By Ros Satar, in Singapore

  • The scene is set for a showdown for the year-ending World No. 1 spot as seven of the top eight players in 2017 battle it out.
SINGAPORE – After the glitz and the glamour of the WTA Finals draw, the scene is set for a battle between seven of the eight best performing players of 2017 for the season ending No. 1 spot.

 

[1] Simona Halep

The trials and tribulations that incumbent Halep has faced just to get here could be the subject for a series of articles in itself, and earlier in the year she told the press that she was very up for the challenge of being in pole position.

The fact that she defeated Jelena Ostapenko after that bruising encounter in the Roland Garros final made the moment no doubt sweeter, but she is under no illusions of the challenge ahead.

“I’m really excited to be here and to be No. 1 in the world. Inside I can say that something is changed. I’m very happy about what I did. But outside is just normal, normal things. Nothing changes. It’s just I have to work harder to keep that (smiling). But I’m here just to enjoy the moment and we’ll see what is going to happen.

“The dream came true. Is just the best feeling that I ever had in my tennis career so far. It’s nice. I’m just enjoying the moment. I cannot describe in words what I feel, but it’s a good feeling. I’m happy when I’m going to the courts now.”

 

[2] Garbiñe Muguruza

Garbine Muguruza (c) Jimmie48 Tennis Photography

What will be interesting is to see how the other two of the three World No. 1s this year in Singapore view the challenge of wrestling the top spot off Halep. Muguruza has definitely had a year of two halves.

The pressure of defending her title at Roland Garros seemed to weigh the Spaniard dow, but the upswing since the short turnaround to Wimbledon and her consistency from that point on was a stark contrast from just a year ago, and you have to feel if anyone is going to finish on top this year, it could be the reigning Wimbledon champion.

Muguruza said, of the challenge: “I’m not going to lie, of course, but I know I have to play well. I know there are so many girls, players, that have the chance. I’m happy that I got it in the past, and now I’m not that, you know, nervous or obsessed. I think it’s more different. So I’m going to fight for that.”

 

[3] Karolina Pliskova

Karolina Pliskova Western & Southern Open, Cincinnati 2017

Karolina Pliskova (c) Jimmie48 Tennis Photography

Pliskova’s ascent to the top spot came in the midst of a disappointing Wimbledon campaign, where she picked up the ranking as a result of Angelique Kerber’s continued freefall this season, but coming to Singapore second time around, she knows regaining the top spot is still in her grasp.

“I think it’s very open. It’s very tough to get there, but on the other hand, we are all so close to everyone now on the ranking, I mean, and everybody can get there right now. So this tournament is really going to decide who is going to finish the year world No. 1. I think everybody has a good chance. So we still have to play well”

 

[4] Elina Svitolina

Elina Svitolina (c) Jimmie48 Tennis Photography

Elina Svitolina (c) Jimmie48 Tennis Photography

The Ukrainian has continued to build momentum this year, despite still having yet to make a Grand Slam semi-final, but her consistency speaks volumes in 2017 with five titles to her name, and she too has had her chances to grab the top spot.

In many ways though, she has almost flown under the radar in that respect, but while the top three seeds have a different perspective with that rank under their belts, it is still a goal for Svitolina, even if not necessarily just now.

Svitolina said: “I know there is a chance that I can become No. 1 by the end of this year, but this is not a goal for me at the moment. The goal was to improve my game, to play better on the Grand Slams, to play better to feel better on court and just improve my game each day. And then the ranking is gonna come if you’re playing well. If you’re playing consistent, then the ranking will come.”

 

[5] Venus Williams

Venus Williams US Open 2017, Flushing Meadows, New York

Photo by AP/REX/Shutterstock | Venus Williams US Open 2017, Flushing Meadows, New York

Perhaps the most understated of all the No. 1s in waiting was the resurgent Williams, who has enjoyed one of her best seasons in a while, reaching two Slam finals (Australian Open, Wimbledon) and who first reached the top spot in February 2002. The prospect of reaching the top spot again was not on her mind at all.

“Not really, no. We’ll see what happens.”

 

[6] Caroline Wozniacki

Caroline Wozniacki © Jimmie48 Tennis Photography

It is somewhat ironic that the seven-time Slam champion Williams has only occupied the top spot for a total of 11 weeks, while Wozniacki, whose consistency had to endure the age-old jibes of being a ‘slamless No. 1) stayed at the top for a total of 67 weeks.

She too has enjoyed a resurgent year, reaching six finals this year before finally keeping up her record of a title a year since 2008, winning in Tokyo. With a healthy sprinkling of debutants this year, Wozniacki agreed that the depth in the game throws up an interesting dash to the line.

“I think it’s a strong era and there is a lot of great players out there. You know, I think all of us have had a great year. Everyone who is here has had a great year. I’m just focusing on this tournament and trying to do as well as I can and then take it from there (smiling).”

 

[7] Jelena Ostapenko

Jelena Ostapenko US Open 2017, Flushing Meadows, New York

Photo by Rob Prange/REX/Shutterstock | Jelena Ostapenko US Open 2017, Flushing Meadows, New York

One of the surprise packages this year was the fearless play of Ostapenko to deal Halep her first blow on the path to No. 1, not to mention denying her the chance of her first Slam title.

As it stands though, she is really at the behest of the results of everyone else, so from her perspective this week is all about making the most of the opportunity at the end of a standout year.

“The good thing that is I played against all the players in my group, so I kind of know how they play, and I’m going to try to show my best.”

 

[8] Caroline Garcia

Caroline Garcia © Jimmie48 Tennis Photography

It might seem strange to include the high-flying Frenchwoman who ended up coasting into the final eight after an outstanding run in Asia, but think back to 2011, and Andy Murray’s now (in)famous tweet:


Garcia admitted she found it hard to live up to the expectation of that tweet, and she is the only player not in contention for the final dash to the top.

Garcia said: “Ah, yeah, everyone know it, I think (smiling).

“I mean, at this time in 2011 was difficult for me to manage the pressure that went with his tweet but because I was not ready in my game and in my head, so I took a lot of experience from it. I mean, I work out every single day to make this happen, so I know it’s a long way, but I’m getting there slowly. I do my journey, and I will see how far it bring me.”

 

The WTA Finals Singles draw starts on Sunday at 5pm (10am BST) with Pliskova v Willians, and Muguruza v Ostapenko not before 7:30pm (12:30pm BST).

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