WTA Finals: Eight great players, but who will win?

Karolina Pliskova

Over the past 25 years — or even longer — it usually looked like the No. 1, or the No. 2 were serious favorites at the WTA Finals. But this week coming up, in the eight-player, round-robin event in Shenzhen, China, almost all of the competitors will have a shot to win. That is almost unheard of. There will be a bunch of three-setters, surprises and complicated group calculations. Whoever wins the event, she has to step up and produce top-level tennis.

In the Red Group, it will be Ash Barty, Naomi Osaka, Petra Kvitova and Belinda Bencic.

In the Purple Group, it will be Karolina Pliskova, Bianca Andreescu, Simona Halep and Elina Svitolina.

The odds
Although Barty, Andreescu, and Osaka all share the same odds going into the Finals, I believe that perhaps that Pliskova has a decent chance.”


Red Group
Will Barty stay at No. 1? Probably, because she has a big lead in points. But while the rankings are important, the Australian still wants to win the event. She has improved a tremendous amount this year, staying patient, and she really mixed it up a lot. But, at times, she should become more aggressive.

Yes, Barty won Roland Garros, her first victory at a Grand Slam. In the final, she showed no fear. Then at the US Open, she exited in the fourth round against Qiang Wang and couldn’t hit it into the corners often enough.

She reached the semis of Wuhan and at the Beijing final, so she enters the event in good shape. But, in her group is the player who won Beijing, Osaka, who beat Barty in three sets. Osaka usually goes for it as soon as she can and Barty likes to work her way into the points. So if the Aussie wants to win it, she has to go for her shots, immediately.

In the fall, Osaka turned around her play. She had won the Australian Open, but then slumped, on clay, grass, and the US Open. She is a terrific hitter, but the pressure affected her mentally and she wasn’t focused. Now she comes in with wins at Osaka and Beijing, and if she can find her rhythm, she’s another one who can win it for the first time.

Talking about being up and down, there’s also Kvitova. The Czech can be fantastic, jumping on balls with her massive forehand and cracking first serve. She can scramble, she can re-set, and she can be very competitive until the final ball. But, the two-time Grand Slam champion can also unravel mentally when she can’t get her game going. So does the 29-year-old, one of the most popular and friendly players off the court, really want to win the tournament badly? To do it, she must be totally focused, day after day.

At the start of the year, Bencic didn’t look like she’d be among the top eight at China. A few years ago, she cracked the top 10 and beat a lot of top players with her variety and tactical ability. But, she had a few injuries, and took at least a year-an- a-half to become good again. Right now, she is patient or aggressive as she needs to, and is winning against the biggest names again. To win the tournament this week, though, will be difficult with all the quality opposition.

Purple Group
Pliskova can play fantastic ball. Her first serve is massive, she can go down the line with her forehand and backhand, and she is pretty good when she goes up into the net. But, she has yet to win a Grand Slam. She has been at the top for years, and she has got fairly close, darn close. But, in important moments, she backs off, mentally. Also, the Czech is not very fast, and opponents can break her down. If she immediately starts to roll, she can bash the ball, put together a ton of winners and win the WTA Finals. The No. 2, though, is not the favorite; there are very solid players in the field who can run her around.

Where did the Canadian Andreescu come from? Yes, the teenager looked very good in the juniors. But, to join the WTA and then almost immediately win a few huge events, such as Indian Wells, Toronto, and the US Open, was a shocker. Of course, Andreescu is very young, but she already knows the right way to play. While she isn’t very tall, she is super agile, has a huge amount of shots, and she can move forward regularly. She can surely win a Grand Slam again, assuming that she stays healthy, and she can become No. 1. But she hasn’t played before at the WTA Finals, and many of her opponents haven’t played that much against Andreescu, nor she has played against them. They will have to adjust. One way or another, she’s one of the favorites to win the WTA Finals.

You never know with Halep, a true grinder who now competes hard. In 2018, the Romanian won a major for the first time at Roland Garros, which took a lot of pressure off her. The 27-year-old she stopped being so nervous and she dug deep.

Halep is one of the best returners and, she can run side-to-side forever. Plus, she is pretty good tactically, so in the final at Wimbledon, she locked in and only missed a couple of shots. It was possibly her best match ever, crushing Serena Williams in the final. But since, she hasn’t done much at all. Halep was frequently hurt in the run up to this week, and to win the Finals, she would have to hit the lines constantly. Right now, though, she might just want to go back home.

Svitolina is also in question. Having won the WTA Finals in 2018, she looked like she had a real chance to next win a major. She did improve a bit, reaching a pair of semifinals, but she has yet to reach a final at the Slams. 

She is a very strong player, running back and forth, and side to side. Physically, when she is healthy, she can beat everyone, but Svitolina can be frustrated on court. Winning a second straight title will be tough.

%d bloggers like this: