Five-time champion Serena Williams on Monday withdrew from the WTA Finals due to a right shoulder injury. While her absence from the season-ending championships for a second year in a row is a massive blow for fans and the tournament, it has opened the door for one more player to qualify.
Great Britain's Johanna Konta is currently placed ninth in the Road to Singapore leaderboard and is next in line for qualification. Konta has enjoyed the season of her life in 2016, and earlier this month, she became the first British woman to break into the top 10 since Jo Durie in 1984. She was forced to pull out of the Hong Kong Open after an abdominal strain, and will not be participating in this week's Kremlin Cup. Serena's withdrawal has given her a potential lifeline to make her first appearance at the year-ender.
However, Carla Suarez Navarro from Spain and Russian veteran Svetlana Kuznetsova have a chance to catch Konta at the Kremlin Cup. Defending champion Kuznetsova and third seed Suarez Navarro can leapfrog Konta in the rankings if either one of them win the title at the final Premier-level tournament of the 2016 season.
Kuznetsova, who is the top seed in Moscow, begins her title defence against either Alize Cornet or Shelby Rogers after receiving a first-round bye. Suarez Navarro also has a bye into the round of 16, and will start her campaign against either Lucie Safarova or Daria Gavrilova.
Both Kuznetsova and Suarez Navarro are coming into Moscow with semi-final finishes in tournaments in the previous week. Kuznetsova lost to Alison Riske in Tianjin after three tight sets while Suarez Navarro was defeated by eventual champion Dominika Cibulkova at the Generali Ladies tournament in Linz.
Qualified for WTA Finals:
1. Angelique Kerber
2. Simona Halep
3. Agnieszka Radwanska
4. Karolina Pliskova
5. Garbine Muguruza
6. Madison Keys
7. Dominika Cibulkova
The chasing pack:
8. Johanna Konta
9. Carla Suarez Navarro
10. Svetlana Kuznetsova
The top eight players will qualify for the season ending WTA Finals in Singapore, which starts on 23 October. It will feature two round-robin groups, followed by the semi-finals and final. The year-ender is generally considered to be the fifth most prestigious event on the women's tour after the four Grand Slams. It also has the largest prize money and ranking points after the majors.
(With inputs from agencies)
First Published On : Oct 17, 2016 22:44 IST