2016 WTA Finals Preview, Predictions
Niall Clarke, Tennis Atlantic
The 2016 WTA season is drawing to a close, and to cap off an excellent year eight of the best female tennis players in the world will fight for the right to be called the season ending champion in Singapore.
Tier: Year end Championships
Surface: Indoor Hard
Prize Money: $7,000,000
Date: October 23-30
- Angelique Kerber
- Simona Halep
- Madison Keys
- Dominika Cibulkova
- Agnieszka Radwanska
- Karolina Pliskova
- Garbine Muguruza
- Svetlana Kuznetsova
Serena Williams withdrew from the tournament with injury.
Red Group Breakdown
2016 record: 59-17; WTA Finals record: 2-7
Kerber will finish her excellent year with two grand slams and the world number one ranking, and she will look to add the WTA finals to her list of achievements. The German first shocked the world by defeating Serena in the Australian open final for her first major title. She then completed the hard court slam by beating Karolina Pliskova in the US Open final. Kerber’s incredible results have confirmed her place at the top of the women’s game in 2016, and there is nobody who can take her year end number one ranking away. Kerber doesn’t have the best record in these events, but she is a different player in 2016. Can her fortunes in Singapore change?
2016 record: 44-16; WTA Finals record: 4-4
Halep failed to do what Kerber managed, and that is win a maiden grand slam title. However, the Romanian has remained consistent throughout the year and that is why she has booked her place in the WTA finals. Halep’s highlight of the year was winning the Madrid title, but she is still in desperate search of a major win. A former finalist here, Halep knows what it takes to succeed on these courte but can she get over the line this time?
2016 record: 46-15; WTA Finals record: 0-0
Keys is one of two players in this group making their debut in the WTA Finals, and that is the reward for a consistent 2016. It seems like the 21-year-old is starting to put her game together, and with her power she could be a huge threat here. Keys made the round of 16 in all the majors, but failed to make the big slam breakthrough. The world number seven has certainly earned her place in the field though, and she can beat anyone on her day.
2016 record: 50-19; WTA Finals record: 0-0
Cibulkova might be the most surprising name in the field, but do not let that fool you, she has amassed a career best year to make her debut in Singapore. The Slovakian has won three titles this year and won 50 matches. She certainly has the game to go all the way, she is a former Australian Open finalist after all, and has good records against Kerber and Halep.
The red group is a tough one to predict. Kerber is the favourite to advance, but her record in this competition is poor. Halep has struggled to really breakthrough in major events. Keys and Cibulkova are both wildcards with their aggressive style, so it could be anyone’s game. It is easy to go with the top two ranked players in the group, but it is not that simple, Keys and Cibulkova are more than capable of topping them with the latter having a positive record against Halep.
Halep faces Keys to open the tournament, and I expect the Romanian to come out on top with the 4-1 head to head looming. Kerber vs Cibulkova will conclude Sunday’s action and the German will be expected to win that one. Kerber’s record however makes it difficult to predict victory against Halep in the next match, and Keys has a good record of her own against Cibulkova. With Halep safely through, it might open the door for the Slovakian to score a win in the tournament. Keys and Kerber will then play for the second spot and the German’s big match experience will kick in.
- Halep 2-1
- Kerber 2-1
- Keys 1-2
- Cibulkova 1-2
White group breakdown
2016 record: 51-16; WTA Finals record: 9-12
The Pole returns to the place where she shocked the Tennis world by coming from the brink of a first round exit to claiming the title. Radwanska arrives in Singapore in much better form this time however, and could be the favourite to take home the title. The second seed has won three titles this year with the biggest being the Premier Mandatory in Beijing. She is the form player, but has worrying records against her opponents Kuznetsova and Muguruza.
2016 record: 42-20; WTA Finals record: 0-0
The 24-year-old has recorded her best season to date to secure her debut in this competition. It has been a year topped by a US Open final run where she defeated both the Williams sisters. Pliskova has an effortless power game and it has started to gain that extra bit of consistency needed. She is more than capable of a good run, and it will be interesting to see if she can do it.
2016 record: 34-18; WTA Finals record: 3-1
This time last year, Muguruza was the title favourite. She was in excellent form and went unbeaten in the round robin stage, but it all came undone against Radwanska in the semi finals and since she has not been able to put it together. The French Open title win is the highlight of an otherwise dire season full of poor results and lacklustre performances. The dangerous thing with Muguruza though, is that she can turn it on at any time. Will Singapore be the wake-up call she needs?
2016 record: 43-20; WTA Finals record: 3-12
After Serena’s withdrawal, it became a three horse race for the final spot in the WTA finals. Carla Suarez Navarro and Johanna Konta both led Kuznetsova at the start of the week, but the Russian managed to win the Kremlin Cup to secure her place at the very last second. The Russian returns to the season ending Championships for the first time since 2009, and she has never made it past the group stages. Her record against her fellow competitors is good however, and that could be key for the final entrant.
Again, it is difficult to call because you never which version of the big hitters will turn up. Radwanska is the only player that you can expect a certain level from, but she is vulnerable to being overpowered by the rest of the group. Muguruza’s form in particular will be the big wildcard as she can come good at any point.
Kuznetsova will face Radwanska on Monday to kick off the groups proceedings. The Russian has a good record against the Pole but will likely be fatigued and that makes Radwanska the favourite. Pliskova has a good record against Muguruza and will likely topple the Spaniard in the second match. Pliskova will likely lose to Radwanska in the second match, leaving the door open for Muguruza or Kuznetsova to challenge. The Spaniard is in poor form, but Kuznetsova’s fatigue could be an issue. Either way, I believe that Radwanska will finish unbeaten with Pliskova just behind.
- Radwanska 3-0
- Pliskova 1-2
- Muguruza 1-2
- Kuznetsova 0-3
Semi Finals onwards
Halep will face Pliskova in the first semi final, and the Romanian will have the advantage. Halep has a 4-1 winning record against the Czech and the slowness of the court will favour the third seed. Interestingly, the top two seeds will meet in the semi finals going by my predictions. Radwanska knows what it takes to win here whilst Kerber has often struggled, so therefore I pick Halep to meet Radwanska in the final.
Their head to head is 5-5, so there is not much to separate them. The Pole did beat the Romanian here last year though, and it is difficult to ignore the form Radwanska is in. Therefore it is likely the second seed will retain her title after a close final encounter with Halep.
Halep def. Pliskova
Radwanska def. Kerber
Radwanska def. Halep