By Ros Satar

  • Year-end No. 1 goes to Angelique Kerber
  • Road to Singapore final week is all to play for
  • WTA Finals is thrown wide open
Monday dawned with the news that Serena Williams has had to withdraw from the season-ending finals for the second time. We take a look at how we got here and what it means.

 

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Why is she not going?

Throughout the year Williams has juggled injuries and illness since the start of the year, pulling out of the Hopman Cup as the season opener with a knee injury, with flu and shoulder inflammation causing her withdraw from a number of tournaments during the year, including Premier Events in Madrid, Toronto and Cincinnati, and has ruled her out of the entire post-US Open Asian swing.

Here’s what she said via WTA Twitter

 

When is Serena playing next?

Last year after her loss to Roberta Vinci at the US Open, Williams shut down her whole season early – but let’s not panic just yet. Williams is still winning Slams (she tied Steffi Graf at 22 and has Margaret Court’s 24 titles within reach) at the age of 34. She has reduced her workload over the years and there is no reason to doubt she will come back – she is scheduled to open her season in Auckland 2017, where she will be making her debut.

 

Angelique Kerber locks in the year-end World No. 1 spot

It would have all come down to a Showdown in Singapore – Williams had a chance to wrestle the No. 1 spot she relinquished after the US Open, where she lost in the semi-final as Kerber went on to collect her second Slam win of the year.

With Serena out of the running, Kerber will finish the year as the World No. 1 after topping and tailing it with the Australian Open and US Open titles.

 

So what about the Road to Singapore?

Well if you thought it had all been locked in via a detour in Linz, think again. With Linz champion Dominika Cibulkova now locked in, eyes turn to the final Premier event in Moscow where defending champion Svetlana Kuznetsova and third seed Carla Suárez Navarro have all to play for- if they win, they will grab the final spot!

 

What about Johanna Konta?

Good question – the Brit was making great progress in Hong Kong before an abdominal injury forced her to withdraw shortly before her second round match, and was not scheduled for any more ranking events in the final week, so once more it is all out of her hands.

If she can recover from the injury and the results go her way, it would doubt cap an extraordinary breakthrough year, and hopefully give her an excellent platform for next year. If not, there is no doubt that her pragmatic approach to everything that has happened in her career will make her rationalise that it was not to be this year, but hopefully many more opportunities to come.

 

Does this take the sting out of the WTA Finals?

No we don’t think so. Defending champion Agnieszka Radwanska hit great form in Asia, winning the title in Beijing before withdrawing before her quarter-final in Tianjin where she was defending her title. Rested and in an indoor environment that clearly suits her, she should be formidable.

Kerber credits her change in attitude to the mental crash she suffered at the season-ending finale where she crumbled under the pressure of knowing she only had to win a single set against Lucie Safarova to make the semi-finals. While furious she knew about this before her match (Safarova beat her), she has often stated she never wanted to be like that again and allow the mental aspect of the game to get the better of her.

She proved that in spades, beating Williams to win her first Grand Slam title in Melbourne, before losing to her at Wimbledon, and beating Karolina Pliskova for the US Open title. She is not immune to nerves though (well, let’s face it, who is?) when she faltered after a busy summer hard court season including winning the silver medal in Rio, as she lost in the Cincinnati final and missed her first chance to grab the No. 1 spot.

The field may miss the 22-time Grand Slam winner, but we have the other two Slam winners (if Garbiñe Muguruza can get over a rolled ankle from Linz last weekend), and three Slam finalists (Simona Halep, Pliskova and Cibulkova).

The field is wide open, and will still showcase the best players from this year – and to be quite blunt, Serena will not play on forever. If the chasing pack ever needed a chance to step up and showcase women’s tennis – then now is the time.

The BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global takes place between 23-30 October.

 

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