The world number one, Simona Halep, won’t be present and neither will be the most recognisable female tennis player, Serena Williams. But things should certainly be competitive at the WTA Finals which feature the rest of the game’s top stars and get under way on Sunday.

Take a look at a player-by-player look at the two round-robin groups (the top two in each progress to the semi-finals) and how the tournament may go.

RED GROUP

Angelique Kerber

Odds: WTA Finals Title – ; Group – 

Race to Singapore ranking: 2

2018 win-loss record: 45-17 (2 titles – Wimbledon, Sydney)

Tournament record: 6-8 (16 RU, 15 Gp, 13 Gp, 12 Gp)

Recent form: Beijing L16 (l Zhang), Wuhan L16 (l Barty)

Record v group opponents:

v Osaka – overall: 3-1; indoor hard: 0-0; 2018: 1-0
v Stephens – overall: 1-4; indoor hard: 0-0; 2018: 0-1
v Bertens – overall: 2-1; indoor hard: 0-0; 2018: 1-0

Endured a wretched 2017 but after hiring coach Wim Fissette flew back up the rankings and returned to the Grand Slam winners’ circle, beating Serena Williams in the Wimbledon final. Given the German’s resurgence, it is somewhat surprising that she axed Fissette on the eve of this event. Playing here without a coach can hardly be considered good news for potential backers. She has, however, performed well here in the past, reaching the final in her golden year of 2016.

Naomi Osaka

Odds: WTA Finals Title – ; Group – 

Race to Singapore ranking: 4

2018 win-loss record: 42-17 (2 titles – US Open, Indian Wells)

Tournament record: Debut

Recent form: Beijing SF (l Sevastova), Tokyo RU (l Pliskova)

Record v group opponents:

v Kerber – overall: 1-3; indoor hard: 0-0; 2018: 0-1
v Stephens – overall: 0-1; indoor hard: 0-0; 2018: 0-0
v Bertens – overall: 1-0; indoor hard: 0-0; 2018: 0-0

Surprise US Open champion only last month – if you can remember through the fog of the furore surrounding Serena Williams’ meltdown in that final. Admitted in the weeks that followed that what should have been the moment of her career “wasn’t necessarily the happiest memory”. Still, she’s played well on the Asian swing and her big-hitting game will need to be respected here. One concern is her relatively poor record against top-10 players this season – she is 3-6. As for her group opponents here, she’s only played one this season and lost that match. Is the only aggressor in a group of counter-punchers though, something which could play into her hands given player feedback about the court playing faster than in previous years.

 

Sloane Stephens

Odds: WTA Finals Title ; Group 

Race to Singapore ranking: 6

2018 win-loss record: 33-17 (1 title – Miami)

Tournament record: Debut

Recent form: Moscow L16 (l Jabeur), Beijing L16 (l Cibulkova), Wuhan L64 (l Kontaveit), Tokyo L32 (l Vekic),

Record v group opponents:

V Kerber – overall: 4-1; indoor hard: 0-0; 2018: 1-0
v Osaka – overall: 1-0; indoor hard: 0-0; 2018: 0-0
v Bertens – overall: 1-0; indoor hard: 0-0; 2018: 0-0

Has struggled for form since the US Open but what we do know about the American is she tends to save her best for the big occasion. She’s won just 33 matches this season – easily the lowest of those gathered here – but the majority of those have come at four big tournaments. She won in Miami, finished runner-up at both Roland Garros and Montreal and was a quarter-finalist at the US Open. Stephens is streaky but when she’s on she’s hard to stop. Her chances of getting on a roll here have been boosted by the draw – she holds a winning record against all three group foes.

 

Kiki Bertens

Odds: WTA Finals Title ; Group

Race to Singapore ranking: 9

2018 win-loss record: 43-19 (3 titles – Seoul, Cincinnati, Charleston)

Tournament record: Debut

Recent form: Moscow L16 (l Sasnovich), Linz L16 (l Gasparyan), Beijing L16 (l Siniakova), Wuhan L32 (l Pavlyuchenkova), Seoul W

Record v group opponents:

v Kerber – overall: 1-2; indoor hard: 0-0; 2018: 0-1
v Osaka – overall: 0-1; indoor hard: 0-0; 2018: 0-0
v Stephens – overall: 0-1; indoor hard: 0-0; 2018: 0-0

Has managed to convert an excellent claycourt campaign into success on other surfaces in the second half of the season, most notably in Cincinnati where she beat Wozniacki, Svitolina, Kvitova and Halep en route to the title. Sadly for the Dutchwoman, none of those players is in this group. Instead Bertens finds herself holding a losing record against all three group opponents. That said, the sample is a small one and a highly-impressive 10-5 record this year against top-10 players will give the debutante confidence in this high-quality field.

 

WHITE GROUP

Caroline Wozniacki

Odds: WTA Finals Title ; Group

Race to Singapore ranking: 3

2018 win-loss record: 40-15 (3 titles – Beijing, Eastbourne, Australian Open)

Tournament record: 13-8 (17 W, 14 SF, 11 Gp, 10 RU, 09 SF)

Recent form: Beijing W (bt Wang & Sevastova), Wuhan L16 (l Puig), Tokyo L16 (l Giorgi)

Record v group opponents:

v Kvitova – overall: 5-8; indoor hard: 1-1; 2018: 0-1
v Svitolina – overall: 1-3; indoor hard: 1-0; 2018: 0-0
v Pliskova – overall: 6-3; indoor hard: 1-0; 2018: 0-0

The defending champion has an excellent record in Singapore, having won seven of her nine matches in two editions of this tournament. One of the losses came in a group match after she’d already qualified; the other was a final-set tie-break defeat to Serena Williams. Wozniacki also made the final of this event in Doha in 2010 and overall she has made it out of the group four times out of five. That record can at least in part be put down to her supreme fitness levels – the Dane plays a lot of tennis but rarely looks fatigued at this time of year, as shown when she returned to form to win in Beijing recently. The conditions here looked near-perfect for Wozniacki last year but even if they are faster this time, she showed at the Australian Open – where she finally broke her Grand Slam duck – that she has the game to perform in such circumstances.

 

Petra Kvitova

Odds: WTA Finals Title ; Group

Race to Singapore ranking: 5

2018 win-loss record: 47-14 (5 titles – Birmingham, Madrid, Prague, Doha, St Petersburg)

Tournament record: 10-8 (15 RU, 14 Gp, 13 SF, 12 Gp, 11 W)

Recent form: Beijing L64 (l Gavrilova), Wuhan L16 (l Pavlyuchenkova)

Record v group opponents:

v Wozniacki – overall: 8-5; indoor hard: 1-1; 2018: 1-0
v Svitolina – overall: 7-1; indoor hard: 1-0; 2018: 1-0
v Pliskova – overall: 3-0; indoor hard: 0-0; 2018: 1-0

Holds the best winning percentage of the eight-woman field, perhaps not surprising given she’s won a tour-leading five titles in 2018. They include the indoor event in St Petersburg. Kvitova has long been a strong performer indoors, most notably in Fed Cup play, and she made the final here three years ago. Kvitova can deal with the lower bounce, as she’s done at Wiimbledon in two title runs, and she was notably happy about the court speed when speaking at Saturday’s media event. Holds a winning record against all three group opponents and is 3-0 against them in 2018. Overall against top-10 players, Kvitova is a highly-impressive 7-1 this season.

 

Elina Svitolina

Odds: WTA Finals Title ; Group

Race to Singapore ranking: 7

2018 win-loss record: 37-14 (3 titles – Rome, Dubai, Brisbane)

Tournament record: 1-2 (17 Gp)

Recent form: Hong Kong QF (l Wang), Beijing L64 (l Krunic), Wuhan L32 (l Sabalenka)

Record v group opponents:

v Wozniacki – overall: 3-1; indoor hard: 0-1; 2018: 0-0
v Kvitova – overall: 1-7; indoor hard: 0-1; 2018: 0-1
v Pliskova – overall: 2-5; indoor hard: 0-1; 2018: 1-0

Form has not been good in recent weeks, albeit Svitolina has run into some hot players. There’s no getting away from the fact the Ukrainian has tailed off in the second half of the season, just as she did in 2017 – her last title was in Rome back in the spring. A ghastly record against Kvitova (lost the last 11 sets) puts her under immediate pressure (the pair meet first up) and although Svitolina has fared much better against Wozniacki, it’s worth noting she lost 6-0 6-2 to the Dane when they meet here 12 months ago.

 

Karolina Pliskova

Odds: WTA Finals Title ; Group

Race to Singapore ranking: 8

2018 win-loss record: 43-19 (2 titles – Tokyo, Stuttgart)

Tournament record: 3-4 (17 SF, 16 Gp)

Recent form: Moscow L16 (l Zvonareva), Tianjin RU (l Garcia), Beijing L16 (l Wang), Wuhan L32 (l Wang), Tokyo W (bt Osaka)

Record v group opponents:

v Wozniacki – overall: 3-6; indoor hard: 0-1; 2018: 0-0
v Kvitova – overall: 0-3; indoor hard: 0-0; 2018: 0-1
v Svitolina – overall: 5-2; indoor hard: 1-0; 2018: 0-1

Arguably has some of the better post-US Open form of those gathered here, winning in Tokyo and reaching the Tianjin final. Two losses to Qiang Wang has be forgiven given how the Chinese has played of late, while a dash from Asia to Moscow can possibly explain the hammering she received at the hands of Vera Zvonareva. All those air miles over the past week won’t have helped her cause though but she will be encouraged by the faster conditions given her biggest weapon is her first serve.

VERDICT

There is much to like about Kvitova, who has more wins and titles than anyone else in the field. Her top-10 record of 7-1 is highly impressive and is reflected in her record against her group opponents.

The Czech, who will want to find her best form with the Fed Cup final still to come at the start of next month, struggled to hide her delight at finding a faster court surface here than in previous years, suggesting on Saturday that these are the most suitable conditions for her game she’s had at the WTA Finals.

“What I remember even from Istanbul (where the event was held prior to 2014) and here, the court was a little bit slower but not this time, which is better,” Kvitova, renowned for her fighting spirit, said. She was not the only one to offer this view about the court pace.

Kvitova really should have enough to come through this group, probably alongside Wozniacki, who always seems to perform at the season-ending finale.

However, with given the court conditions, preference if for the more aggressive player, who has a track record of delivering indoors with five career titles.

Take the that she adds another.

In the Red Group, Osaka looks a worthy favourite. She has arguably the best form coming in having continued in Asia where she left off at the US Open, ot a large extent. However, there looks little value in her price, particularly given her record against the top 10 isn’t great.

Kerber’s coaching issue makes me worry about where her mind is right now so Stephens or Bertens could offer some value here at big prices.

Stephens has performed on big stages this year but form has been poor and she spoke openly on Saturday about how she feels she doesn’t pay her best tennis in Asia. She’s not the first American to say that.

Bertens, on the other hand, seemed more positive, saying she he already achieved all her goals for the season. Only playing due to Halep’s withdrawal, she has little to lose and a excellent record against top-10 players this year will fill her with confidence.

She showed in Cincinnati she can cope with a fast surface so the Seoul champion should certainly not be dismissed.

Her group odds of suggest she is being though and given she starts against Kerber and may only need to win two matches to finish top, this looks worth a small bet.

Tips:

Petra Kvitova to win the title

Kiki Bertens to win the White Group

 

Odds are correct at the time of posting

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