In news that probably didn’t strike anyone as odd, Serena Williams announced that her season was over this weekend. As a result, the 2016 Wimbledon champion will not contest the 2016 WTA World Tour Finals in Singapore next week. The reason for the withdrawal is her shoulder injury, one that has kept her off of the tour since she lost in the 2016 US Open semifinals.
In my opinion, there is a small chance that Williams’ career might actually be over. However, her withdrawal has a clear effect on the entrants into the year-end tour finals.
With a qualified player in Williams not contesting the finals in Singapore the complexion of the race for the last entry position changes. How the tour finals work is that the top-eight players on year-to-date rankings qualify for the event. However, if any qualified player is not able to contest a round-robin match, an alternate can fill in. At this point in the race, and barring more injury news, the following players are expected to be in Singapore: Angelique Kerber, Agnieszka Radwanska, Simona Halep, Garbine Muguruza, Madison Keys, and Dominika Cibulkova.
The final position is still up for grabs heading into the smaller events that will be played this week. Great Britain’s Johanna Konta currently sits on the bubble, however, she is idle this week and catch-able. Spaniard Carla Suarez-Navarro, a player in the WTA Moscow draw, could surpass Konta with a title (and only with a title).
Furthermore, Svetlana Kuznetsova, the two-time Grand Slam champion, is also in the Moscow draw on the opposite side of Suarez-Navarro. Should the Russian and the Spaniard meet in the Moscow final, it would be a match to guarantee entry into the final event of the season. With Konta idle following a recent abdominal strain, Suarez-Navarro and Kuznetsova are in control of their own destinies and in one another’s way.
However, I’m not entirely convinced that Williams will be the only high-ranked no-show in Singapore. Kerber revealed a leg injury after losing in the Beijing draw. That could have factored into her performance in Hong Kong where she suffered a comprehensive loss to Daria Gavrilova. Kerber spoke about how the injury affected her tennis game.
“I know that I have to move very well when I play my game, and I couldn’t play my game like I play,” Kerber said in referencing her Beijing loss.
If I had to go one way or another, I would lean toward Kerber playing in Singapore. If her leg injury was serious, I don’t think she would have went to Hong Kong.
Another player with a recent injury is Muguruza. The reigning French Open champion, who has done very little since winning at Roland Garros, twisted her ankle at WTA Linz a few days ago. The injury forced her to retire from her match, and I think she’s just a small question mark for the tour finals (yet a bigger one than Kerber).
The entrants for the tour finals will dip down to the year-to-date World No. 9 position for sure. That much we know following Williams’ withdrawal. Whether it dips down to the World No. 10 or even the World No. 11 is a possibility.
With less than a week to go before the event starts, I think it’s Agnieszka Radwanska that is looking dangerous. The winner from Singapore last year also won the Premier Mandatory event in Beijing a couple weeks ago. She may have pulled out in Tianjin last week, but I think that was just a precaution as opposed to something serious. I’m looking for her to be fit, ready, and through the round-robin stage at least.