2017 WTA Finals Preview & Predictions
Niall Clarke, Tennis Atlantic
After a long season full of twists and turns, it comes down to just eight players as we reach the Year End Championships in Singapore. Not only is there a big title available, but also the world number one ranking. It promises to be a great week of tennis to close out the season. Here is a rundown of what to expect in Singapore.
 Simona Halep (ROU)
 Elina Svitolina (UKR)
 Caroline Wozniacki (DEN)
 Caroline Garcia (FRA)
Simona Halep, 2017 Citi Open (Photo: Tennis Atlantic)
Simona Halep headlines the Red Group as the world number one and therefore the top seed for the tournament. The Romanian failed to break her grand slam duck this season, but she came within a few games of realising her dream at the French open before being beaten by Jelena Ostapenko in the final. However, she became the world number one for the first time in Beijing, the highlight of her career thus far. Halep’s only title of the year came in Madrid, but her consistency in making the latter stages of events is what got her to the top of the rankings.
Elina Svitolina has enjoyed her best season to date, winning over 50 matches and claiming five titles whilst achieving a career high ranking of number three. The Ukrainian is also one of the players who can finish the year as number one, so it might get better yet. Three of Svitolina’s titles came at Premier 5 level, the most recent being in Canada. Despite her good results though, Svitolina failed to make a big breakthrough at Grand Slam level, something she will aim to improve for 2018.
Caroline Wozniacki heads into Singapore having won only one title this year, but the Dane’s consistency is what has brought her back into the top ten and back in the year end championships. That title came in Tokyo after losing six previous finals in 2017. Her best Grand Slam performance came at Wimbledon where she made the quarter finals, but like Svitolina, her consistency outside the slams has been remarkable, as shown by her eight finals this season.
Two months ago, Caroline Garcia barely stood a chance of making Singapore, but an incredible two weeks in Beijing and Wuhan saw her finish the year in the top eight against all odds. The Frenchwoman made a controversial decision to skip Fed Cup and stop playing doubles at the end of last year, and it has seemingly paid off. Before her Wuhan and Beijing double, Garcia was consistent and earned a top 20 ranking as a result. But it was the fortnight in China that made her season. She is the in-form player heading into the tournament having won her last eight matches.
The Red Group is interesting as the defensive players have been pitted together. It is three counter punchers and Garcia, making the possibility of some long matches very possible.
If Garcia can carry her form over to Singapore, it is hard not seeing her advance. She is the player with the most weapons in the group and the highest peak level, but the eighth seed is flaky at the best of times, and if she underperforms, none of her opponents will g gift her a win.
That makes this group wide open. Any of the players can advance with a lot of the head to heads being close minus Svitolina’s 3-0 advantage over Wozniacki. The Ukrainian seems the most likely to win at least two matches, so I believe she will advance. Garcia is the wildcard and picking her will be brave, but Halep is the number one seed for a reason and the Romanian may just edge through in second place.
 Garbiñe Muguruza (ESP)
 Karolina Pliskova (CZE)
 Venus Williams (USA)
 Jelena Ostapenko (LAT)
Garbine Muguruza’s transformation after failing to defend her Roland Garros title is the main reason why she is here. Prior to Roland Garros, Muguruza struggled with her best result coming in Melbourne where she made the quarter finals. After the French though The Spaniard won her second Grand Slam title at Wimbledon and backed that up with an impressive run to the Cincinnati title a month later. Her fine summer form saw the second seed become world number one for the first time, a ranking she will look to regain this week. Muguruza was the first player to qualify for the WTA finals.
Karolina Pliskova started the season strong by winning the Brisbane title and making the quarter finals at the Australian Open The Czech’s biggest title came in Doha where she defeated Wozniacki to claim the title. Her strong start to the season earned Pliskova the world number one ranking for the first time, and she made the semi finals of the French Open in her best Grand Slam showing to date. Pliskova will be aiming for her biggest career title and the world number one ranking this week.
Venus Williams is the only player this year to make two grand slam finals, however the oldest player in the top eight failed to add to her tally of major titles. The year was still a resurgent one for Venus, who despite not claiming a title, was one of the more consistent performers of the season. The American backed up her two major finals by making the semi finals of the US Open before being defeated by the eventual champions Sloane Stephens.
Jelena Ostapenko (Photo: Tony Callaio)
Jelena Ostapenko is the only one of two players to have won a grand slam this year and compete in the WTA finals. The Latvian had a dream run to the title at Roland Garros as an unseeded player, and announced herself to the tennis world as not only a potential star, but a current one. The youngest player in the tournament backed up her maiden major title with a run to the quarter finals of Wimbledon and a second title in Seoul. Despite her risky style of play, the seventh seed has enjoyed a fair bit of consistency since Roland Garros.
This group is almost impossible to predict as all four of these players strike the ball very hard. One minute they look unbeatable, the next they can not keep the ball in court. That means the two players that will advance are the ones who can peak at the right times In the matches. Unlike the Red Group, matches in this one should be short, which may give the winners an advantage.
Singapore courts traditionally have been on the slow side which favours Muguruza the most as she is the one who has shown the most consistency on slower surfaces. Ostapenko also showed she can play on slower courts with her Roland Garros triumph, but will the pressure of her first WTA finals work against her?
Venus has the most experience by far, but I think the conditions favour the other players more so I believe she will not advance. Muguruza has struggled against big hitters in the past but I believe these courts are suited to her game so she will advance. Pliskova’s issues have mainly come on clay and I expect her to be solid enough to join Muguruza in the semi finals.
So the semi finals would pit Muguruza against Halep and Svitolina against Pliskova, coincidently the top four seeds.
Muguruza has a good record against Halep, leading the head to head 3-1 and destroying the Romanian in their most recent meeting. The slow conditions will help the top seed on this occasion, so I expect a tighter contest, but I think Muguruza will prevail.
Pliskova has definitely had the measure of Svitolina throughout their careers, winning five of their six meetings. The Czech has generally had control of their hardcourt meetings, but the Ukrainian defeated Pliskova in their most recent outing in Rome. I think the slower conditions will suit Svitolina, and I think despite their head to head, she will advance to the final.
So I have Muguruza meeting Svitolina in the final and this match is a difficult call. Both players are suited to the courts and their head to head is very close at 4-3 to Svitolina. However, there is a factor of fatigue when you make the final, and I think Muguruza will be the fresher player.
Svitolina will have played many long matches by this point, and combine that with Muguruza’s ability to play well in finals and you have a recipe for a Spanish triumph in Singapore.