WTA Finals 2017: Several Statements But No Definitive Answer

The WTA Finals wrapped up this weekend in Singapore. Before the event began, no one could predict an outright favorite in a field of equals – these being the top eight WTA players of the 2017 season. Ultimately the event, much like the season itself, proved at times unpredictable, entertaining, and satisfying – for some yes, and for others, probably not, in the end.

After a series of one-sided matches, the event eventually produced several finals worthy matches including in the semifinals with Caroline Wozniacki prevailing over Karolina Pliskova, while Venus Williams outlasted the season-end surprise player Caroline Garcia.

The final itself saw Wozniacki hold off a Williams comeback in the second set to win 6-4, 6-4 her first ever match in eight tries against Williams and her biggest career title to date. A very in-form Wozniacki, out of all the players, may have benefitted the most from the event’s super slow surface. Wozniacki, who started the year at No. 19 and will now finish No. 3 will no doubt view 2017 as a turning point in her career. But though Wozniacki proved a worthy champion, she didn’t walk away with all the accolades.

Those accolades, earned and received, varied and depended on the player.

Almost all of the eight players entering the event had a shot at the year-end No. 1 ranking. But in the end it was Simona Halep, who did not make it out of the round robin, who finished first, simply due to math.

Halep, who won only one tournament this year in Madrid and lost in the Roland Garros final, proved consistent enough the rest of the season to finish on top. An incredible achievement, but one that will place a bit of a burden on Halep next year as she has yet to win a Grand Slam, especially by the media who tend to dwell on these things. Wozniacki knows something about that herself having been a former No. 1 who held the ranking without a major title either.

Garbine Muguruza, who also didn’t make it out of the round robin, was earlier awarded by the WTA the Player of the Year honors. Muguruza, with her Wimbledon title and being No. 1 briefly, certainly had the credentials for the award, though several of the other candidates had strong cases themselves for the distinction given that no one player dominated the tour this year. That included Venus Williams, who added yet another massive final to her finalist runs in Melbourne and Wimbledon, and seemed the most likely recipient of that honor, but perhaps not having won a title this year did not work in her favor.

Missing from the WTA Finals were several players who didn’t qualify – some because of a poor 2017 season and others for not having played enough events for a variety of reason, including injury, time away, or family matters. This included Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova, Victoria Azarenka, Angelique Kerber, Dominika Cibulkova, and Sloane Stephens. Such was the 2017 season, but it’s hard not to think they will play a significant part in the 2018 season – even if they don’t compete fully for whatever reason.

The WTA Finals proved a fitting climax to what has been at times a fascinating, compelling, unpredictable, contentious and sometimes wacky season. Yet it’s mixed results in terms of outcomes and awards didn’t really provide any true definitive closure. Could that change for next year? Perhaps. But don’t be surprised if the 2018 season ends exactly the same with a field of equals all battling for the tour’s biggest prize this time next year in Singapore.

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