The Debutants Targeting Glory At The WTA Finals - UBITENNIS
Connect with us


The Debutants Targeting Glory At The WTA Finals

Ons Jabeur is among four players seeking to win the prestigious title on their first attempt.



Ons Jabeur (TUN) - Credit: AELTC/Jon Super

The WTA Finals is always tricky for players at the end of what has been a long season but for half of the field in this year’s draw they have the added challenge of playing for the first time. 


A total of four women will make their debut at the event which is being held at the Dickies Arena in Texas ahead of its expected return to China in 2023. Out of those who contested the WTA Finals 12 months ago, only three have qualified this year. Reigning champion Garbine Muguruza and runner-up Anette Kontaveit are among those who did not make the cut. 

Inevitably the stark differences in the player lineups have prompted criticism from some who accuse women’s tennis players of lacking consistency. Although there are some notable exceptions with world No.1 Iga Swiatek already winning a staggering 64 matches this season. 

“You have to be ready from the beginning because you’re not going to have these matches against players who are lower ranked, and you can kind of get into the rhythm during these matches. Now you have to be at a better level from the beginning. On the other hand, you can also lose a match and still be in the tournament,” Swiatek responded when asked about the high number of debuts in the event. 
“When I look back at last year, which was my first WTA Finals, it didn’t really matter. All that mattered was how I felt on court.”

Tunisian trailblazer Ons Jabeur is the highest-ranked player making her first appearance in the WTA Finals. The world No.2 has become the first Arab player in history to qualify for the event after enjoying a breakthrough season where she has contested back-to-back Grand Slam finals at Wimbledon and the US Open. She has also won titles in Madrid and Berlin. 

Despite being the second seed, Jabeur faces a tough task in her group. On paper, she has a losing head-to-head record against two out of her three upcoming opponents. She trails Jessica Pegula (2-3) and Maria Sakkari (1-2) but leads Aryna Sabalenka (2-1) in their matchups.

“The group I feel like is very tough, but it’s the tournament. You have the best eight here, so everybody wants to win,” she said.
“Being part of the eight players that qualified here is something that I always wanted. I started wanting it two years ago, but it happened this year. Definitely proves I belong with the best players in the world.”

18-year-old Gauff is one of two American players hoping to triumph on home soil. The French Open finalist will be the youngest player to contest the tournament since Maria Sharapova in 2005. Despite her young age, Gauff has already established herself as a force to reckon with in the sport. However, she is one of three players in the tournament yet to win a title this year. 

“I busted onto the scene in a very big way, and a lot of people were having opinions on whether or not I would do well or not,” said Guaff, who reached the fourth round of Wimbledon aged 15.
“I think this just proves that all the work that I’ve put in is paying off. Obviously I want to go further. The WTA Finals is not where I want this chapter to end. I think it just shows that I’m progressing.’
“I think it allows me to take a step back and realize that I am one of the top eight players in the world, and I should be grateful for that.”

Gauff has a double duty in Texas after also qualifying for the doubles tournament alongside Jessica Pegula who is also making her singles debut. Pegula’s spot in the competition has been earned through her consistency throughout this year. She has reached the quarter-final stage in three out of four Grand Slam events. Outside of the majors, she won the biggest title of her career earlier this month at the Guadalajara Open, which is a WTA 1000 event. 

“It’s just a testament to all the work I’ve put in and all the hours and the hard work that I’ve had to put in to earn that right. I always knew that maybe in a way it would almost be harder for me to earn that because that’s not what my family is known for,” said Pegula whose parents own the sports teams Buffalo Sabres and Buffalo Bills.
“I’ve kind of stopped trying to prove that so much. In the end, I think it came naturally, which is nice.”

Completing the line-up of newcomers is somebody who has previously attended the championships as an alternate. Daria Kasatkina has enjoyed a revival of her career in recent months with a run to the semi-finals of the French Open before going on to win two Tour titles in North America during the summer. 

“Physically I feel better than ever,” Kasatkina states. “Physically I am very good. At the end of the season I’m feeling good, and in the best shape, it’s a good sign. Mentally I feel good. For the moment I’m managing not bad.”

In WTA Finals history only Serena Williams (2001), Maria Sharapova (2004), Petra Kvitova (2011), Dominika Cibulkova (2016) and Ashleigh Barty (2019) have won the title on their debut. 

Latest news

Bianca Andreescu Reunites With Former Coach Ahead Of New Season 

How will the Grand Slam champion fair on the Tour with her latest mentor?




Former US Open champion Bianca Andreescu has brought a familiar face back into her team as she bids to return to her best form in 2023. 


Andreescu, who is currently ranked 45th in the WTA rankings, has appointed Christophe Lambert as her latest coach. Lambert had been working as the performance director at Tennis New Zealand and resigned from that position to work with the former US Open champion. He had also previously worked for Tennis Canada and during that time he was a private coach for Andreescu in 2016. 

“Bianca asked me to coach her and I accepted the job. It was an offer I couldn’t refuse,” Lambert told 

Lambert, who has also spent time working with the Chinese Davis Cup team and for the British LTA, has stayed in contact with Andreescu ever since coaching her six years ago. 

“It wasn’t like every week or every month. It’s always good to have people calling you when you are up, but when she was down I was checking on her and giving her my opinion.” He said. 

Andreescu had been working with Dutch coach Sven Groeneveld for over a year before they decided to end their collaboration in October. Groeneveld has a wealth of experience in the sport after working with a series of top names, including Maria Sharapova. 

This season the former world No.4 has won 20 out of 33 matches played with her best performance being a run to the final of the Bad Homburg Open in Germany. However, her record against top 10 opposition was 2-5.

“I’m just taking it day by day, and it’s a great way to end off the year as well, just bringing back all the emotions that fire a lot in me,” Andreescu recently told reporters in Glasgow at the Billie Jean King Cup. “I think I’m going to have a great preseason. Next year I really think I can crack the top 10 again.”

Andreescu, who has been hampered by injury issues in recent years, hasn’t won a singles title of any sort since 2019. 

Continue Reading

Latest news

Four-Time Grand Slam Winner Naomi Osaka Named In FTX Lawsuit 

The former world No.1 took an equity stake in the failed business earlier this year. 




Naomi Osaka is among a series of high-profile individuals who have been accused of using their celebrity status to promote FTX’s failed business model in a lawsuit filed against the cryptocurrency exchange. 


The BBC has reported that over one million people and businesses could be owed money following the collapse of FTX, according to bankruptcy filings. A week ago FTX collapsed into bankruptcy with its former boss Sam Bankman-Fried stepping down as CEO. A massive development in the financial for what was one of the largest crypto exchanges in the world that had the naming rights to a Formula One racing team as well as a sports arena in Miami.

According to the Associated Press, the company is being investigated by state and federal prosecutors over allegations it ‘invested depositors’ funds in ventures without their approval.’ In a lawsuit filed on Tuesday, it argues that celebrity backers of FTX such as Osaka should be held just as accountable as Bankman-Fried as they brought ‘instant credibility’ to the company. 

“Part of the scheme employed by the FTX Entities involved utilizing some of the biggest names in sports and entertainment — like these Defendants — to raise funds and drive American consumers to invest … pouring billions of dollars into the deceptive FTX platform to keep the whole scheme afloat,” the lawsuit said.

Osaka took an equity stake in FTX in March where she would be receiving compensation in Crypto. Signing what was described as a ‘long-term partnership’ to become a global ambassador, the tennis star aimed to draw attention to women joining the platform and she played a role in directing its content.

“We have seen the statistics about how few women are part of crypto by comparison, which kind of mirrors the inequality we see in other financial markets,” Osaka said earlier this year.

Osaka, who has won 14 out of 23 matches played this season, has not made any public statement regarding the lawsuit. NFL quarterback Tom Brady, comedian Larry David and basketball team the Golden State Warriors are also defendants in the lawsuit.

Continue Reading


WTA Targets New Multi-Year Deal For Its Premier Event If Agreement With China Fails

Will the WTA Finals return to Shenzhen in 2023?



WTA CEO Steve Simon

The WTA say they are not willing to compromise their principles concerning the possibility of hosting tournaments in China next year amid uncertainty over the future of their season-ending event. 


Steve Simon, who is the CEO of the women’s Tour, says he is hopeful that a resolution can be found with the country but has vowed now to back down on its stance. Last year the WTA suspended tournaments in China over concerns about the safety of former player Peng Shuai who accused a former government official of sexually assaulting her. 

Shuai disappeared shortly after posting her statement on social media before returning a few weeks later with photos and videos of her being posted online by journalists linked to the government-controlled media. There are concerns that the former doubles Grand Slam champion, who has not left her country since making those allegations, is being censored by the government. The WTA wants an investigation to be conducted into the matter. 

“We’ve made a strong stand, and we stand behind that stance, and we’re not going to compromise our principles,” Simon said during an interview with The New York Times. “Clearly when we did it, we understood eyes wide open what it could mean.”
“We’re still in the same place. If they come forward with something else we should look at, of course we are open to it. But we haven’t seen it so far. I’m hopeful we do find a resolution. That’s the goal, to find the right resolution. What’s the truth? Then we can move forward.” He added. 

Simon said he is confident that Shuai is safe in Beijing but he has not been able to make any direct contact with her, despite trying to on multiple occasions. A letter reportedly written by Shuai to the WTA was posted online in 2021 saying that she wishes to be left alone. However, many have doubted the authenticity of that letter with some fearing that she wrote it under duress. 

One of the biggest impacts of the fallout has involved the prestigious WTA Finals, which is a round-robin tournament featuring the eight best-performing players over the past 12 months. In 2018 a lucrative deal was agreed that paved the way for the event to be held in Shenzhen for 10 years. However, the event was cancelled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic before the next two additions were moved elsewhere.

Whilst the WTA is optimistic about a return to Shenzhen in 2023, there are also backup plans in the works. Simon confirmed that it is no longer feasible for the WTA Finals to be held in a location for just one year. So it is likely that the tournament would be held in a city for two or more years in a row if it doesn’t return to China next season. 

“We’re not going to continue to do these one-year decisions,” he said. “It’s not sustainable. If it looks like we can’t go back to China or aren’t ready to go back, then I do think we will carve out a multiyear situation, because we need to for the business.”

The case involving Shuai isn’t the only barrier for the WTA. China’s zero-covid policy has made hosting international events in the region unfeasible and the ATP cancelled all of their events in the tournament this year due to the situation. 

This year’s WTA Finals has a prize money offering of $5M which is more than half of what was on offer at the 2019 tournament in Shenzhen ($14M). 

Simon didn’t provide any deadline for when an agreement must be reached with China must be reached before the WTA considers moving their event elsewhere once again. 

Continue Reading