Williams has been contending with a shoulder injury since the summer, and has not played a tournament since her semi-final loss at the US Open in mid-September.
She said in a statement late yesterday: “I was looking forward to competing in Singapore this year and playing against the best players in the world. However, I have received disappointing news from my doctor that I must undergo a series of medical treatments for my shoulder and will be off the court for the next several weeks. I will miss coming to Singapore for the year-end Finals and playing in front of my fans but truly hope to be back soon.”
Williams has played only eight tournaments this season, yet reached the final of the first three Grand Slams. She lost in Australia to Angelique Kerber, who went on to halt Williams’ two and a half year unbroken run at No1 in New York, and to Garbine Muguruza at the French Open.
However at Wimbledon, Williams finally equalled Steffi Graf’s Open record of 22 singles Grand Slam titles and went on to equal Graf’s record 186 consecutive weeks at No1 during the US Open. Her withdrawal from the WTA Finals, though, guarantees that Kerber will retain the No1 ranking to the year’s end.
It is the second year in succession that Williams has ended her season after the US Open, and thus failed to take up her place at the WTA Finals. And that means she has been champion in her last four end-of-year appearances.
Until Williams’ withdrawal, the eight-woman field was set, with the final two places confirmed only this weekend by Dominika Cibulkova and Madison Keys. Now, however, there is one place still to fill and three women in contention.
Briton Johanna Konta stands at No9, but after an outstanding Asian run to reach the quarters in Wuhan and the final of the prestigious Premier Mandatory in Beijing, she was forced to withdraw after her second round win in Hong Kong last week with an abdominal injury, and is not playing in the last two WTA events before Singapore this week.
The next two women, No10 Carla Suarez Navarro and No11 Svetlana Kuznetsova, are the top seeds at the Kremlin Cup in Moscow, and a win by either of them would lift them past Konta for that last Singapore spot.
Should Konta or Suarez Navarro qualify, they will join three more WTA Final debutants in Keys, Cibulkova and Karolina Pliskova. Veteran Kuznetsova has qualified five times before, first in 2005 and most recently in 2009, but has never made it beyond the round-robin phase.
Defending champion: Agnieszka Radwanska
2015 Runner-up: Petra Kvitova
2016 Grand Slam champions in the draw: Muguruza and Kerber
Dates: Begins Sunday 23 October; Final Sunday 30 October
Venue: Singapore Indoor Stadium, at Singapore Sports Hub
Singles Draw: Friday, 21 October 2016, 6.30pm at Skating Rink, The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands
Doubles Draw: Tuesday, 25 October 2016, 6pm at Fan Village, OCBC Square
1 Angelique Kerber
[Serena Williams withdrawn]
2 Agnieszka Radwanska
3 Simona Halep
4 Karolina Pliskova
5 Garbine Muguruza
6 Madison Keys
7 Dominika Cibulkova
Still able to qualify, or become alternates
8 Johanna Konta, or
9 Carla Suarez Navarro, or
10 Svetlana Kuznetsova
Two from Konta, Suarez Navarro or Kuznetsova, plus
11 Petra Kvitova
12 Elina Svitolina
13 Venus Williams
14 Caroline Wozniacki
15 Roberta Vinci
16 Timea Bacsinszky
17 Elena Vesnina
18 Sam Stosur
19 Barbora Strycova
20 Kiki Bertens
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