World No. 1 Serena Williams to defend WTA finals title

World No. 1 Serena Williams to defend WTA finals title

There was a big question mark over her availability for the season-ending BNP Paribas Women's Tennis Association (WTA) Finals Singapore, presented by SC Global.

World No. 1 Serena Williams had injured her left knee at the China Open on Oct 3, forcing her to retire from the tournament and casting doubt on her participation in the season-ending finale in Singapore.

But one tweet yesterday was enough to put a smile back on the fans of the 18-time Grand Slam champion.

In a photo tweeted by WTA, the 33-year-old Williams was pictured in a car, with the caption "#WTAFinals Defending Champion @SerenaWilliams has arrived in Singapore! #WTA #tennis".

After training at the Singapore Indoor Stadium yesterday, the American, who beat China's now-retired star Li Na in the final of last year's WTA Finals in Istanbul, is now expected to defend her title in Singapore when the singles event starts on Monday at the Kallang venue.

"Serena Williams was all smiles when she arrived in Singapore and took part in a practice session earlier today," said a WTA spokesman. "There has been no further complications from her knee injury so far and we fully expect Serena's name to be in the singles draw on Saturday.

"In the event of any late withdrawal before Monday's opening match, Angelique Kerber is our first alternate replacement by virtue of being the next highest qualifier in the Road to Singapore table."

Williams will lead a star-studded eight-player field at the US$6.5 million (S$8.3m) tournament.

The other players are Maria Sharapova, Simona Halep, Petra Kvitova, Eugenie Bouchard, Agniezska Radwanska, Ana Ivanovic and Caroline Wozniacki.

It seemed unlikely two weeks ago that Williams would make the trip to Singapore after she was forced to retire from her China Open quarter-final match against Australian Samantha Stosur even before stepping onto the court in Beijing.

"It throbs just sitting, standing," she said at that time. "I felt it mostly serving because I'm landing on my left knee. That was really a killer for me."

Williams said that she began feeling the pain days before the quarter-final, and decided to play only at the last minute.

"As a defending champ, you always want to do your best to defend your title. That's why I played yesterday. I've got to at least give it a chance," she said then. "To come all this way and not to take the title, it's just a waste."

Williams' pullout followed her withdrawals at the Wimbledon in July and the Wuhan Open last month, both through illness, to cap what has been a shaky 2014 for the player.

Speaking after the China Open, Williams' biggest concern was whether she could recover in time for the WTA Finals in Singapore.

"If I feel this way for Singapore, I don't think it's smart for me to play. I'm just going to see how it goes," she said, before indicating that she was going to Europe for an MRI scan before deciding if she would make the trip to Singapore.

But despite her troubles, Williams has dominated the world rankings, amassing a nearly 2,000-point lead over her closest rival Sharapova.

Williams has now topped the WTA rankings for the 210th week in her career - and also her 87th in a row - surpassing Swiss great Martina Hingis.

She now sits fourth on the all-time list of weeks spent at No. 1, with German Steffi Graf leading the way on 377.

A win for Williams in Singapore would go a long way towards shutting out her rival Sharapova, with whom she holds a superior record with 15 straight victories over the Russian since 2005.

It will be sweet revenge for the Michigan native, after seeing Sharapova take home the China Open title in her absence, and allowing her to add to last month's US Open title.

This article was first published on October 17, 2014.
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