Welcome to Tennis Elbow, the column that looks back on the week that was in the world of tennis. This week, Charles Blouin-Gascon previews the 2018 BNP Paribas WTA Finals.
In women’s tennis, the year-end event isn’t quite… the year-end event.
You see, the 2018 BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global got underway over the weekend, and it lasts right until and through next Sunday, Oct. 28…but then you glance over the calendar page on the WTA Tennis website and see another five extra events after this one.
In any case, welcome to Singapore for the big pot of gold on the WTA rainbow, the main event with the eight best players in the world. With the benefit of writing this after a few of the matches have already been completed over the weekend, let’s see if we’re able to assess who are the favourites and who’s just happy to have booked their tickets.
The World No. 1 player: Simona Halep
Don’t look now, but Simona Halep has basically been atop the WTA rankings for over a year. She’s the best player in the world and, though she’s maybe not playing the best tennis of anyone right now, she even has a Grand Slam title to her name.
***[Editor’s note] Hmm, it’s just that Halep has withdrawn.***
Oh, thank you esteemed editor.
The would-be favourite: Angelique Kerber
A little bit by default, the German is slated as the top seed and in a year of reintroduction, Angelique Kerber shouldn’t be taken for granted. She’ll have her hands full with Sloane Stephens, but she does have a winning record against the other two opponents in the Red Group.
The favourite: Naomi Osaka
The Cinderella story would call for a Noami Osaka win in Singapore to conclude this 2018 season in women’s tennis. While the youngster has seen her star rise brighter than ever since winning the US Open, this doesn’t mean she’s immune to bad results: her 40-17 record on the year does include a 3-6 record against members of the Top 10. If the 21-year-old doesn’t win this year, she may very well do so next year.
The other favourite: Sloane Stephens
Remember when Sloane Stephens captured the 2017 US Open and then, like, simply couldn’t stop losing tennis matches? Yeah, us neither. With a 6-1 combined record against others in her group, the American has to feel good about her chances of advancing to the semifinals, if not well above and beyond.
The dark horse: Petra Kvitova
Oh sure, this 2018 season hasn’t been the greatest and best of Petra Kvitova’s great career but when you look things up, you can’t change the fact that she’s won over $3 million in prize, five tournaments and 47 of her 61 matches. She’s also been great against the best, sporting a 7-1 record versus top 10 players—and if that still doesn’t convince you, Kvitova sports a stellar 18-6 record against those in the White Group.
Only, she suffered a pretty straightforward defeat in her first match, so who knows what’s going to happen.
The Happy-to-be-here: Kiki Bertens, Elina Svitolina
It’s easy to forget but Elina Svitolina is still relatively young at 24 years old. While this season might not have been up to par with her previous 12 months, she has time on her side, enough that she should manage to add plenty of elements to her game. And yet you look up and she made it to the WTA Finals again, so something must have gone right for her, right?
Meanwhile, in a different world Kiki Bertens would have been drafted to the White Group and might have rode what’s been a career year all the way to the biggest title of her life. Instead, she’s stuck competing against three players against whom she is just 1-4 in her career. Tough luck.
Caroline Wozniacki & Karolina Pliskova: Caroline Wozniacki, Karolina Pliskova
We’re slotting the pair together even if, upon first glance, they don’t seem to be on the same level after Karolina Pliskova dismantled Caroline Wozniacki by the score of 6-2 and 6-4 on Sunday. Still, let’s give Wozniacki, a well-versed and experienced player, the benefit of the doubt the rest of the way. She’s the defending champion for a reason, after all.
Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG