Fatigue? A slump? It’s hard read too much into Petra Kvitova’s loss to Petra Martic in Tokyo. (Adam Pretty/Getty Images)
Clearing out the notebook with thoughts on the Asian swing, Serena Williams and more.
1. An opportunity, not a referendum: I catch myself getting excited about the fall Asian swing every year and very rarely does it live up to the hype. No player entry list is reliable given the number of high-profile withdrawals — just yesterday Serena and Venus Williams pulled out of the WTA’s mandatory Beijing tournament because of some well-timed injuries/illnesses — and no win or loss is particularly insightful because the cloud of mental and physical fatigue lingers over the competition. Is Petra Kvitova in a slump because she lost her first match to Petra Martic in Tokyo? Was Milos Raonic’s loss to Jarkko Nieminen in Bangkok much of an upset? It’s hard to gauge because we just don’t know where their energy levels are right now. I’m inclined to believe the players aren’t at their best when the tours hit Asia.
Perhaps the better way to look at this part of the season is that Asia represents nothing more than opportunity. Power through this portion of the season — regardless of ranking — and players can pick up a slew of points that will stick with them through 75 percent of the next year. That’s a huge advantage as we begin to look at next season, and players’ ability to rack up points through Asia and the European indoors can keep their ranking high regardless of performance next year. One prime example is Donald Young, who stayed in the top 100 for much of this year despite going virtually winless. And then there’s Agnieszka Radwanska. She won Tokyo and Beijing last year, amassing 1,900 points that helped her grab the final spot at the WTA Championships. The late-season surge also set her up to leap into the top three this year.
While some players may see Asia as a complete waste and would rather skip it or sleepwalk through it, others should be making the most of the opportunity to pick off the low-hanging fruit.
2. The Race to Istanbul: The WTA Championships are less than a month away and seven players still have a shot to qualify for the final four spots. (Victoria Azarenka, Maria Sharapova, Radwanska and Serena Williams have already earned berths.) Based on the numbers, Kvitova, Angelique Kerber and Sara Errani should qualify over the next few weeks, which leaves one spot open among four players: Li Na (4,277 points, including Tokyo), Sam Stosur (3,966), Marion Bartoli (3,470) and Caroline Wozniacki (3,280). With 1,000 points up for grabs in Beijing, along with tournaments in Moscow, Linz, Osaka and Luxembourg over the next few weeks, this one could get close.