Five burning questions heading into the WTA Finals
SINGAPORE -- The draw for the WTA Finals is out and two-time defending champion Serena Williams will look to extend her 15-match win streak at the round robin tournament in a group that includes French Open finalist Simona Halep, Wimbledon finalist Eugenie Bouchard and the winningest player on the tour this year, Ana Ivanovic.
No. 2 Maria Sharapova, who has a chance to dethrone Serena at No. 1, headlines the White Group along with Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova and U.S. Open finalist Caroline Wozniacki.
Here's how the draw panned out. The top two players from each group will qualify for the semifinals:
- Serena Williams
- Simona Halep
- Eugenie Bouchard
- Ana Ivanovic
- Maria Sharapova
- Petra Kvitova
- Agnieszka Radwanska
- Caroline Wozniacki
Who will finish the season at No. 1?
The battle for No. 1 comes down to No. 1 Serena and No. 2 Sharapova. Sharapova is trying to finish a season at No. 1 for the first time in her career, which would be an incredible achievement given the shoulder injury that ended her season last year and ruled her out of the U.S. Open and WTA Finals.
Here are the scenarios:
- Serena can clinch the No. 1 ranking if she goes 3-0 in round robin play and makes the final.
- Serena can clinch the No. 1 ranking if she makes the final with a 2-1 record in round robin play and Sharapova loses at least one round robin match.
- If Serena goes 1-2 in round robin play, then Sharapova needs to reach the final with 2-1 round robin record or win the title to have a chance.
- If Serena goes 2-1 in round robin play, then Sharapova needs to reach the final with 3-0 round robin record or win the title to have a chance.
- If Serena goes 3-0 in round robin play, then Sharapova needs to win the title and not see Serena reach the final to have a chance.
Serena withdrew from the China Open three weeks ago with a knee injury and flew back to Europe to get it treated. Ivanovic, Bouchard and Halep have all been playing through injuries that forced them to retire from their final regular season tournaments. Kvitova played through a hamstring injury in Asia. You have to think the few weeks they've had off was enough time to heal up.
What are the most anticipated matches?
In the Red Group, Serena will face off against both Halep and Bouchard for the first time this season. She's never lost to either woman but she also hasn't played them during their abrupt ascent through the rankings. Halep has the all-court game that can force Serena to work hard for every point, while Bouchard's all out aggression, when it's on, can make any opponent feel rushed and uncomfortable.
In the White Group it's all about Sharapova vs. Kvitova. Theirs has been an interesting rivalry over the years. Since Kvitova's breakout year in 2011, where she beat Sharapova in the Wimbledon final to win her maiden Slam, Sharapova seems on a mission to never lose to her again. The Russian has won their last five meetings, most recently in the final of the China Open, which she won 6-4, 2-6, 6-3. This will be their first match on indoor hard court, which Kvitova thrives on.
Who will get out of the Red Group?
Assuming Serena is healthy, she seems a lock to get out of the Red Group. The battle for the other spot between Bouchard, Halep and Ivanovic is the tougher one to call. On the numbers you have to like Bouchard's chances, though she hasn't played her best since making the Wimbledon final. She's 1-1 against Halep and 2-0 against Ivanovic. Much like Bouchard, Halep hasn't been her best since Wimbledon, but she's 2-0 in completed matches against Ivanovic. As for Ivanovic, she played well through the Asian swing, winning the Tokyo Open and making the semifinals at the China Open. She definitely has the edge on confidence.
Who will get out of the White Group?
Sharapova is coming into the tournament off her big win at the China Open, while Kvitova finished her regular season with an 8-1 record, winning the Wuhan Open and losing to Sharapova in the final in Beijing. They're the obvious front-runners to qualify for the semifinals, especially given Radwanska's struggles since winning the Rogers Cup over the summer (she's 6-5 since).
But Wozniacki is more than capable of playing the spoiler. She played one of the best hard court matches of her career to beat Sharapova in the U.S. Open quarterfinals, and she's 4-4 against Kvitova, though this will be their first meeting of the year.