Looking back on the Women's Tennis Association Finals
With the 2022 Women's Tennis Association season coming to an end, all focus turned to the illustrious final tournament which crowned its winners on November 7, 2022. This elite event features the eight highest ranked players in a round robin format, as well as the eight highest ranked doubles partnerships at the end of the calendar year. Taking place in Fort Worth, Texas, the draws consisted of two groups in each; where the players with the most wins would advance through to the semifinals.
The eight singles players in contention for the WTA Finals trophy this year were Iga Świątek, Ons Jabeur, Jessica Pegula, Coco Gauff, Maria Sakkari, Caroline Garcia, Aryna Sabalenka and Daria Kasatkina. These eight were split into two groups named after former American tennis players, Tracy Austin and Nancy Richey.
Tracy Austin group: Iga Świątek (1), Coco Gauff (4), Caroline Garcia (6) and Daria Kasatkina (8)
Nancy Richey: Ons Jabeur (2), Jessica Pegula (3), Maria Sakkari (5) and Aryna Sabalenka (7)
World number one Iga Świątek advanced from the Tracy Austin group to the semifinals after three straight set victories, where she defeated Kasatkina 6-2 6-3, Garcia 6-3 6-2 and Gauff 6-3 6-0. The second player advancing from this group was sixth seed Caroline Garcia who lost only to Świątek, defeating Gauff 6-4 6-3 and Kasatkina 4-6 6-1 7⁷-6⁵. Her win against Kasatkina was crucial, with that being a "winner advances" scenario, a match that lasted just under two and a half hours.
In the Nancy Richey group, fifth seed Maria Sakkari advanced to the semifinals with three straight set victories. The Greek beat third seed Pegula on the first day of the tournament 7⁸-6⁶ 7⁷-6⁴, followed by straight set wins over Sabalenka 6-2 6-4 and Jabeur 6-2 6-3. Securing the second spot was seventh seed Aryna Sablenka who recorded wins over Jabeur 3-6 7⁷-6⁵ 7-5 and Jessica Pegula 6-3 7-5.
On American soil, Gauff and Pegula, failed to register a single win, both going 0-3 in their respective groups. The duo, also competing in the doubles together, failed to win a match in the doubles and therefore their seasons ended on a slightly sour note; although it should not take away from what they achieved this year. Similarly, Jabeur and Kasatkina recorded only one win in the round robin stage, with Jabeur defeating Pegula and Kasatkina defeating Gauff. Thus, for the four that didn’t advance into the semifinals, their seasons came to an end, ending 2022 in the top 10.
In the semifinals, the winners of each group would go against the runner up of the opposing group, meaning that Świątek would play Sabalenka and Sakkari would play Garcia, with both matches taking place on the penultimate day of the tournament November 6.
In one hour and fifteen minutes, Garcia secured a straight sets win over Sakkari. The Frenchwoman made the semi finals of the WTA Finals event five years prior and stormed into the final for the first time, the biggest final of her career thus far. Beginning the year ranked 74 after struggling with injury, the resurgence of the Frenchwoman resulted in her first title since 2019. Coming into the final event, Garcia won three tournaments; the only player to win on all surfaces. Not only this, but she made her first major semifinal recently in the US Open, in September.
Naturally, many people would've foreseen that Garcia would be facing undoubtedly the best player this year, Iga Świątek who won eight titles, including two grand slams and went on a 37 match win streak has undeniably had an incredible season so it only seemed right that she would progress to the final. However, this was not the case. In a match that lasted over two hours, the Belarusian Sabalenka outlasted the world number one in three sets. In a rematch of the US Open semifinal where Świątek won in three sets, Sabalenka took the first set 6-2 before Świątek took it to a deciding set after she won the second set 6-2. Sealing the match in some fashion, Sabalenka sailed 6-1 in the third set to seal the victory over Świątek after losing to her four times in 2022.
And so the final had been set, the resurgent Caroline Garcia would take on the formidable Aryna Sabalenka. Perhaps for many watching, this wasn't the final they had predicted but the sixth and seventh seed prevailed and both made it to their maiden WTA Final, hoping to triumph and win the biggest trophy of their careers.
On November 7, Caroline Garcia capped off her comeback season with the WTA Finals title after defeating Aryna Sabalenka 7⁷-6⁴ 6-4. The first set was incredibly tight, with both players producing flawless service games without there being a single break point for the entirety of the first set. Despite this, Sabalenka's inconsistent second serve, which has troubled her all season, resulted in two double faults during the tiebreak. The first of the double faults meant Sabalenka was down 5-2 in the tiebreak before she double faulted at a crucial moment, set point.
Garcia on the other hand, won six straight points in the tiebreaker before the double fault resulted in the end of the first set. As well as this, she did not face a single break point and produced 11 aces during the match. The only break point came in the first game of the second set, where Garcia broke Sabalenka's serve. The Frenchwoman was leading 5-4 in the second set, managing to keep the Belarusian at bay, threatening to break back with a wonderful backhand to save championship point. Sabalenka couldn't return the Garcia serve and this produced the second championship point which she converted when Sabalenka's forehand went wide.
After fighting for one hour and 41 minutes, Caroline Garcia was crowned champion, the first French champion since Amélie Mauresmo in 2005. Not only this, but at the age of 29, she is the oldest champion since Serena Williams won in 2014 aged 33.
Despite losing, Sabalenka remained optimistic about making the biggest final in her career and even making it to the WTA Finals after a rollercoaster season - plagued with serve issues that cost her a lot of matches. Yet the Belarusian didn't stop working, wanting to iron out those issues as well as improving other areas of her game to make up for her inconsistent serve. A major highlight of her season was reaching a third major semifinal - in the US Open.
"At least I fixed my serve this season and even with not a great start of the season, I made it to the Finals and I finished the year in the Top 5." Sabalenka commented after the match.
As a result of winning the tournament, Garcia received $1.57 million in prize money and earned 1,375 ranking points. Due to these points, Garcia will rise to her career-high of world number four; a spot she last found herself in 2017 - which was also the last time she earned a spot in the top eight and competed at the WTA Finals.
In her post-match interview, the Frenchwoman said "It's definitely a lot of giant happiness." and "A crazy final, a lot of intensity on every point. Just really proud of the work we did through all the year. It was a great match -- really went for it. I’m really happy to win my biggest title."
After ending 2022 on a high, it will be exciting to see if this continues into 2023 for Caroline Garcia.
With the final tournament of the year coming to an end, the final points have been added and the year-end top ten has been finalised.
Świątek officially became world number 1 on April 4, 2022. At just 21, she recorded 11,085 points - the second highest tally by a year-end number one since Serena Williams in 2013. At the end of 2021, she was world number 9.
Jabeur won two titles in 2022 and made the final of two grand slams. This is her second consecutive year in the top ten, and she rises 8 spots from being the world number 10 at the end of 2021 to the world number 2 in 2022.
Pegula made the quarterfinals of three grand slams this year and at world number 3 is the highest year-end ranking for an American since Serena Williams in 2016. In 2021, Pegula was world number 18 and this is her first time in the year-end top 10.
Garcia rose to equal her career-high ranking of world number 4 after winning the WTA Finals, as well as winning three other titles in 2022. At the end of 2021, Garcia was ranked world number 74, before having a great second half of the season. Only once before has Garcia been in the year-end top 10, in 2017 she was world number 8.
Aryna Sabalenka sits at world number 5 after making it to the final of the WTA Finals, losing in straight sets to Caroline Garcia. 2022 is her third consecutive year in the top 10 and her second in the top 5 - in 2021, she achieved her career-high ranking of world number 2.
Maria Sakkari maintained her year-end 2021 ranking, remaining as world number 6, 3 places short of her career-high ranking of world number 3 which she achieved in March 2022.
Coco Gauff is the youngest player to end the year in the top 10 since 2007, at only the age of 18. Just shy of her career-high ranking of world number 4, the American reached her maiden grand slam final at this year's French Open. At the end of 2021, she was ranked world number 22.
Daria Kasatkina reached her first grand slam semifinal at this year's French Open and won two titles. The Russian reached her career-high ranking of number 8 in October 2022 and finished the year at world number 8. 2022 is the second year she has featured in the year-end top 10, in 2018 she finished the year as world number 10. At the end of 2021, she was ranked world number 26.
Veronika Kudermetova narrowly missed out on qualifying for the WTA Finals but finishes the year at world number 9 - her career-high ranking and the first time she has ended the year in the top 10. At the end of 2021, she was ranked world number 31.
Simona Halep finishes the year at world number 10, previously being the world number 1 in 2017. She won two titles in 2022, in Melbourne and Toronto. This is her eighth year finishing in the year-end top 10.
Turning to the doubles draw, the contenders were also split into two groups in a round robin format and these groups were also named after two former American tennis players, Rosie Casals and Pam Shriver.
Rosie Casals group: Barbora Krejčíková and Kateřina Siniaková (1), Coco Gauff and Jessica Pegula (3), Yifan Xu and Zhaoxuan Yang (6) and Demi Schuurs and Desirae Krawczyk (8).
Pam Shriver group: Gabriela Dabrowski and Giuliana Olmos (2), Elise Mertens and Veronika Kudermetova (4), Jeļena Ostapenko and Lyudmyla Kichenok (5) and Beatriz Haddad Maia and Anna Danilina (7).
In the Rosie Casals group, first seeds and reigning WTA Finals champions Krejčíková and Siniaková won all their matches and advanced to the semifinals with a 3-0 win to loss ratio. They were followed by eighth seeds Schuurs and Krawczyk who beat Gauff and Pegula in three sets, 3-6 6-0 10-5 followed by a straight sets victory over Xu and Yang, 7⁷-6² - losing only to the first seeds 6-4 6-3.
As previously mentioned Gauff and Pegula, who were both unfortunate in the singles, also did not win a match together in the doubles and ended the tournament with a win to loss ratio of 0-3. Xu and Yang won one match against the Americans and ended with a 1-2 win to loss ratio.
In the Pam Shriver group, fourth seeds Kudermetova and Mertens also advanced to the semifinals with three victories. However, the second duo to advance was not as straightforward as the Rosie Casals group. All three remaining partnerships recorded a 1-2 win to loss ratio, and all three had the opportunity to advance. Since Ostapenko and Kichenok won more sets, they advanced to the semifinals over Dabrowski/Olmos and Haddad Maia/Danilina.
The two semifinals drawn were first seeds and winners of the Rosie Casals group Krejčíková and Siniaková against Ostapenko and Kichenok, fifth seed and runners up in the Pam Shriver group. Winners of the Pam Shriver group, fourth seeds. Kudermetova and Mertens were to play runners up of the Rosie Casals group and eighth seeds Demi Schuurs and Desirae Krawczyk.
Krejčíková and Siniaková's run to retain their 2021 title was not coming to an end after they were victorious over fifth seeds Ostapenko and Kichenok in straight sets, winning 7⁷-6⁵ 6-2.
In the second semifinal, fourth seeds Kudermetova and Mertens dismissed eighth seeds Schuurs and Krawczyk in under an hour, only dropping two games and securing a 6-1 6-1 victory to send them into the final.
Both finalist duos were, at this point, unbeaten in the tournament after winning their groups and semifinals. Krejčíková and Siniaková advanced to their third WTA Finals final whilst Mertens and Kudermetova advanced to their first as a team; with Mertens making the final in 2021. Krejčíková and Siniaková were undoubtedly the overwhelming favourites to lift the trophy, winning three grand slams in 2022 and not losing a single match this year.
However, it was the fourth seeds that were victorious in three sets, with the match ending in a tiebreak. Kudermetova and Mertens took the first set rather comfortably 6-2. In the second, the fourth seeds were leading 4-3 before an error from Kudermetova allowed the Czechs to make it 4-4, winning the final two games of the set without losing a single point.
The third and deciding set of the WTA doubles final thrillingly ended in a tiebreak. Initially, Krejčíková and Siniaková eased to a 7-2 lead and looked assured to seal their victory but it was clear that Kudermetova had different ideas; with her exceptional volleys helping the fourth seeds win five consecutive points to tie 7-7. Crucially the Czechs saved a championship point when they were trailing 9-8 but the fourth seeds had another championship point at 10-9 from a Kudermetova forehand crosscourt.
Eventually, Veronika Kudermetova and Elise Mertens got over the finish line and defeated the reigning champions. The duo paired up for the first time in the 2021 season and have since combined to win three titles, with the WTA Finals being their most prolific.
After their win, Kudermetova rose from doubles world number five to her new career-high ranking of world number two and her partner, Mertens, rose from world number nine to world number five.
Despite the loss, Siniaková retains the doubles world number one year-end ranking for the second consecutive year and the third time in five years.
Krejčíková and Siniaková had a stellar season together, the two Czechs combining to win three grand slams and completing the career golden slam after they won the US Open. The two have been playing together since they were juniors and only lost four matches in 2022.
Kudermetova and Mertens ultimately took the title and deservedly so, simply being more efficient with less errors and taking their chances when they could by converting all their break points.
With the new WTA Finals champions crowned, the WTA season comes to a close and attention turns to Billie Jean King Cup action, an international team competition. The 2022 season was full of excitement, ending in delight for Caroline Garcia, Veronika Kudermetova and Elise Mertens.