Yet another breakthrough season in singles for Elise Mertens saw her reach even greater heights, and now she is rewarded with a debut appearance at the 2018 WTA Elite Trophy held in Zhuhai. The Belgian started the year ranked 36th but was on the brink of breaking into the top-10 of the rankings, though she eventually found herself at a career-high ranking of 13.
Terrific year for Mertens
Mertens successfully defended her title at the Hobart International to start off the year with, defeating Mihaela Buzarnescu in three sets. Her run of good form was carried into the first Grand Slam of the year, the Australian Open. She surged towards a maiden Major semifinal appearance without losing a set, defeating Alize Cornet and fourth seed Elina Svitolina along the way.
A debut in the top-20 was followed by her second WTA title of 2018 at the Samsung Open, coming back from the brink of defeat against both Marketa Vondrousova and Vera Lapko before ousting rising star Aryna Sabalenka to triumph on the red clay. Clay proved to be the site of success for Mertens, having won the title in Rabat and making the second week of Roland Garros as well.
Consecutive quarterfinal appearances came in San Jose, Montreal and Cincinnati. During this impressive run, Mertens defeated quality players such as Johanna Konta, Aryna Sabalenka (saving a match point) and Sloane Stephens. She then made the second week at the US Open, before a disappointing Asian swing followed.
Interestingly, Mertens was a slight favourite to qualify for the WTA Finals after a strong start to the year, although she lost her way but still managed to secure a place in Zhuhai. However, she competed in the doubles competition in Singapore alongside Demi Schuurs and will be rushing over to Zhuhai immediately after losing in the opening round.
In a video for the local fans, Mertens seemed ecstatic to play in Zhuhai, “I am very excited to qualify for Zhuhai for very first time. See you there!”