The WTA Finals Offers Surprises and Crowns a New Champion


    The WTA Finals is an annual tennis tournament held at the end of the season for the women’s circuit for the top 8 ranked players. The host city of this tournament changes yearly, with this year being held at Fort Worth, Texas. Heading into the year’s final tournament, the top 8 ranked players were Iga Swiatek, Ons Jabeur, Jessica Pegula, Coco Gauff, Maria Sakkari, Carolina Garcia, Aryna Sabalanka, and Daria Kasatkina. The prize money for the winner is $820,000 and 1000 WTA points, enough to sway the rankings to determine the year’s number one ranking. Unlike the usual formatting of tournaments which follow the order  round of 128 or 64 most tournaments, the WTA finals is structured a little differently. 


    The tournament begins round robin style, with the top eight players being split into two groups of four. During the first four days, players play against each other in their group, and the two players with the most wins of each group advance to the semifinals. There, the players in their own groups compete for a spot in the finals and then the two that reach the finals compete to be champion. Despite heavy favorites to win the tournament, the top four players crashed out relatively early. 


    Iga Swiatek, the number one women’s player in the world bowed down to Belarus’s Sabalenka in Sunday’s semifinal after a grueling two hours and eight minutes. Despite Sabalenka’s outstanding nine double faults, she managed to win the match 6-2, 2-6, 6-1. Even with Swiatek’s exit, her ranking of number one is secured, as she stands nearly 6,000 points in front of Ons Jabeur. Hopes for American champions were also soon put to rest. 


    Jessica Pegula and Coco Gauff, third and fourth seeds respectively, crashed out of the tournament after losing three straight matches, with their run coming to an end on Saturday. Despite major successes from both, including being semifinalists at this year’s Roland Garros in Paris, France, both were unable to establish themselves as dominant players to beat, suffering from double faults throughout the tournament and Gauff suffering from an ongoing ankle injury. The final was between two unlikely candidates, demonstrating how unpredictable the WTA circuit can be. 


    Monday night’s final featured sixth seed Carolina Garcia and seventh seed Aryna Sabalanka. Garcia won the biggest tournament of her career, finishing off Sabalenka 7-6 6-4 in just over two hours. Her outstanding eleven aces helped propel her over the finish line, showcasing how dominant of a service game she has. Sabalanka’s strong forehand failed her Monday night as she was missing wide and Garcia was able to target her backhand to win critical points. This year marked a fairytale story for Garcia, despite consistent injuries that led her to fall out of the top 50 in June, her strong performances at the Western and Southern Open and now the WTA finals puts her to a new ranking of number 4 next Monday. Garcia will also earn about $1.3 million in prize money, coming from round robin matches and the final.