Long sea­son takes its toll on WTA Asia swing

The China Post - - SPORTS -

Af­ter the fi­nal Gland Slam of the year in Flush­ing Mead­ows, there is a mi­gra­tion to Asia as part of the Women’s Ten­nis As­so­ci­a­tion’s Asian swing, but the tight end of sea­son sched­ule may be a bridge too far for some play­ers.

The line up for the last tour­na­ments of the year has been hit by with­drawals as the play­ers zip across the vast con­ti­nent be­tween Ja­pan, China and Sin­ga­pore with barely a break.

Maria Shara­pova re­tired from Wuhan and with­drew from the China Open with an in­jury, leav­ing a ques­tion mark over whether she will make it to the WTA Fi­nal in Sin­ga­pore, while world No. 1 Ser­ena Wil­liams an­nounced an early close to her sea­son.

The WTA opened an of­fice in Bei­jing in 2008, and has since added eight tour­na­ments in China, bring­ing to 23 the to­tal num­ber in Asia — 40 per­cent of the tour.

“Ten­nis in Asia has never been bet­ter than it is now,” said Melissa Pine, tour­na­ment di­rec­tor of the sea­son-end­ing cham­pi­onship, which was shifted to Sin­ga­pore last year as part of a five- year deal.

The Wuhan Open was one of three new events launched in China last year, cre­ated off the suc­cess of home­town star and two-time Grand Slam-win­ner Li Na.

But Li never played at the event, re­tir­ing on the eve of the inau­gu­ral tour­na­ment plagued by in­juries picked up ear­lier in the sea­son.

Four re­tire­ments and nu­mer­ous shock defeats thinned the ranks of the top seed play­ers at this year’s Wuhan Open.

Caro­line Woz­ni­acki and twotime ma­jor- win­ner Vic­to­ria Azarenka ex­ited on day three, and de­fend­ing cham­pion Pe­tra Kvi­tova fell on day four, with all of them say­ing they were tired at the end of a tough year.

World No. 2 Simona Halep ad­mit­ted that she was strug­gling to stay fo­cused the day be­fore she was knocked out of the Wuhan Open by break­through Bri­ton Jo­hanna Konta.

“It’s very tough. Ev­ery day I’m think­ing about the hol­i­day. But I have to stay con­cen­trated,” she said be­fore mov­ing onto Bei­jing for the China Open.

Konta might have been ex­pect- ed to ce­ment her 21/23 win run at the China Open, but af­ter los­ing to Venus Wil­liams the Bri­tish No. 1-in-wait­ing an­nounced that she had with­drawn.

“I’m go­ing to be head­ing home. I de­cided to with­draw from Bei­jing just be­cause ... I would have had to al­ready fly to­mor­row and play to­mor­row,” the 24- year- old said.

Swiss young­ster Belinda Ben­cic played in Wuhan the day af­ter she lost the fi­nal of the WTA Pan Pa­cific Open in Tokyo to Ag­nieszka Rad­wan­ska, and then re­tired just 38 min­utes into her sec­ond match.

But the 18-year-old said she would play in Bei­jing.

“I will do my best to be there, it is just the end of the sea­son and all the play­ers are re­ally tired,” Ben­cic said.

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