This has been one of the most fascinating seasons on the WTA tour for years and it will all come to a glittering crescendo next week in Singapore. Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova, Petra Kvitova, Simona Halep, Eugenie Bouchard, Agnieszka Radwanska, Ana Ivanovic and Caroline Wozniacki will battle it out for the last meaningful piece of silverware in 2014. The final eight features a brilliant blend of power, defence and variety, and here’s hoping it lives up to expectation. I’ll be previewing every match next week, but here are a few thoughts on the round-robin groups…
Red Group: S.Williams, S.Halep, E.Bouchard and A.Ivanovic
The draws were always going to produce great match-ups, but I am particularly intrigued about the red group. I am excited about every single match-up in this group. The highlights are that we will get to see Serena Williams take on both Simona Halep and Eugenie Bouchard. Neither of those match-ups have played out in 2014, which is pretty key considering both Halep and Bouchard have had such stunning 2014 seasons. Serena will be the heavy favourite to come through although her injury remains a concern. She was forced to pull out of Beijing with a knee injury. I’d take Serena to win all three matches, but there is a nagging worry that she may not be fully fit.
Between Halep, Bouchard and Ivanovic, there really isn’t much to call. Halep is the player with the most question marks after she pulled out of Beijing with injury. Furthermore, Halep’s form has dipped significantly in the last couple of months. Her self-belief seems to have taken a knock, which I would attribute to a quarter-final loss to Sharapova in Cincy. Ana Ivanovic has been in the best form of the three, winning Tokyo and reaching the semi-finals of Beijing; however she has losing head-to-head records against both Halep and Bouchard. In fact, Genie has beaten Ana in both ther previous matches. At the Australian Open, Bouchard came from a set down to beat Ivanovic, 5-7 7-5 6-2 in the quarter-finals. If Halep’s injury becomes a concern, the most crucial match of the week will be Bouchard v Ivanovic. Despite the H2H records, I’d back Ana to make the semi-finals.
Advancing to the semi-finals: Serena Williams and Ana Ivanovic
White Group: M.Sharapova, P.Kvitova, A.Radwanska and C.Wozniacki
Although the white group isn’t quite as engaging as the red group, both groups are very even. The highlight of the white group will be a Beijing rematch between Maria Sharapova and Petra Kvitova. Sharapova edged out Kvitova in three sets in an excellent final a few weeks back. I’m also looking forward to see Sharapova take on Caroline Wozniacki. In their last match at the US Open, Wozniacki played her best match of the year to take out Maria in three sets. Wozniacki wasn’t able to replicate her US Open form during Asia although her performances were still remarkably improved from the first half of the season.
On paper, Agnieszka Radwanska faces the toughest challenge to get out of this group. She will need to summon her very best form to have an opportunity. Radwanska has beaten all three players in this group on hard courts in the last two years; However, of all eight players, I think Radwanska’s form coming into this tournament has been the most suspect. She won the title in Montreal, but hasn’t made it past the quarter-finals in any of her last five tournaments. Indoors, I would definitely back Kvitova to progress from this group. I’d fancy her to beat both both Wozniacki and Radwanska. I’d also predict that Sharapova would turn the tables on Caro.
Advancing to the semi-finals: Maria Sharapova and Petra Kvitova
Final Prediction: Kvitova d. S.Williams
This will be my last week of previews for the WTA tour in 2014! I’m going to try my best to catch-up with as much of the action as possible, but I think most of the matches will be when i’m at work. More than ever, i’d love to hear your thoughts pre-tournament and also during the event. I’ll be relying on Twitter this next week!!!