Saturday, October 21, 2017

Never mind the stats--it's the WTA Finals!

Some fans are looking at the red and white groups in Singapore and seeing the White Group as "loaded" since it is made up of Garbine Muguruza, Karolina Pliskova, Venus Williams, and Alona Ostapenko. They have a point. Among them, the group members have won ten majors, and three of them have held the number 1 spot.

Meanwhile, the Red Group features Simona Halep, Elina Svitolina, Caroline Wozniacki, and Caroline Garcia. Halep is the current world number 1, and Wozniacki is a former number 1. None of them has won a major, though there are four runner-up spots represented in the group (two each for Halep and Wozniacki).

So yes, "on paper," the White Group appears dominant. But this is the WTA Finals, and odd things happen. Two years ago, a very odd thing happened: A player who had won only one of her three round robin matches got to the final and won it. That was Aga Radwanska. We didn't think we'd see something like that again, but we did--the very next year. In 2016, Dominika Cibulkova went 1-2 in round robin play, reached the final, and won the whole thing.

I like to look at the WTA Finals as a blank slate, regardless of the draw. The one factor that I do think is relevant is fatigue. It's the end of the season, and players are tired and vulnerable to injury. Who knew we wouldn't see Jo Konta in Singapore? And who thought we would see Caroline Garcia? The former is dealing with a foot injury, the latter went crazy on everyone and won Wuhan and Beijing back-to-back. This kind of twist is part of what makes the WTA so endlessly fascinating.

The matches will be played on indoor carpet, so all concerns about the elements have been removed. However, unlike most indoor carpet courts, this one has been deemed by the players to be especially slow.

Who has the pressure? Well, they all do, in one form or another, but--as usual--Halep may have the most. The new world number 1 could make a grand exit from the 2017 season if she wins in Singapore. Last year, she went 1-3 in round robin play. Halep, Pliskova and Muguruza, by the way, are the only repeats from 2016. And Ostapenko, Svitolina and Garcia are all making their WTA Finals debuts.

White Group lopsided record: Pliskova leads Muguruza 6-2
Red Group lopsided record: Svitolina leads Wozniacki 3-0

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