WTA finals: Play it again, Slam

WTA finals: Play it again, Slam
Czech Petra Kvitova after winning her second Wimbledon crown this month. She won the WTA Finals in 2011, months after her first Wimbledon title, and is aiming to repeat that feat in Singapore in October.

Only the top eight play the event that some regard as the fifth grand slam.

AS A young tennis-mad girl, Serena Williams could not stop dreaming about lifting the coveted Billie Jean King trophy.

For Li Na, getting her hands on that trophy this year - and becoming the first Asian to win it - will provide a fairy-tale finish to a gruelling year on the women's tennis circuit.

There is no doubt the BNP Paribas Women's Tennis Association (WTA) Finals presented by SC Global remains a highly regarded tournament, even for multiple Grand Slam winners such as Williams and Li.

"It is the last tournament of the year and it'll be a perfect ending for the one who wins it. So I'm sure people will fight like crazy for it," said Li, 32, who lost to Williams in last year's final in Istanbul.

Added Williams: "It's definitely a tough season. You have to play well (and) win some tough matches that maybe you'll normally not win. But it's always worth it in the end to be in the WTA Finals."

Barring a major slip-up in their performances, the duo will likely be among the top eight singles players to battle for the trophy at the Singapore Sports Hub from Oct 17-26.

To qualify among the top eight on the Road to Singapore rankings - a separate table from the overall WTA rankings - players can count on points only from their best 16 tournaments during the 2014 season.

For the doubles event, pairs are judged on their best performances at 11 tournaments in the same season.

The points are awarded based on where they finish in the tournament, so consistency counts as the players try to chalk up as many points as possible.

Only 18 players have won the singles event in its 44-year history - Czech-American tennis legend Martina Navratilova on a record eight occasions.

Leading the Road to Singapore table so far is Maria Sharapova, who remains cautious about her chances of adding to her 2004 title. "We still have a long way to go... so I don't want to look too far ahead," the Russian said. "I am excited, though, at the prospect of getting to the WTA Finals and exploring a new city."

For 2011 winner Petra Kvitova, she is hoping that winning the Wimbledon earlier this month, which catapulted her into contention for a place in the WTA Finals, will be a turning point in her season, and that it will culminate in her second WTA Finals win. "The WTA Finals is completely different from other tournaments, (as) you play against the best players in the world in each match, and it's something really special," said the Czech.

Having won the bid to stage five editions of the WTA Finals here, Singapore will become the first Asia-Pacific city to host the event. Navratilova is slated to grace the courts along with other tennis greats of yesteryear in the Legends event, while budding stars will also compete in the Rising Stars event.

Matches and practice sessions will take place at courts inside the Singapore Indoor Stadium and the OCBC Arena respectively, while the National Stadium will be used for entertainment purposes and the open spaces around the grounds for fan festival activities.

Tickets are available from $16.90 through Sports Hub Tix. Find out more at www.sportshub.com.sg/WTAFinals

This article was first published on July 24, 2014.
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