WTA Finals Guadalajara Stats Preview: Is Aryna Sabalenka The One To Beat?

Aryna Sabalenka Guadalajara

This is a very exciting WTA Finals lineup for Guadalajara this week. Only Karolina Pliskova and Garbine Muguruza have played in the main WTA Finals tournament before. This means that we will have a new year-end finals champion at a new venue.

Much to many people’s surprise, the finals moved to Guadalajara. The venue is an outdoor hard court facility named the Panamerican Tennis Center and is the host of WTA Zapopan. This tournament became a WTA250 event in 2021 and was won by Sara Sorribes Tormo. None of the participants in the finals played in either of the 2019 or 2021 editions of that tournament so there is no ‘course form’ to speak of.

The participants have been divided into two groups of four, named after famous Mexican ancient cities, Chichen Itza and Teotihuacan. Each player will play each other once in the group stages and the top two in each group progress to the semifinals. From that stage on it is traditional best-of-three knockout tennis with regular scoring and rules.

So, who looks good coming into the tournament. Let us consult the stats sheet.

The Key Stats

Beginning then with a look at the 2021 season as a whole it is first of all worth noting that, obviously, all of the women here have had excellent seasons. The lowest percentage win rate is Karolina Pliskova’s 66%, and yet she has had significant spells of form, particularly towards the end of the year.

Aryna Sabalenka stands out for her ranking, points earned, wins and service hold percentage. She has probably had the most consistent year across the WTA Tour in the field. Iga Swiatek though has low key impressive stats as well. She actually owns the highest % of games won in the field, but how much of that was earned on the clay?

The most surprising names in the field, Paula Badosa and Anett Kontaveit, may have scraped in but they can certainly say that they deserve a place here as their stats over the season are comparable with the remainder of the field. Kontaveit has one of the highest win percentages of the season.

The tournament will be played on hard courts so it is relevant to look at each players’ history on the surface. Pliskova stands out here as having by far the most experience, as well as a very accomplished record on outdoor hard. Muguruza follows closely behind in experience, but with an even more impressive games win number, thanks to her field best break %.

As this considers a player’s whole career it is understandable that the likes of Sakkari, Badosa and Kontaveit don’t fare as well in this area. These players are improvers through their careers and reach this tournament having shown 2021 to be career seasons for them so far.

The players who are the most dominant on outdoor hard according to these statistics are Aryna Sabalenka and Barbora Krejcikova. Krejcikova has had an incredible season, and unlike the three players mentioned above, almost missed out on years of gradual growth and just started winning singles matches out of almost nowhere. Her serve is clearly a huge weapon on hard court and one that will have to fire her to glory this week.

Finally, we look at some pertinent form figures. Anett Kontaveit comes here on a huge tear, winning her last ten matches to qualify just ahead of the unfortunate Ons Jabeur. However, no player is in poor form. Some haven’t played since Indian Wells though so may be a little rusty to begin with.

Intriguingly no player has a particularly outstanding record over fellow top 10 players. Maria Sakkari stands out as someone who has done well against the best in her career, Paula Badosa’s career numbers are also impressive. Swiatek has the best recent form against the elite but Krejcikova, Kontaveit and, across her whole career, Garbine Muguruza have more concerning numbers.

As mentioned at the head of the article, the inexperienced nature of these players means that there is very little to go on when looking back at previous finals appearances.

The Groups

Chichen Itza

The head to head record between the players has been included as an extra reference point when discussing who may reach the knockout stages.

The least experienced player in the group Paula Badosa is the one without a losing record against any of the other rivals. This will surely put her in a good head space for the tournament, but the sample size is exceptionally small. She also has a lack of matches at very important stages of major tournaments.

Sabalenka should be favorite for this group based upon what we know of her hard court prowess. She does have a dominant record over Sakkari and it feels as though her power could be too much for Swiatek as well. However, she has been known to crumble in the pressure moments. Despite this, the comfort of knowing that this is a round robin format should be a positive for her and I expect her to qualify.

Swiatek is very much a big time player. The only Grand Slam champion in this group has actually had one of the most consistent years of anybody, being the only player to make the second week of every Grand Slam tournament. The problem here is that she has never beaten anyone in the group before, but her mentality should be good enough to cope with that knowledge.

Maria Sakkari may have trouble with Sabalenka but will feel confident of progression via winning the remaining matches.

Prediction:

  1. Sabalenka
  2. Sakkari
  3. Badosa
  4. Swiatek

Teotihuacan

Karolina Pliskova appears to have had a real result with the draw here. She has rather emphatic winning records against all three of her direct opponents. Under normal circumstances under the pressure of a big event there are doubts about whether Pliskova can produce her best game, but she must feel confident to get at least two wins against two players she’s never lost to and another that she has beaten eight out of ten times.

It is Muguruza and Kontaveit who have to look at the draw and realise that they haven’t got great records against anyone. However, as two players in excellent form with recent titles under their belts, it is unlikely that this will bother them too much.

Krejcikova is the one that probably has the most doubtful form heading into the tournament from the four in this group. She lost both of her Billie Jean King Cup matches to players who didn’t qualify for this event and has also lost recently to Paula Badosa and Aryna Sabalenka on outdoor hard courts. None of her losses were bad, but have had the effect of removing that cloak of invincibility that she seemed to have en route to her French Open victory.

Prediction:

  1. Muguruza
  2. Pliskova
  3. Kontaveit
  4. Krejcikova

Who will win the WTA Finals?

There are a lot of different threads to untangle when going through the form for this event. However, ultimately I want a player who I believe can reproduce their best form when it is most required. Iga Swiatek, Barbora Krejcikova and Garbine Muguruza are the only Grand Slam winners in this field, and I like the Spaniard’s current form too.

It seemed to me all year that Muguruza has played with something to prove. She certainly has much to prove in this event as well. However, I trust in her game more than the likes of Sabalenka and Pliskova when the going gets tough in these tight matches. The main concern I have is that poor career record against the elite, however, that could be mitigated by the fact that Osaka, Serena Williams, Barty and many other top players aren’t here this week. Muguruza should feel like she is the number one player here in her mind and if she believes that then she could win the title.

I also like Maria Sakkari‘s chances. However, there is a lack of evidence that can go all the way to win a big title. This may be the week though for the Greek. She has an excellent record against the top players and I feel like the conditions will be ones that she likes. Sakkari could be the dark horse of the tournament.

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