LONDON, Great Britain - Former No.1 Lindsay Davenport has been announced as a new ambassador for the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global. The three-time major champion and winner of 55 WTA singles titles, Davenport is well familiar with the unique format and pressures of not just the WTA Finals but the qualifying process itself. The American qualified for the WTA Finals a total of 11 times, including a stretch of nine consecutive years from 1994 to 2002.
"The first one was 1994 and I had the benefit of it being 16 players and it was a straight draw," Davenport told WTA Insider. "That first year I was so inspired and my coach told me to watch the first night. I was totally inspired and I made the final. I had no idea what was going on.
"I'm fortunate to have competed in a couple of different cities, in a couple of different formats, and the round robin format is a trip! For me, someone whose mind doesn't turn off, trying to manage all the scenarios, you just never know. Trying to get a player who has lost to come back the next day believing that they aren't out of the tournament, is so tough. It's always interesting to me to see how a player responds to a loss and whether they can pick up a gear."
Six months into the season, Davenport has been impressed with the continued depth on the tour, as evidenced by the surface-specific dominance of a small group of players on hard courts, clay courts, and now the grass. Karolina Pliskova, Johanna Konta, Caroline Wozniacki, Elina Svitolina, and Venus Williams owned the start of the season on hard courts, while Simona Halep, Kristina Mladenovic, Jelena Ostapenko and Svitolina put their stamp on the clay court season. Now into the grass, Pliskova and Petra Kvitova ruled the turf.
"It means there's more depth in women's tennis, that there are more players that are comfortable on surfaces," Davenport said. "There's something to be said about seeing a player play their best tennis in their element and where they're comfortable. That match between Halep and Svitolina at the French Open was outstanding for the first two sets. I sat there amazed at both them."
Two players that Davenport hopes to see in Singapore are Simona Halep and Johanna Konta. Halep currently sits at No.2 in the Porsche Race to Singapore, with Konta chasing her first WTA Finals at No.7.
"Konta is amazing," Davenport said. "You take a player and you have to be very honest about what your strengths and what your weaknesses are. You see the players who are willing to do the work on their weaknesses have so much success. You see her, especially here at Wimbledon through the first few rounds, be so mentally tough."
The Brit narrowly missed out on qualifying for the Singapore last season, getting edged on the very last day of the season by eventual semifinalist Svetlana Kuznetsova.
"I love when I watch her play now. You never see that look of being unsure out there anymore. She's done the mental work that she needed to do or felt that she had to do, you watch her practice and she's all business. I get the sense with her that I get with Andy Murray. She's doing everything she can at every minute of the day to achieve her dreams. You have to have the utmost respect for that, because five years ago, she wasn't on anyone's radar as Top 5 player in the world potential."
"In the same way, Simona Halep. Love to watch her story develop this year and her ability to work through the emotional part of tennis. You watch her play, she has such an amazing game. She's so fast, she's so fit. And now she's been so honest with everybody with what she's going through with herself and how she battles herself out on court. I loved her quotes on court after the French Open. Anyone in that situation, where they're up and they're not able to win and can say it's not my time, I went through that, and you know what, I'm going to try again. I've developed an enormous amount more respect for her this year."
Looking ahead to Singapore, there are four players Davenport fully expects to see in the Lion City. As the Porsche Race to Singapore heats up down the stretch, the 1999 WTA Finals champion is hoping for a diverse mix of eight who can pit power vs. speed.
"If you look at the Porsche Race now, those Top 4 players, I hope they all qualify -- Pliskova, Halep, Svitolina, Wozniacki," Davenport said. "Those would be some amazing battles and I do think those will happen in Singapore. Then you look at the next four and I'd love to see another offensive, aggressive player get through there. Maybe it's Ostapenko.
"I like to see that mix. I like to see the players try and hit through the speed of Wozniacki and Halep. Those players get a lot of balls back but I've also liked their development. They're stepping in and finishing points.
"That's been something really fun to watch with Wozniacki the last six months. She was talking about retirement at the US Open! It's so crazy. Now she seems to have this new life, a nice mix, a nice balance on the court and it seems off the court as well.
"People like to say 'Who are we missing?' but we have so much right now. That's the beauty right now. Playing styles, personalities, ages, it's really an awesome time."
The BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global begins on October 22nd. Follow the Porsche Race to Singapore throughout the season to see how the Elite Eight shapes up.