October 22, 2015

Final Statements

The field may be set for this year's WTA Finals, but that doesn't mean the large majority of players who didn't make the cut aren't still trying to end their season with a bang. And whether they're hoping to recapture former glory or soar to new heights, this week a couple ladies could show us they're worth watching too.

There was only one player in Luxembourg who had an outside shot at qualifying for Singapore, but Timea Bacsinszky, whose meteoric rise this year brought her two titles, a top-ten ranking and a first Grand Slam semifinal, retired in the first set of her opener. But the beneficiary of that withdrawal has certainly capitalized -- twenty-seven year old Laura Siegemund peaked at a barely double-digit ranking just last month and only made the main draw here thanks to Lucie Hradecka pulling out. And after she got the win over the top seed, the German scored a solid upset over Kirsten Flipkens to reach the quarters. She's actually the on-paper favorite versus her next opponent, world #165 Stefanie Voegele, and with the other seeds in her half of the draw already eliminated, she stands a pretty good shot at reaching the final. Of course there's a bigger challenge in the bottom section of the bracket -- former #1 Jelena Jankovic is coming off her fifteenth career title in Hong Kong and her second trophy since the U.S. Open. She's kept her win streak going this week too and, as the highest ranked player left, she might just be able to gather up the momentum she needs to return to the elite in the new season.

The field was a little more stacked in Moscow where the original entry list boasted six players contending for the final four spots in Singapore -- but it's been those a little below the radar who're causing the biggest stir. Defending champion Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova had fallen out of the top forty at times this year, but started regaining ground in the second half, defeating Belinda Bencic on her way to the Washington final and taking out U.S. Open champ Flavia Pennetta in Beijing. Last week she ran off with the title in Linz, dropping just one set, and then got right back to work in her homeland -- unseeded in Russia, she took out French Open finalist Lucie Safarova and rising star Margarita Gasparyan. In the semis she'll face Daria Kasatkina, last year's Juniors champ in Paris, but might just have what it takes to keep her run going. But perhaps the bigger story here is that of veteran Svetlana Kuznetsova who, after a fairly lackluster season, stands to win her first title of the year this week. She hasn't faced a seed yet, and certainly will be challenged by a talented Lesia Tsurenko for a spot in the championship match. But if she can use her experience to her advantage, there's no reason she can't prove that she's still more than just a contender.

No comments: