That darned last spot. A fight usually ensues for it. This year is no exception, as the WTA’s Porsche Race to Singapore squeezes in the final tournaments that will determine who rounds out the elite eight before competition begins October 22. Beijing, currently underway, and Moscow, which runs October 15-21, are the two significant tournaments on the WTA calendar because they carry the most points, Beijing in particular. However, if players want to round out 2018 grinding out International events, then Hong Kong, Linz, and Tianjin await them. However, after those three weeks of competition, little would be left in their tanks for Singapore.
Karolina Pliskova and Kiki Bertens are two on the border of success. They swapped spots in the Race leaderboard, both having won tournaments the week before Wuhan. Pliskova won Tokyo, a Premier event which earned her 470 points. Bertens won Seoul, an International event which netted 280 points. Ultimately, being in the eighth and ninth spots means nothing is certain.
Let’s look at the vantage points for each player heading into Beijing:
Pliskova needs to edge out Bertens. Why? Karolina’s Grand Slam results for the season were adequate with quarterfinal berths at The Australian Open and the U.S. Open. They came on the tail of two quarterfinals and one semifinal spot in 2017, plus her first appearance at a Grand Slam final in New York in 2016. To prove her value as a consistent top-10 player, a trip to Singapore for the third consecutive year is a must. It would plump her pride, as she retreats for the offseason. Additionally, a third appearance at this prestigious event would add to her “fear factor” when the new season gears up. If she can’t back up her results from 2016 to 2018, she could suffer consequences in her mental game in 2019. No one in the top 10 or top 100 can afford to lose their mental edge. It is essential to anyone’s game and success, because any one player can get hot and undermine those who might assume a victory.
Bertens needs to qualify because of the year she has had. She won three titles, after having carefully considered retirement at the end of 2017. Her run to the Wimbledon quarterfinals was a stunning accomplishment, her best result at a Grand Slam since her 2016 Roland Garros semifinal. There she took out Venus Williams (No. 9) in three of the most hotly-contested sets of the year. Yet, it was her performance in Cincinnati that surpassed expectations the most. She won this Premier 5 tournament, taking out world number one Simona Halep in the final. That’s not all. Bertens scored victories over Petra Kvitova (No. 8), Elina Svitolina (No. 5), and Carolina Wozniacki (No. 2) before hoisting the trophy. Bertens had never won a Premier 5 tournament in her nine years on tour.
This week in Beijing both women have tough draws. Pliskova (No. 7) will probably have to contend with Jelena Ostapenko (No. 12) and, perhaps, the red-hot Aryna Sabalenka who just won her second tournament of the year in Wuhan. Bertens’ draw looks less ominous, but Wozniacki (No. 2) lurks. Motivation will be vital. Expect Pliskova and Bertens to play lights-out for the chance to advance to Singapore.