This Hologic WTA Tour season has already offered up one surprise after another. Why should the last five weeks of the regular season be any different?
The only thing we know for sure: World No.1 Iga Swiatek and No.2 Ons Jabeur have already qualified for the 2022 WTA Finals in Fort Worth, Texas, Oct. 31-Nov.7. The doubles team of Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova, winners of three major titles this year, are back to defend their year-end title. Eight singles players and eight doubles teams will make the cut.
After that, virtually anything is possible. Those who can manage some heavy lifting at the marquee events in these five weeks will punch their ticket for Texas. There are three WTA 500s -- Tokyo, Ostrava and San Diego -- followed by a WTA 1000 in Guadalajara. There are also five WTA 250 tournaments.
The first big-ticket item is the Toray Pan Pacific Open, which began this week in Tokyo. Five of the eight seeded players are in contention: No.1 Paula Badosa, No.2 Caroline Garcia, No.4 Veronika Kudermetova, No.5 Beatriz Haddad Maia and No.8 Elena Rybakina.
Race to the WTA Finals
- Iga Swiatek (9,560)
- Ons Jabeur (4,496)
- Jessica Pegula (3,232)
- Coco Gauff (2,983)
- Caroline Garcia (2,896)
- Aryna Sabalenka (2,871)
- Daria Kasatkina (2,831)
- Simona Halep (2,661) (Out for season)
- Maria Sakkari (2,358)
- Veronika Kudermetova (2,313)
- Paula Badosa (2,264)
Garcia, coming off a terrific summer, is in the best position to reach Fort Worth. She currently sits in the fifth spot, while Kudermetova (ninth), Badosa (10th), Haddad Maia (16th) and Rybakina (20th) have some work to do.
Perhaps the biggest recent move regarding the Race to the WTA Finals came off the court. Simona Halep, after undergoing a procedure on her nose for what she said were both medical and aesthetic reasons, declared herself out for the rest of the year. That’s relevant to the dozen or so players trying to finish among the Top 8. Halep, with 2,661 points, was in the eighth spot.
They’re thrilled to have tennis back in Tokyo, where COVID-19 forced the cancellation of play the past two years. That makes 2019 winner Naomi Osaka the defending champion on the outdoor hard-court venue.
Along with No.3 seed Garbiñe Muguruza, Sofia Kenin and Rybakina, Osaka is one of four major champions in the draw. And while she’s not among the viable contenders, Osaka could be a factor in shaping who does or does not get to Fort Worth.
Osaka plays Daria Saville in the first round and the survivor gets the winner between Haddad Maia and Yuki Naito. Haddad Maia picked up 59 points in Portoroz to vault past Anett Kontaveit.
If they had awarded points at Wimbledon, Rybakina would be in terrific shape, but she was busy this past week in Portoroz, collecting 180 points by reaching the final. Siniakova won a 6-7(4), 7-6(5), 6-4 thriller that ran more than three hours. Rybakina eased ahead of Ekaterina Alexandrova in the Race.
Of those in the hunt, Rybakina might have the most challenging first-round match in Tokyo, facing Liudmila Samsonova, whose ranking of No.28 is only three spots lower than Rybakina’s. Samsonova has won 13 of her past 14 matches, including titles in Washington, D.C., and Cleveland. She took out 2021 finalist Leylah Fernandez at the US Open on the way to the fourth round.
After a first-round bye, Badosa faces rising 19-year-old Zheng Qinwen, who took out Misaki Doi on Monday. Kudermetova, also after a bye, faces the winner of the match between Kenin and qualifier Fernanda Contreras Gomez. Garcia gets the winner of Zhang Shuai and Mai Hontama in the second round.
After winning at Roland Garros a year ago, Krejcikova qualified for both singles and doubles at the year-end event in Guadalajara. This year, her sole focus will be doubles, where she and Siniakova are making their fourth consecutive appearance. They won the title in 2021 and became the first all-Czech team to win the WTA Finals and will try to become the seventh team overall to successfully defend the title.