In June she made her WTA main draw debut at the Nottingham Open before going to to reach the fourth round at Wimbledon as a wild card. Becoming the youngest British woman in the Open Era to do so. Unfortunately, her fairytale journey at The All England Club didn’t have a happy ending as she was forced to retire from her last 16 match due to illness which was worsened by high anxiety.
Now in the limelight for the first time, Raducanu continue plucking away on the Tour in North America where she was runner-up at a WTA 125 event in Chicago. This would however be the precursor to the biggest achievement of her career to date. Entering the US Open qualifying draw, the teenager stormed to her first major title without dropping a set in 10 matches played. Those she defeated included Olympic champion Belinda Bencic and Maria Sakkri. In the final she downed Leylah Fernandez, who at the time was also on a sensational run after beating a series of top 20 players.
“For me, I don’t feel absolutely any pressure. I’m still only 18 years old,” Raducanu said shortly after her US Open triumph. “I’m just having a free swing at anything that comes my way. That’s how I faced every match here in the States. It got me this trophy, so I don’t think I should change anything.”
After her New York triumph, Raducanu’s wealth rocketed thanks to a surge of endorsements from the likes of Dior, Tiffany & Co., Evian and British Airways. In the UK she was a household name after being on the front pages of every major newspaper. In December she won the prestigious BBC Sports Personality of the Year award which is ultimately decided by a public vote. It is also widely reported that she is in line to receive an MBE in the New Year’s Honours list.
2021 has been the year of Raducanu but what about the future?
There is no doubt that the 19-year-old has what it takes and she has proven this. Tennis great Martina Navratilova has described her as the ‘whole package’ and Billie Jean King says the youngster is ‘the real deal.’ But is the world of tennis getting carried away?
The WTA Tour has a reputation for its unpredictability with numerous players excelling at the very top and then there is a lull. Since 2015 eight women have won their maiden major title without going on to claim a second. Not counting Raducanu’s win at the latest major. Sloane Stephens was tipped to become the next Serena Williams following her 2017 triumph in New York and Bianca Andreescu looked destined to be the best in the world before injury struck.
Perhaps the most appropriate way to describe Raducanu is as a potential star in the making and not a sporting heavyweight. This isn’t to criticise or to devalue her extraordinary achievements but it brings things into perspective.
“Only March the 18th was my first session on court in 2021,” Raducanu reflected prior to the start of the Linz Open in October. “And so January, February, March I was literally just sat on my desk staring at a wall for nine hours a day. So I feel like where I am now I just need to really take it all in and enjoy because looking back at how far I’ve come it’s pretty surreal. I just really need to enjoy it because when I was in the beginning of the year I would have never thought this was possible. I’m kind of just really living in the moment right now I feel.”
In 2017 Jelena Ostapenko became the first unseeded woman in the Open Era to win the French Open. It remains her biggest achievement to date and since then the Latvian has failed to shine in any other Grand Slam. In fact, she has only managed to progress beyond the third round in two out of 13 attempts.
“When players don’t know you and you’re the underdog in every match, you have nothing to lose against the top players and that can help you to play really well,” Ostapenko told The Independent. “My opponents didn’t know me that well, because I was still new to the tour. But after I won in Paris, everyone knew me and they knew how I played. They knew how to prepare to play against me, so that was way harder for me.”
”The situation turns around when you’re the Grand Slam champion. You’re the favourite and it’s your opponents who have nothing to lose against you. That’s the hardest part of it all.”
Sometimes it is very easy to get caught up in the moment and not look at things from a wider perspective. Raducanu has proven that she has the ability to win the biggest tournaments in the world and produces tennis that millions around the world only dream of having. But she is still young and is yet to spend a full year on the Tour.
As 2022 beckons Raducanu will be guided by Torben Beltz who is known for his work with Angelique Kerber. Many will be talking up her chances of winning the Australian Open but is it the right thing to do?
Historically many players have become media sensations overnight if you look at the performances of Stephens and Ostapenko when they won their maiden Grand Slams. However, those who are referred to as greats of the games are the ones who are able to replicate this on multiple occasions and consistently.
Only time will tell if Raducanu will be known as a sensation or as a great. The important thing for Raducanu in 2022 isn’t how she fares at the Australian Open, it is how she performs at every Grand Slam throughout the year.
As former world No.1 King once said – “Champions keep playing until they get it right.”
1st December 2021: The Day Women’s Tennis Held China Accountable For Their Actions
With millions at stake, the WTA stands firmly behind their players.
Even with the threats coming from the WTA few were convinced that the governing body of women’s tennis would conduct one of the most significant moves in its history.
In a statement published on Wednesday, WTA CEO Steve Simon announced that all tournaments in China and neighbouring Hong Kong will be suspended with immediate effect. The remarkable decision is a show of solidarity with Peng Shuai who many fear is being censored by Chinese officials for accusing a former vice-premier of sexual assult. Something the country denies with state-backed media publishing videos and photos of the player. Even a recent video call between Shuai and the International Olympic Committee failed to ease the concerns of the WTA.
“Unfortunately, the leadership in China has not addressed this very serious issue in any credible way. While we now know where Peng is, I have serious doubts that she is free, safe and not subject to censorship, coercion and intimidation. The WTA has been clear on what is needed here, and we repeat our call for a full and transparent investigation – without censorship – into Peng Shuai’s sexual assault accusation.” Simon said in a press release.
The bold move has been hailed by many across social media ranging from tennis players to celebrities. Billie Jean King, who is the WTA’s founder, said the organisation remains ‘on the right side of history in supporting our players.’ Meanwhile, former world No.1 Andy Roddick tweeted ‘there are a lot of organisations who can afford to do something a lot more than the WTA Can.’ It is this point by Roddick that speaks volumes to the significance of their announcement.
Over the past 15 years China has injected millions into developing tennis within the country. It began during 1988 when tennis was brought back into the Olympics before Li Na’s mainstream breakthrough triggered a huge surge in interest. Various cities such as Wuhan, Li Na’s birthplace, started to invest millions in facilities in order to stage major events. As the years went by China wasn’t just a fixture in the calendar, it was instrumental for the entire WTA.
In 2019 China hosted nine WTA events which had a combined prize money pool of $30.4M. To put that into perspective the figure works out to be roughly 17% of the entire prize money offerings on the WTA Tour that year. It was also during 2019 when the WTA Finals started in Shenzhen as part of a lucrative 10-year deal which was valued at $1bn at the time of the announcement by The Sports Business Journal. However, the country has been unable to host another edition due to the COVID-19 pandemic and it was instead held in Mexico this year.
Perhaps from a cynical perspective, the pandemic showed to the WTA that they can still hold a highly successful Tour without relying on a single country during one period of their calendar. Would this influence their decision to withdraw from China in support of Shuai? Probably but they are unlikely to admit it. Not that the WTA doesn’t deserve widespread praise for their decisive action which put other governing bodies to shame.
There is also the question as to how will China respond? Will a country that has spent so much trying to promote tennis be prepared to make some deal with the WTA in order to get them to change their minds? In an ideal world, yes, but this isn’t an ideal world.
“I don’t think they (the WTA) have been paying much attention to what has been happening in Basketball and football in threatening the Chinese with Economic sanctions. It’s not going to work and part of the proof of the pudding was they were not able to get in touch with her (Shuai) and that’s her sport,” IOC council member Dick Pound told CNN earlier this week.
Pound has been a spokesperson for his organisation in defending their handling of Shuai and has told multiple news outlets that she is safe based on what the IOC interpreted from the video call. Ironically, he hasn’t seen the video himself and the IOC made no mention of the sexual assault allegations in their press release.
However, Pound’s remarks on China’s stubbornness is supported by past incidents. One of which involved Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey, who made a comment in public supporting the democracy movement in Chinese-ruled Hong Kong. China’s CCTV stopped broadcasting NBA Games and the sporting body later apologised but it was 15 months before another Houston game was shown on TV.
Money and politics aside, there remains serious concerns about Shuai’s welfare. Whilst she had made headlines around the world, China’s state-owned media have not published a single article. Photos and videos of the tennis player have only been published on Twitter which is blocked in her home country. BBC analyst Kerry Allen has confirmed that Shuai’s Weibo account is still under restrictions. Users are banned from quoting, sharing or commenting on her historic posts.
It would have been so easy for the WTA to sidestep the Shuai case and label it as a domestic matter in order to maintain their relationship with the Asian country. Instead, they have backed their player despite the likely consequence of a financial loss should China not back down. Something that is both brave and inspiring.
Will the men’s ATP or the ITF follow suit and suspend business with China? Only time will tell on that front. The most important thing is trying to establish the true welfare of Shuai. Something the WTA is determined to do no matter what the cost may be.
December 1st, 2021 has been a historic day for tennis.
Medvedev fights past Auger Aliassime to reach the semis
Jannik Sinner takes the positives from his defeat against Stefanos Tsitsipas
Australian Open: Iga Świątek stumbles past Kaia Kanepi to make the semis
Danielle Collins Opens Up About Her Battle With Endometriosis Following Australian Open Win
Stefanos Tsitsipas Sinks Sinner To Reach Australian Open Semi’s
Novak Djokovic To Be Deported From Australia After Court Appeal Fails
Novak Djokovic ‘Trying’ To Get To The Australian Open, Says Lajovic
Novak Djokovic To Play Australian Open
REPORT: Novak Djokovic Denied Entry Into Australia After Visa Mix-Up
‘An Error Of Judgement’ – Novak Djokovic Admits He Broke Covid-19 Rules To Attend Photoshoot
US Open, Steve Flink: “Djokovic’s loss had more to do with fatigue than pressure”
US Open, Steve Flink on the Murray-Tsitsipas Controversy
(VIDEO) Dominic Thiem, Juan Martin Del Potro Gathering Momentum In Comeback Bids
Steve Flink On Wimbledon: “Bautista Agut would be a tough semifinal test for Djokovic”
Wimbledon, Flink: “Djokovic Will Beat Zverev in the Final”
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