When it comes to major world cities that are immaculate, no city compares to the pristineness of Singapore, the Lion City, a crossroad where east meets west, where delectable foods of the east make your taste buds dance and where cultures of the world mingle magnificently in harmony with one another. It is here that the culmination of the women’s season will take place.
Not far from the shopping and commercial centres of this beautiful tropical city-state, the Singapore Sports Hub and specifically Kalang will be ablaze of colour with the BNP Paribas WTA Finals.
The world’s eight best women singles players will battle through the round robin competition through to the elimination semifinals and on to the climax of the season, the final. So who is going to win the coveted prize in this first such venture in Asia, or what is the real Asia?
It would be very easy to say titleholder Serena Williams the world No.1 has a vice like grip on the Billie Jean King Trophy, after all she is making her ninth appearance at the season-ending event and she has won it the last two years. In fact she is on a 15 match win streak at the event which is second only to Martina Navratilova’s 21 consecutive match win record.
Oh and speaking of Navratilova, the doubles trophy has been named after her.
But back to Serena, who overall has won this title four times, the second half of the year has been somewhat questionable with regards to her health. The concerning situation at Wimbledon and then again at the China Open, plus she appears to be battling a leg issue. So how fit will she be for the week? That is a $64,000 question; these days that clichéd question should probably change to $6million question.
Serena is nothing if not a fighter and whenever she is down she finds a spark deep inside to turn things around and get back up and that is what is expected once again.
Maria Sharapova is making her seventh appearance and she has won the championships on one previous occasion but that was a decade ago. She has made quite a charge in the second half of the year to get her ranking back to the No.2 spot. Surprisingly she has never ended the year as world No.1, something she would dearly love to achieve but she does have an impressive record of having won at least one title every year for the last twelve years.
Simona Halep really burst on to the scene this year and that has shown with her first appearance in the season-ending finale. This is going to be a whole new experience for her and quite possibly turn out to be more of a learning experience than one which will see her holding the trophy at the very end. This is quite a promotion for her because last year she won the second level championship in Sofia.
Coming in at four is the delightful Petra Kvitova who secured her place among the final eight by winning the inaugural title in Wuhan. The Wimbledon champion is in the play-off for the fourth time and she did claim the championship in 2011 the year she won her first Wimbledon. So, could that be an omen for the ever-smiling Czech?
Aga Radwanska is a near veteran of the event, this will be her sixth year to qualify, although twice as an alternate; this time she is the fifth player in the field and she knows the drill even though it has not been that successful an event for her.
For the first half of the year Eugenie Bouchard carved major inroads on the Tour but since her loss in the Wimbledon final things seemed to have got to her and the results have been very patchy. Her appearance in the field marks the first time a Canadian has qualified for the championships in 25 years. Genie’s game of late has not done much to instil the confidence that is needed to hold the trophy from this unique tournament.
Two of the most popular players in women’s tennis round off the final eight; coming in at seven is Ana Ivanovic making her third appearance in this event although she has twice been a winner of the second level championship event when that was played in near-by Bali and finally Caroline Wozniacki who is in the Finals for the fourth time and who was a runner-up in 2010.
So back to the original question, who will win? With this being round robin it makes it just that bit more intriguing and complicated but their recent form on the Asian swing quite possibly brings it down to Sharapova and Kvitova and if push came to shove to pick just one name then the leaning could very well be with Petra Kvitova.
The one great shame for the event in its first year in the real Asia is that Li Na, the 2013 runner-up will not be there to compete but her appearance will certainly be cheered as the event’s ambassador.