It has been an unbelievable season of tennis and very high peaks have been touched but the WTA is ready to shut everything off and look forward to the next season. Well, almost. One tournament is still left to go before we put an end to an astonishing 2015: the WTA Elite Trophy in Zhuhai.
Starting tomorrow, the tournament will be played until Sunday in the Chinese city and despite several discussions on the meaning of the tournament itself and whether it should be fair to include such a fake copy of the WTA Finals in the calendar, the starting field is very strong and premises to watch some high-quality tennis are very likely.
Twelve players are taking part at the event, divided into four groups of three. First player of each group will qualify onto the semifinals. The two winners will then face each other in Sunday’s final. So let’s meet the contenders and see who stands more chances to claim this final title of the season.
GROUP A PLAYERS: Venus Williams, Madison Keys, Saisai Zheng Venus Williams is not only the favourite of the group but probably she is the one to watch for the final title.
35 year-old has had a strong second part of the season, including the title in Wuhan, the semifinal in Hong Kong (which, however, affected her chances of qualification to the WTA Finals) and she has also recorded quarter-finals appearances at Australian Open and US Open.
Fellow countrywoman Madison Keys stands in the way of Williams’ qualification to the semifinal. The young rising star has had a great start in 2015, with Australian Open Semifinals and the final in Charleston.
She did well in Slams too, with quarter-finals appearances in Wimbledon and at US Open but fell into mediocrity in the Asian Swing. World number 75 Saisai Zheng has as best results of the season Shenzhen’s semifinals and Guangzhou’s quarterfinals and was awarded in Zhuhai with a wild-card, so she should be already thankful to be taking part in this high-profile event.
It will likely be an all-American affair, with Venus being favourite of the group, although she did lose the last head-2-head against Madison Keys, in Australian Open's quarter-finals earlier this year. The positive streak in the last part of the season should, however, suffice Venus to manage younger American who seem to be out of form, in order to secure a spot into the semifinals.
IN THE NEXT PAGE THE PREVIEW OF GROUPS B AND C
GROUP B PLAYERS: Carla Suarez Navarro, Elina Svitolina, Andrea Petkovic Carla Suarez Navarro has had her best career season.
Finals reached in Miami, Rome and Antwerp, quarter-finals in Indian Wells and Madrid. She did fail, though, in Grand Slams and she has had a terrible second part of the season. World number 20 Elina Svitolina has had a gradual growth throughout the year, winning her first title in Marrakech, reaching semifinals in Stanford and Cincinnati and quarter-finals at Roland Garros.
Being one of the strongest competitors and fighters in the WTA tour, she didn’t achieve, however, as much as her potential would allow her. Andrea Petkovic completes this group. She won Antwerp and reached semifinals in Miami and Charleston but faded away in the second half of the season, troubled by injuries.
Hard to identify a favourite in the group as matches will be also played on nerves. Suarez Navarro may still be the favourite of the group by an inch. GROUP C PLAYERS: Karolina Pliskova, Sara Errani, Jelena Jankovic Karolina Pliskova has gained some consistency over the year, with title in Prague and finals in Sydney, Dubai, Birmingham and Stanford.
She lost the train to Singapore in the final part of the season as she was unable to keep her level throughout the latest months of the year. A title in Rio, a final in Bucarest, few semifinals all over the year, Sara Errani has confirmed once again her resilience and she has proved to still represent a strong contender, having also reached quarter-finals at Roland Garros.
Jelena Jankovic has had a controversial year, with an awful start and was temporarily saved by Indian Wells’ final. Things got much better in the second part of the season, as she reached Cincinnati’s semifinals and closed the year out by taking two titles in the Asian Swing, in Beijing and Guangzhou.
Despite being the top seed Pliskova seems to have run out of fuel. Errani has the advantage of a good tradition in the head-2-head against Jankovic, but the current condition of the Serbian seems far away too good to prevent her from reaching the semifinals.
IN THE NEXT PAGE THE PREVIEW OF GROUP D, SEMIFINALS AND FINAL GROUP D PLAYERS: Roberta Vinci, Caroline Wozniacki and Svetlana Kuznetsova A horrible start of the season, Roberta Vinci found her way only in the second half of 2015, with a quarter-final appearance in Toronto, first Grand Slam final at the Us Open and semifinal in Wuhan.
Her tennis style is different, engaging and unique and she may represent a serious threat for her opponents. One title in Kuala Lumpur and two finals in Auckland and Stuttgart. Caroline Wozniacki’s 2015 has not been as great as she had expected.
The Dane failed in the biggest tournaments of the season and she landed far away from a qualification in Singapore. Revenge may be the key for her to close out the season in the best possible way. Mediocre during the first months of the year, Svetlana Kuznetsova had an incredible week in Madrid, where her fantastic run was stopped by Petra Kvitova in the final.
She then came back to mediocrity until winning the title in Moscow a couple of weeks ago. Svetlana’s season has been full of downs with very few highs. However, potential has always been massive for the Russian, who may be the true surprise of the tournament.
Toughest group in Zhuhai, with the three of them being possible contenders not only for winning the group but for claiming the title too. Hard to predict what could happen but Kuznetsova may still be on fire. GROUP STAGE: Venus Williams, Carla Suarez Navarro, Jelena Jankovic and Svetlana Kuznetsova to qualify SEMIFINALS: Venus Williams d.
Carla Suarez Navarro; Jelena Jankovic d. Svetlana Kuznetsova FINAL: Jelena Jankovic d. Venus Williams