WTA Finals 2019 - Taking Women's Tennis to a New Level?

We have reached the business end of the Tennis calendar and on Sunday the 27th of October the season ending WTA finals will take place. The top eight players in the world will compete across two round-robin groups of four and the top two will progress to the semi-finals. The week long tournament is often considered the fifth major of the year after the four grand slam events. 

This year the tournament is being hosted in Shenzen, China. The reigning champion of the indoor hard court event is Ukraine's Elina Svitolina who defeated American Sloane Stephens in the final. The defending champion once again has qualified as has last year's competitors - Osaka (Group Stage), Pliskova (Semi-finalist) and Kvitova (Group Stage). Serena Williams, five times a champion at this event, narrowly missed out this season as did Johanna Konta and Kiki Bertens. Here I will take a look at the eight qualified players in order of their world ranking.

#1 - Ashleigh Barty (Australia) - 23 years old

We have seen numerous new stars emerge in tennis this season but none more so than current world number one Barty. The Australian lifted her first grand slam at Roland-Garros and also went on a 15 match winning run which took her to the number one spot. She was beaten in straight sets by Petra Kvitova at the Australian Open at the beginning of the year and reached the fourth round at both Wimbledon and the US Open. To add to an impressive season, Barty secured a Masters 1000 crown in Miami defeating Karolina Pliskova in the final. Since her last victory in Birmingham in July, Barty has gone 17-5 and was recently beaten in Beijing by Osaka in the final. 

Season Record: 52-11

Barty with the Roland-Garros title
Picture courtesy of Telegraph.co.uk

#2 - Karolina Pliskova (Czech Republic) - 27 years old

World number two Pliskova is one of the most consistent players on tour and has been within touching distance of the world number one slot for a large part of the season. She has won four titles this year, the most notable on clay in Italy. She also picked up a victory last month on the Chinese hard courts in Zhengzhou. Since then however, she has lost two of her last three matches. She was beaten by Barty in the Miami final as mentioned above. At the slams, her best performance was in Australia where Pliskova reached the semi finals but was beaten by eventual champion Naomi Osaka. There was also fourth round runs at both Wimbledon and the US Open while there was a third round exit at Roland-Garros. Amazingly, Pliskova has never won a grand slam, reaching the US Open final in 2016. 

Season Record: 50-15

World Number two Karolina Pliskova
Picture Courtesy of wtatennis.com

#3 - Naomi Osaka (Japan) - 22 years old 

Osaka became a worldwide sensation after beating Serena Williams in the US Open final last year and followed that up with victory at the Australian Open to pick up where she left off last season. The run in Australia included successive wins over Svitolina, Pliskova and finally Petra Kvitova in the final. It has been a tough season since for Osaka, who has admitted to the pressure of the world number one ranking getting to her. There was a third round exit in Paris, followed by a first round exit at Wimbledon. Osaka was defeated by Belinda Bencic in the fourth round of the US Open. They do say you can never keep a true champion down and Osaka has responded winning two consecutive tournaments leading into this event and is on a 14 match winning streak. This run included a Beijing final win over world number one Barty and a victory over US Open champion Andreescu in the quarter finals. 

Season Record: 39-11

Naomi Osaka after winning the Australian Open in January
Picture Courtesy of thealantic.com

#4 - Bianca Andreescu (Canada) - 19 years old 

The youngest player at this year's tournament, Bianca Andreescu captured the minds of the tennis world this season. Despite fighting a shoulder injury throughout the year, the Canadian won Indian Wells as a wildcard beating Kerber in the final. There was also the small matter of victory in front of her home crowd at the Rogers Cup in Toronto. If you hadn't sat up and noticed so far, then her incredible run at the US Open will have made you remember the name. Andreescu lifted the US Open beating Bencic and Serena Williams in straight sets. This was part of a 16 match winning run which was ended by Osaka in Beijing. She has the honour of being the first Canadian to lift a grand slam title. There is potential here to become world number one for many years if injuries do not disrupt too often. To be world number four having not taken part in Wimbledon, conceding a second round match in the French Open and exiting the Australian Open at the second round, surely the goal must be world number one next season. The three titles are all the more impressive considering they have come despite playing fewer tournaments than her counterparts. 

Season Record: 48-5

Andreescu after winning the US Open against tennis legend Serena Williams
Picture Courtesy of usopen.org

#5 - Simona Halep (Romania) - 28 years old 

A major player on any surface is rare these days, but Simona Halep falls into that category. There was the small matter of a Wimbledon triumph in the summer beating Svitolina in the semi final and Serena Williams in the final for the loss of just eight games, adding to last season's French Open triumph. Halep reached the quarter finals in Paris and the fourth round in Australia. The Romanian's form has been quite patchy since Wimbledon though, with six victories and five defeats including a second round exit at the US Open to an American qualifier, but the work is done for qualification and you would be a fool to rule Halep out of any major tournament. 

Season Record: 42-15

Simona Halep with the Wimbledon Crown
Picture Courtesy of wtatennis.com

#6 - Petra Kvitova (Czech Republic) - 29 years old

The absence of Serena Williams means Kvitova will be the most experienced player at this year's tournament. The Czech is a two-time Wimbledon champion, with the most recent title in 2014. At this year's Australian Open she reached the final losing to Osaka in a thrilling three set match. There was to be another three set defeat at Wimbledon in the fourth round. A forearm injury disrupted mid-season form and Kvitova exited the US Open at the second round. Her two victories this season came in Sydney and at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix on Clay in Stuttgart. Recently, there was a run to the semi-finals in China at Wuhan and a defeat to world number one Barty in Beijing. 

Season Record: 37-13

Petra Kvitova winning Wimbledon in 2014
Picture Courtesy of bbc.co.uk

#7 - Belinda Bencic (Switzerland) - 22 years old 

Another player with a bright future, Belinda Bencic's name has popped up numerous times throughout the season and secured her qualification with a recent win in Moscow. She was beaten in the third round in Beijing by Kvitova recently as she hunted the points to reach this event. This season brought an impressive win over defending US Open champion Osaka in a run to the semi-finals of that tournament where she was finally stopped by eventual winner Andreescu in two tight sets. All the other three grand slam events seen the Swiss reach the third round. World Number six Kvitova once again did the damage in Australia. Bencic would get some revenge though, in Dubai, completing a Swiss double with Roger Federer who won the men's event. 

Season Record: 48-20

Belinda Bencic in action in Dubai
Picture Courtesy of bbc.co.uk
#8 - Elina Svitolina (Ukraine) - 25 years old 

Last but certainly not least is the defending champion. Amazingly Svitolina is the only player in this year's event without a tournament win this season but will still be one of the main favourites here. The Ukrainian reached the semi-finals in both Wimbledon and the US Open. Simona Halep's incredible form at Wimbledon stopped Elina's charge. Another eventual winner put stop to her quest in Australia where Osaka won out the quarter final match up. A third round defeat at the French Open rounded off the slams. Svitolina also reached the semi-finals at Indian Wells. Recently, Svitolina has entered five tournaments since the US Open, producing a record of seven wins and five defeats. 

Season Record: 35-21

Svitolina will be looking to defend her crown this year - can anyone stop her?
Picture Courtesy of britwatchsports.com

This has to be the most intriguing tournaments I have looked at in detail for a very long time. I could make a case for each of these eight athletes who all have their own different style. One side of me can see Bencic and Andreescu impressing here but after long seasons how will they cope with another tense major? I can genuinely see Andreescu dominating Women's tennis in the next couple of years providing she stays fit but I will stick my neck out and say this tournament will come too soon for the US Open champion. Osaka lost all three matches here last year so a run to the final will take some improvement. By no means write off any of these talents. Defending Champion Svitolina will be the one to beat. 

Can you do one better than me and pick a winner in a vastly competitive field? 

Drop a comment below ↓ and let me know who you are tipping - alternatively let me know on Facebook or even Twitter - wherever suits!

Let's give this tournament the air time it deserves - it really is going to be a cracker!