Saturday, October 22, 2016

2016 WTA TOUR FINALS: Kuznetsova Grabs Last Spot In Elite 8, Displacing Konta

Svetlana Kuznetsova upended the script at the WTA Tour Finals in Singapore by waiting until the very last possible moment to quality for the prestigious year-ending championship. Because Serena Williams withdrew, the Top 9 players in the world will be eligible to play. As of this week Johanna Konta of Great Britain was in the #9 position but she could have been surpassed by either Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain or Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia if either won the Moscow Open (Konta didn't play). Kuznetsova was the defending champion in Moscow and despite having numerous tension-filled matches all week, the 2-time major champion was able to win the title and qualify for the year-ending championship for the first time since 2009 (which is when Sveta won her 2nd major at the French Open that year).

The Elite Eight qualifiers are Angelique Kerber (#1), Dominika Cibulkova (#8) Simona Halep (#4) and Madison Keys (#7) in the Red group and Agnieska Radwanska (#3), Garbine Muguruza (#6), Karolina Pliskova (#5) and Svetlana Kuznetsova (#9) in the White group. The draw is made so that the two groups play a round-robin and the top 2 finishers n each group play semifinals against a player from the other group to reach the final. Last year's final four was Maria Sharapova, Muguruza, Radwanska and Petra Kvitova. Kvitova and Radwanska reached the final, which, amazingly, was won by Radwanska. This year Kvitova did not even qualify for the Top 8 and is just outside the Top 10.

Interestingly, despite qualifying late, Kuznetsova has a very good record against the rest of the players in her half of the draw (13-6, mostly because of a 12-4 head-to-head against Radwanska!). Kerber has a 12-9 advantage and Halep has a 10-7 advantage against the rest of the players in the Red group. My prediction would be a Kuznetsova-Kerber semifinal and a Radwanska-Halep semifinal

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