WTA Finals: The Season's Last Hurrah
The big finale to the WTA season is nigh with the WTA Championships set to get underway in Singapore this Sunday. With no Serena Williams and the recent withdrawal of Simona Halep, the field at this year's tournament – as with so many other tournaments this year – is wide open. It represents a golden opportunity for all eight women, but it could be more crucial to some than others.
Veterans such as Angelique Kerber, Petra Kvitova, and Caroline Wozniacki could certainly do with ending their 2018 on a high. Kvitova played brilliantly throughout much of the front half of the year but fell well short at the majors. Securing this prestigious title could be what she needs to get back on the slam bandwagon in 2019. The same could be said for Kerber and Wozniacki. While the German enjoyed a resurgence this year that included capturing the title at Wimbledon, she has been inconsistent since then. Similarly, Wozniacki surprisingly proved inconsistent throughout the season following her breakthrough in Melbourne, and both the Dane and Kerber would benefit greatly by winning in Singapore to get back on track heading into next season. In fact, it could be particularly important for Wozniacki, who could use the boost before facing the tough task of defending her Australian Open title.
Of course, there are three newcomers to the singles competition of this capstone event, who are going to be just as hungry to claim the crown. Naomi Osaka shocked herself and the tennis world with her run this summer in New York, and unlike so many other first-time major winners, she has done a decent job of backing it up with solid results in the immediate aftermath. The WTA Championships represent the biggest event she will have contested since that historic run, however, and while she does not need to take the title, a good showing would go a long way towards helping her cope with increased expectations come Melbourne. Kiki Bertens is the one who slipped in the back door following Halep's withdrawal, but it is not likely the Dutch woman will simply be happy to be there. She has enjoyed a breakout 2018 and making the most of her good fortune in Singapore could propel her to better things in 2019. And there's Sloane Stephens, the streaky American, who when she catches fire can defeat anyone on the circuit. She has had her ups and downs since her own US Open victory in 2017, but every time she can make something happen at a tournament of this caliber, it can only bolster her confidence to perform more consistently at these events in the future, making this week of her 2018 campaign very important heading into the offseason.
As important as Singapore is for the other six women in the field though, it is arguably most important for Elina Svitolina and Karolina Pliskova. These are two talented women who have been around the top of the game for the last few seasons. The pair of them are often popular picks to go deep at the majors as well. Svitolina has performed very well outside of the slams and has proven to be a difficult out when she does reach a final. Pliskova has been even better, having reached the pinnacle of the rankings as well as the final of the US Open in 2016. Yet the performances of both at the majors this year have been mediocre at best and other times just dismal. With each passing year without a major, the pressure is only going to mount to break through and not allow the rest of the field to close the window on them. Fans have seen the WTA Championships act as a catalyst for future Grand Slam success, and if either of these two women could somehow secure this title, it could be just what they need to get the monkey off their backs next season.
Unquestionably, there is a lot on the line for all eight women, and there is truly no way of predicting how this one will unfold. It will all come down to who can rise to the occasion to take advantage of the opportunity before her. All eight are deserving champions, and hopefully, they will put on a fitting end to what has been an entertaining 2018 season.