The chase for the last WTA Finals spot was always one of the most exciting parts of the season, and this year was not an exception. It went down to the wire as Belinda Bencic edged Kiki Bertens for the last ticket to Shenzhen, putting up a series of impressive performances at the Kremlin Cup as she handled the pressure well.
Bertens initially came into the tournament as the favourite to book her spot at the year-end championships once again, but Kristina Mladenovic played a pivotal role in this battle as the Frenchwoman beat Bertens in the quarterfinals before losing to Bencic in the semifinals. With the chances of Serena Williams competing being very low, Bencic needed to reach the final to overtake Bertens with fans looking forward to a Bertens-Bencic semifinal clash, although it did not happen.
In 2016, it was Svetlana Kuznetsova who sealed her spot in Singapore with the Moscow title while last year it was only with Halep’s withdrawal which allowed Bertens to make her debut in the prestigious tournament. This year, there is definitely not a lack of drama, with Bencic’s first-round exit in Linz making her qualification seem more impossible this week. Furthermore, she had to request for a late wildcard into Moscow and was initially given an entry into the qualifying draw only.
It was a terrific season for Bencic, who made her maiden Major semifinal at the US Open where she was just inches away from making her first Major final, falling to Bianca Andreescu in a thriller. The Swiss captured her biggest title since 2015 at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, beating four top-10 players en route.
Starting the year outside the top-50, Bencic finally returned to where she belongs by producing consistent performances week-in, week-out. Making her debut at the WTA Finals, Bencic will be looking to cause some upsets against her fellow top players as she enters the tournament as the tour-leader in the number of top-10 wins this year.