History of the WTA Finals
What is now the WTA Finals was first staged in 1972, and while the name and the format have changed down the years, the unofficial fifth Grand Slam still ranks as one of the most prestigious tennis tournaments in the world.
The event traditionally offers the largest prize fund and the most ranking points after the Grand Slams and its unique format make it one of the most watched tennis tournaments of the year.
Assembling the eight best singles players in the women’s game and the eight best doubles pairs, qualification for the WTA finals is as a result of points amassed from 53 WTA tour events held each season as well as performance in Grand Slams, which means there’s plenty of form to indicate possible winners for anyone wanting to bet on the WTA Finals.
The qualification process is known as the Race to Singapore because that’s where the finals have been held for the last five years. From 2019, that will change with the Chinese city of Shenzhen taking up the hosting of the event.
The WTA Finals Florida Beginnings
The Women's Tennis Association (WTA) was actually founded a year after the first tournament, which became the Association’s showpiece event, took place. The legendary Billie Jean King was enormously influential in the 1973 founding of the organisation and the first edition paved the way for the WTA's foundation.
The inaugural championships were staged in Boca Raton in Florida and took the name of the event’s first sponsor, cigarette manufacturer Virginia Slims. A 17-year-old Chris Evert claimed the first crown and would dominate the first few years of the competition, winning three and finishing as runner-up twice in the first six events.
Next, the tournament moved to Los Angeles in 1974 before touring the United States with stints at New York and Oakland right up until the year 2000. A year in Munich then followed before a return to LA in 2002. Since then, the WTA Finals have been held in Madrid, Doha and Istanbul before the current five-year deal was awarded to Singapore.
Format of the WTA Finals
The WTA Finals are the traditional finale to the women’s tennis season and have been played on a hard court since 2001.
The current round-robin format began in 1976 with two groups of four singles players. The final standings of each group are determined by the total number of wins gained by each competitor with head-to-head results used to conclude any players tied on points. The winner and runner-up from each group proceed to the single elimination semi-final and the final itself.
The tournament features 15 singles matches and seven doubles during the course of eight days of play. This year's final takes place on Sunday October 21st.
WTA Finals Most Successful Players
Martina Navratilova is the most successful player in the WTA Final’s history, winning eight singles titles and 13 doubles. The legendary Czech superstar won five titles in a row during the 1980s. When Serena Williams claimed her third crown in succession in 2014, it had been the first time a player had won three in a row since Monica Seles won straight titles from 1990 to 1992.
Since 2014 the winner of the singles tournament has claimed the Billie Jean King trophy. Caroline Wozniacki is the current holder of that title after overcoming Venus Williams 6-4, 6-4 last year. The doubles players compete for the Martina Navratilova trophy and last year’s winners were Timea Babos and Andrea Hlavackova.
Greatest Games of the WTA Finals
It wasn’t just a great game, it was one of the biggest shocks in tennis history. When Sylvia Hanika defeated Martina Navratilova in 1982, legend tells that even her own father couldn’t believe the news when his daughter telephoned him after the final. At the time, Navratilova hadn’t lost in 27 matches and when she stormed to a first set 6-1 win and was 3-1 up in the second, it looked to be sewn up. With nothing to lose, Hanika suddenly began playing with a new found freedom and came storming back to claim the second set 6-3 and the final one 6-4.
The 1990 championships are considered to have staged possibly the greatest ever final in the tournament’s history, between Monica Seles and Gabriela Sabatini. The match was so entertaining, that the pair were invited to stage a rerun in an exhibition event at Madison Square Garden. The match went to five sets, each of them deliciously close before Seles claimed the final set 6-2.
In recent years, the 2007 final between Justine Henin and Maria Sharapova is perhaps one of the best. Henin had endured a turbulent year in her personal life with a marital breakdown. The Belgian took almost three and a half hours to overcome her Russian opponent in a match noted for its grinding aggression and pace. The victor simply outlasted her foe in a match that ended 5-7, 7-5, 6-3.
*All odds from Bet UK’s online betting are correct at the time of writing
If you're betting on the WTA Finals this year, please gamble responsibly and remember that when the fun stops, stop. All players must be 18+.