The WTA Finals, which is the traditional curtain raiser to the women’s’ tennis season, has been thrown into chaos by the withdrawal of world number one Simona Halep.
The Romanian suffered a herniated disc in training a couple of weeks ago, and has been unable to complete two singles matches she has started since.
The French Open champion’s place will instead go to Kiki Bertens, who was next in the seasonal standings.
It’s a bitter blow for the competition, with Halep out injured and Serena Williams missing due to a lack of activity on tour this season.
Mind you, the eight ladies who will take to the court in Singapore have a chance to battle it out for a total prize kitty of some $7 million….you won’t hear them complaining any time soon!
With five major winners and a trio of players with a catalogue of titles between them, the field for the WTA Finals 2018 is still looking red hot.
2018 WTA Finals Line Up
|Player||Nationality||Age||World Ranking||Season Prize Money|
Australian Open champion Caroline Wozniacki will do battle with Wimbledon winner Angelique Kerber and US Open title holder Naomi Osaka, while Petra Kvitova and Sloane Stephens also bring with them Grand Slam winning experience.
Karolina Pliskova has 11 WTA titles to her name, including a triumph in Tokyo just a couple of weeks ago where she beat local hero Osaka in the final.
Elina Svitolina has been rewarded for a season of consistency. The Russian has won twice in Dubai and Rome, and this will be her second WTA Finals appearance.
And last, but by no means least, is Bertens, who has earned her place in the field with a win on the clay in Charleston and victories on the hard courts of Cincinnati and Seoul.
The Tournament Format
It’s all quite straightforward really: the eight players are drawn in two groups of four, and they each play each other in a round robin format.
The winner and runner-up from both group advance to the semi-finals, where they compete in the traditional knockout style.
Head to Heads
Generally in sports betting, we don’t really consider head-to-head records all that important.
Think about football, where a commentator will say ‘Team A having beaten Team B in 15 years’. There’s no rhyme nor reason to that given the high turnover of players and managers in the game, meaning what occurred, say, ten years ago has no bearing on what happens today.
However, if there’s one sport where the head-to-head records can be a factor it’s tennis.
An inability to read a serve, the power of an opponent’s groundstrokes, maybe a mental edge; there are countless reasons why one player may hold an advantage over another.
So we investigated the had-to-heads of all the players in the WTA Finals field, and here are some conclusions we have drawn.
Angelique Kerber seems to struggle against Sloane Stephens (1-4) and Elina Svitolina (5-8), while generally having the better of Karolina Pliskova (74). The h2h against others in the field are negligible in terms of wins or losses.
Caroline Wozniacki will be expected to have the wood on Stephens (6-1), but the shoe is on the other foot against Petra Kvitova (5-8).
We would tend to ignore Naomi Osaka’s head-to-head stats: she has only burst to prominence in the past couple of months.
Kvitova doesn’t tend to struggle against anyone, and indeed punters will be tucking in when she takes on Svitolina and aims to extend her 7-1 head-to-head lead.
Pliskova is a strange one: she has losing h2h numbers against five of the seven players in the field. That, allied to her relatively poor record in majors, confirms that she’s something of a ‘flat track bully’ who does the business in weak field events.
Bertens, as the newcomer on the block, is yet to play enough matches against elite opposition for a pattern to emerge.
WTA Finals Verdict
There has been four different winners of the WTA Finals in as many years; that highlights the unpredictability of the tournament.
The identities of the last three of those – Wozniacki, Dominika Cibulkova and Agnieszka Radwanska – suggests we should be siding with gritty match-players over the flamboyant shot-makers; no surprise given that you will probably have to win twice to get out of the group and then twice more in the knockout phase.
Our first thought was for Kvitova, the brilliant left-hander who knows how to get the job done against stellar opponents. But her current form is poor, and the format of this event – playing top names successively – does not lent itself to finding your mojo as you go.
Is there a better grinder in women’s tennis than Kerber? Perhaps not, but she’s also been out of touch since winning Wimbledon in the summer.
Perhaps the smart play is Wozniacki, then. She’s a former winner of this event who lifted the trophy at WTA Beijing recently; not dropping a single set along the way.