WTA Finals: Can Babos and Mladenovic defend their title?
Babos and Mladenovic with their WTA Finals Martina Navratilova trophy | Photo: Suhaimi Abdullah

The doubles field at the 2019 WTA Finals is already set with all eight teams ready to go. Returning to the round-robin format for the first time since 2015, the doubles players will not make a wasted trip to Shenzhen as they are assured at least three matches to end their season with.

Previewing the doubles field in Shenzhen, who will lift the WTA Finals Martina Navratilova trophy to conclude the year? Will there be a repeat champion, or will a new pairing clinch the title?

The head-to-head record between all eight doubles teams in Shenzhen
The head-to-head record between all eight doubles teams in Shenzhen

The top seeds at the tournament would be the surprise package of Elise Mertens and Aryna Sabalenka, two superb singles players who joined forces this year and became one of the best pairings in the business. They have claimed the biggest hard-court titles under their belts throughout the year, taking home titles in Indian Wells, Miami, and the US Open. Mertens and Sabalenka have the best win-loss percentage of any top-eight pairings this year.

Joining them would be Hsieh Su-wei and Barbora Strycova, the Wimbledon champions. The Czech is currently ranked number one in the world and the pair owns a positive record against everyone else in the tournament, with just two losses to the other top-eight teams combined. They will come into the tournament as one of the favourites, although they have been prone to upsets recently.

Hsieh and Strycova with their Wimbledon trophies | Photo: Shaun Botterill
Hsieh and Strycova with their Wimbledon trophies | Photo: Shaun Botterill

French Open champions and Australian Open runner-ups Timea Babos and Kristina Mladenovic will be the third seeds after enjoying yet another successful year. Considering that they had only played 10 tournaments together this year, it is impressive for the long-term partners to be ranked third on the leaderboard. Coming into the tournament as the defending champions, they will look to replicate their triumph although their biggest opponents could be Hsieh/Strycova, whom they own a 0-1 head-to-head record against.

Gabriela Dabrowski and Xu Yi-fan, qualifying for the tournament on the third consecutive occasion, will need to produce some of their best performances this year to have a chance of mounting the upset. They will fancy their chances against Krejcikova/Siniakova after prevailing in two of their meetings this year but will be wary of other opponents.

Chan Hao-ching and Latisha Chan, qualifying together once again after reuniting this year, will be back hunting for more glory. Taking part in 20 tournaments, the Taiwanese sisters were able to put in consistent performances week-in, week-out to book their spot in Shenzhen. Familiar with the round-robin format after competing in 2015, the Chan sisters will look to capitalize on their experience — but danger looms as they only own a winning record over Dabrowski/Xu in the field.

The Chan sisters reunited this year and their partnership blossomed again | Photo: Koji Watanabe
The Chan sisters reunited this year and their partnership blossomed again | Photo: Koji Watanabe

Defending finalists Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova will hope to go one step further this year, after what can be considered a very tough season for the pair. An injury-riddled year for Krejcikova meant that the pair was limited to only 12 tournaments, missing out on the US Open and the entire Asian swing. Although they gained momentum by lifting the Linz title, Krejcikova and Siniakova will worry for a 0-2 record against both Babos/Mladenovic and Dabrowski/Xu, with one of them certain of being in the same group as the Czechs.

Australian Open champions Samantha Stosur and Zhang Shuai enjoyed a fantastic start to the season, but they were relatively unsuccessful through the remainder of the year as they amassed a 19-12 win-loss record. Stosur and Zhang enters the year-ending Championships with only one title this year but will capitalize on the local support as they look to end the season the same way they started it.

The eighth seeds would be Anna-Lena Groenefeld and Demi Schuurs, both very successful doubles players who teamed up in February this year. Runner-up at five WTA tournaments this season, the German-Dutch pairing might have problems against the top seeds as they are winless against Mertens/Sabalenka and Babos/Mladenovic in a combined three attempts. They will look to cause some upsets and end their season on a high.

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