Thrilling race to WTA Finals in Singapore
Talent of players and intense fight to book a spot in this year's WTA Finals ensures a grand ride for fans
I remember Svetlana Kuznetsova's nail-biting qualifying run to the 2016 BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global like it was only yesterday and I believe many tennis fans around the world do, too.
It was such an incredible feat and was deservedly one of the biggest stories in women's tennis last year.
Sveta was incredible. She had played and won in the final at the VTB Kremlin Cup in Moscow on Saturday afternoon, and by Sunday morning, she was already in Singapore, starting her day at the practice courts.
When you see the players' determination and desire to qualify as it goes right down to the wire, it evokes emotion and admiration for their awe-inspiring passion.
I am sure that everyone in the Singapore Indoor Stadium last year who witnessed Sveta play her best for every point was undoubtedly moved by her strength and tenacity.
As the tournament director of the WTA Finals, it's an honour to know that players like Sveta want it so badly.
It speaks volumes about the prestige and value of the event and the immense support from WTA partners and sponsors is further evidence of that.
Entering the second half of 2017, the Porsche Race to Singapore is shaping up to be exciting.
Serena Williams, the 2014 WTA Finals champion, is out for the season as she prepares for her new role as a mother, and while the fans will miss her, I am pleased to see how the leaderboard is unfolding so far.
The intensity of competition in women's tennis now is at its peak with breakthrough performances by players like Elina Svitolina who is at the top of the Porsche Race to Singapore standings for the very first time in her career.
Other new faces like Johanna Konta and Kristina Mladenovic have also come into the mix alongside stalwarts of the sport like Venus Williams and Caroline Wozniacki. The current field of players are competing at an exceptional level and that is very healthy for the game as the athletes are all motivated and aggressively making their move up the ranks.
The opening days of the French Open has seen some shock results and with the amount of talent that we have in the sport, you cannot discount anyone's chances.
There are also several significant comebacks this year that fans will need to keep a close eye on.
Maria Sharapova may have only just returned to the game at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in April, but if she is able to keep up the form she showed in Stuttgart, she has every opportunity to book her ticket to Singapore.
Runner-up at the 2015 WTA Finals here, Petra Kvitova fittingly received a warm welcome back to the game at Roland Garros after recovering from the dreadful knife attack in her home late last year.
With the grass season ahead and her experience of having won twice at Wimbledon, Kvitova could very well sprint her way to be among the top eight.
Showing unbelievable courage and grace to bounce back so strongly from such a horrific experience, securing a spot to play here would definitely be a fairy-tale end to what must have been a gruelling recovery process for her.
New mother and two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka is also set to make her comeback on grass and with two Grand Slams to go in the season, she could very well find her way onto the leaderboard and hopefully make her debut appearance in Singapore.
The WTA Finals is a culmination of a year-long qualifying process to see which players can ace the ultimate test of consistency and those who make it here are the cream of the crop.
Simona Halep, who became a fan favourite in Singapore after her outstanding defeat of Serena Williams in the round-robin stages of the 2014 Finals, is a great example of how hard work and willpower can pay off in a big way.
Last month, she was 44th in the Porsche Race to Singapore rankings.
Following her winning performance at the Madrid Open, Halep has now broken into the top eight and it would be unwise to bet against her booking a slot at the WTA Finals for the fourth consecutive time.
As the players make their way through the French Open and the rest of the season trying to pick up as many points en route, I'm confident that there will be many more twists and turns to add to the thrill of the race to Singapore and I cannot wait to see all the action unfold.
Melissa Pine is the vice-president of WTA Asia-Pacific and the tournament director of the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global. She is also a former NCAA player at Washington State University and served as assistant coach of the team post-graduation. To find out more about the WTA Finals, visit www.wtafinals.com
PORSCHE RACE TO SINGAPORE LEADERBOARD AS OF MAY 22, 2017
- 1 Elina Svitolina
- 2 Karolina Pliskova
- 3 Johanna Konta
- 4 Caroline Wozniacki
- 5 Simona Halep
- 6 Venus Williams
- 7 Kristina Mladenovic
- 8 Svetlana Kuznetsova