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World Tour Finals WTA

The history of the WTA Finals goes back to 1972 when it was founded. It used to be known as the WTA Tour Championships but is commonly referenced too now as the WTA Finals.

Throughout its history, the tournament has had close affiliations with sponsors which usually ends up dictating the name of the current season.

The event, however, is recognised as being the most prestigious WTA Tour event after the four Grand Slam tournaments. Outside of the majors is the one tennis event that boasts the most prize money and ranking points as well.

WTA Finals Brief History

The event was initially the climax of a series of events that had been sponsored by tobacco company Virginia Slims. It was moved to the end of the season in 1986 after the WTA had adopted a change of running a season from January through to November.

Through the early editions of the tournament, it was dominated by three players. That was Chris Evert, who won the inaugural edition in 1972 and who also reached the final of each of the first six editions, Evonne Goolagong Cawley who won it a couple of times and Martina Navratilova.

During her career, Navratilova won the WTA Finals eight times between her first in 1978 and her last in 1986. In total she finished runner up in the WTA Finals six times as well, losing each of her final three appearances in the showcase match.

Steffi Graff and Monica Seles really took up the mantle from there, collecting the title five times and three times respectively.

Serena Williams landed her first-ever WTA Finals title in 2001 which actually came in a walkover against American competitor Lindsay Davenport who suffered a pe-match injury.

WTA Finals Qualification

Qualification for the WTA Finals is based on performances throughout the season, including the four Grand Slam events. Points can be earned at each of the 53 regular season events that are played plus the Slams.

Of those, sixteen tournaments will count towards a player’s tally.

Results from the four Slams the four Premier Mandatory events and the two best Premier 5 tournaments have to go in. Then those points go to the Race To Shenzhen leaderboard (nothing to do with money earned).

For singles qualification, all the results from the year count for the ranking on the leaderboard. The doubles qualification follows the same format.

WTA World Tour Finals Format

The format of the tournament took on a change in 2003. That’s when it moved to have two round-robin groups of four. The top two players from each of those groups move through to the semi-final knockout stage.

There is a Doubles tournament that runs alongside the singles, but it is eight teams involved in a straight knockout bracket.

2019 WTA Finals Review

The 2019 WTA Finals event was won by Australia’s Ashleigh Barty who claimed a straight-sets victory over Elina Svitolina. In lifting the trophy, Barty became the first player since 2014 to win a Grand Slam and the WTA Finals in the same year.

During the round-robin stage, Barty had claimed wins over Belinda Bencic and Petra Kvitova. Her other match ended in a three-set defeat against Kiki Bertens (who was a reserve for Naomi Osaka). That loss didn’t stop Barty moving through to the semi-finals.

In the other round-robin group, Karolina Pliskova and Elina Svitolina prevailed in their qualification campaigns, with Simona Halep failing to make progress. Bianca Andreescu had retired in her second group match against Pliskova, with Sofia Kenin coming in as an alternative.

Knockout Stage

At the semi-final stage of the Finals, it was first seed Barty against second seed Pliskova. That was a massive showdown. Barty dropped the first set but then powered her way back to turn the match around. The Australian dropped just five games in total across the second and third sets.

Defending champion Elina Svitotlina had made progress from her semi-final in the same manner. The Ukrainian had lost the first set against Belinda Bencic, before levelling the match. Bencic had retired from the deciding set through injury when she had been 4-1 down.

The Final

In the 2019 WTA Finals, Barty swept to a straight-sets victory over Elina Svitolina The Australian became just the third player to win both the WTA Finals and the WTA Elite Trophy.

The WTA Elite Trophy is the second-tier end of season event on the WTA. It has a field of 12 made up by the top players who haven’t already qualified for the WTA Finals.

2020 WTA Finals Preview

The 2020 WTA Finals which will be known as the Shiseido WTA Final Shenzhen because of sponsorship, will take place from October 26th – November 2nd 2020. This will be the 50th edition of the singles event and the45 edition of the doubles event.

The existing format of two round-robin groups of four will be in place as usual. Ashleigh Barty will be the defending champion if she does enough throughout the season to qualify.

Since 2000, Serena Williams, Justine Henin and Kim Clijsters have all managed to win the title in consecutive seasons (Williams the only one to do it in three successive seasons).