• Julia Goerges returns to defend title
• Only two of top dozen qualifiers to miss tournament: Serena Williams and Jelena Ostapenko
• Singles wildcard for Zhang Shuai marks first time that two Chinese players will compete in Zhuhai
This tournament, into its fourth year, is contested between the 11 highest-ranked women after the eight who qualify for the BNP Paribas WTA Finals, and the field of a dozen is completed by one wildcard. This year, that honour has been extended to home player, China’s Peng Shuai.
Such are the rewards and kudos of the event that the only two players who have pulled out of selection are world No15 Serena Williams, who drew a line under her post-childbirth return to the tour after making back-to-back finals at Wimbledon and the US Open, and No21 Jelena Ostapenko, who carried an injury out of the Asian swing.
It is little wonder that the dozen women who do make it want to extend their season by one more week. Champion last year Julia Goerges, for example, earned 700 ranking points and $673K for her four match-wins. And points on that scale can make a real difference when looking ahead to the first Major of 2019, the Australian Open. Goerges rose from outside the top 16 to well inside it by Melbourne.
The year-end event features both singles and doubles. The singles players compete in four round-robin groups of three, with the winners of each group advancing to the knockout semi-final stage. Six doubles teams are split into two round-robin groups, with the winner of each advancing to the final.
Among the list of players who will compete in Zhuhai is two-time Major champion Garbiñe Muguruza (2016 Roland Garros and 2017 Wimbledon), the 2017 US Open finalist Madison Keys, and China’s No1 Wang Qiang, along with defending champion Goerges.
There is also the exciting young player who very nearly made the cut for Singapore: Daria Kasatkina went from her title win in Moscow to take up a place as first alternate in Singapore, and will lead the field in Zhuhai.
Between them, indeed, the players competing in Zhuhai this year represent 14 singles titles and a large scattering of Major semi-final appearances.
30 October to 4 November
[NB No10 is the highest ranked player not competing in the WTA Finals in Singapore.]
· 10 Daria Kasatkina: won Moscow; final Dubai, Indian Wells; SF St Petersburg; QF Roland Garros, Wimbledon
· 11 Anastasija Sevastova: won Bucharest; final Mallorca, Beijing; SF US Open, Brisbane, Charleston, Moscow
· 12 Aryna Sabalenka: won New Haven, Wuhan; final Lugano, Eastbourne; SF Cincinnati
· 13 Elise Mertens: won Hobart, Lugano, Rabat; SF Australian Open, San Jose
· 14 Julia Goerges: won Auckland, Luxembourg; final Charleston; SF Wimbledon, St Petersburg, New Haven
· [15 Serena Williams]
· 16 Madison Keys: SF Roland Garros, US Open, Charleston; QF Australian Open
· 17 Garbine Muguruza: won Monterrey; final Doha; SF Roland Garros, Dubai, Hong Kong
· 18 Caroline Garcia: won Tianjin; SF Stuttgart, Madrid
· 19 Ashleigh Barty: won Nottingham; final Sydney
· 20 Anett Kontaveit: final Wuhan; SF Stuttgart, Rome
· [21 Jelena Ostapenko]
· 22 Wang Qiang: won Nanchang, Guangzhou; final Hong Kong; SF Wuhan, Beijing, Hiroshima
· 35 Zhang Shuai (WC): SF Prague, Hiroshima, Hong Kong
Zhuhai and the venue
Zhuhai, called “the pearl of South China Sea”, is located on the coast between Hong Kong and Macau. With a backdrop of hills and a frontage of sea and islands, it has been voted “The Most Liveable City of China” and “Foreigners’ Favourite Chinese City”.
The Hengqin Tennis Centre in Zhuhai features a 5,000 Centre Court, a 1,500 second show court, four additional match courts, and 12 training courts.
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BIOGRAPHY: Ethan Hazard
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