Garbine Muguruza, Aryna Sabalenka among those bidding for late-season glory in Zhuhai

Hannah Wilks in WTA 29 Oct 2018
  • The WTA Elite Trophy Zhuhai offers one last chance to win a WTA Tour title in 2018
  • Garbine Muguruza, Madison Keys and Aryna Sabalenka are among the field for the 2018 WTA Zhuhai
  • We break down the draw and predict who could do well this week in Zhuhai
Former world no. 1 Garbine Muguruza is among the players in action at the WTA Elite Trophy Zhuhai this week (VIVEK PRAKASH/AFP/Getty Images)

Former world no. 1 Garbine Muguruza, defending champion Julia Goerges and rising Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka are among those bidding for a last gasp of glory in 2018 as the WTA season concludes in Zhuhai.

The final event of the WTA Tour 2018 season takes place this week - and features a very exciting field - as the WTA Elite Trophy Zhuhai begins on Tuesday 30 October.

Twelve players, ranked between 10-36 in the world, have been separated into four groups of three and will play against each other in round-robin matches from Tuesday to Friday, with the top player in each group advancing to Saturday's semifinals. 

A second-tier version of the WTA Finals Singapore, which took place last week and was won by Elina Svitolina, the WTA Elite Trophy Zhuhai is the absolute last WTA Tour event of the season and as such offers players one last chance at glory before definitively calling time on their 2018. 

With the three previous editions of the WTA Elite Trophy having crowned Venus Williams, Petra Kvitova and Julia Goerges as champions, Zhuhai always brings a strong field but this year's edition looks particularly promising with every player, from world no. 10 Daria Kasatkina to world no. 36 Zhang Shuai, offering an intriguing storyline to follow throughout the week.

Azalea Group

WTA Zhuhai 2018: Azalea Group

SeedPlayerRanking2018 titlesvs Kasatkinavs Keysvs Wang
1Daria Kasatkina10Moscow (Premier)-0-33-1
6Madison Keys16-3-0-2-0
11Wang Qiang22Nanchang (Int'l), Guangzhou (Int'l)1-30-2-

Top seed Daria Kasatkina is joined by former Grand Slam finalist Madison Keys and much-improved Chinese star Wang Qiang in the first of the four groups at the WTA Elite Trophy Zhuhai.

Daria Kasatkina (Photo by NICOLAS ASFOURI / AFP)
Kasatkina is looking to emulate defending champion Goerges by winning the Premier-level Kremlin Cup in Moscow and the WTA Elite Trophy back to back. The 21-year-old Russian has had a breakthrough season which started magnificently with a runner-up finish to Svitolina at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships and then another to Naomi Osaka at Indian Wells, with Kasatkina beating four top-10 players (as well as Sloane Stephens) through those two events. 

With her unique, all-court style, variety and athleticism, Kasatkina plays an unusual game and is still trying to figure out how to get the best of herself, and she struggled to replicate those early-year successes for the rest of the season on the regular WTA Tour, but she went on to make back-to-back Grand Slam quarterfinals at Roland Garros and Wimbledon before winning the Premier-level Kremlin Cup in stunning style, battling back from a set down against surprise finalist Ons Jabeur.

Kasatkina should be feeling very confident after that success in Moscow - and her ebullience should be matched by that of Wang Qiang. The 26-year-old Wang dropped as low as world no. 91 midway through the year, but achieved some brilliant results during the second half of 2018. Not only did she successfully defend her Asian Games gold medal, but Wang went on to win the first WTA Tour titles of her career in Nanchang and Guangzhou, then went on to reach the semifinals of both Wuhan and Beijing and finish runner-up in Hong Kong, compiling a 22-5 record on the hard courts of China, Japan and Hong Kong. With the home crowd sure to be passionately behind her, Wang will hope to bring the same success to Zhuhai. 

The third woman in the group, Madison Keys, doesn't have quite as much momentum behind her propelling her towards glory in Zhuhai - in fact, she hasn't played a match for nearly a month. The 2017 US Open runner-up has had a good season at the majors while not managing to capture that first Grand Slam title or reach another final, making the quarterfinals of the Australian Open and the semifinals of the French and US Opens. At regular WTA Tour level, however, Keys has only made one semifinal - in Charleston in April. With an unbeaten 5-0 record combined against Kasatkina and Wang, however, Keys has benefited from the draw - can she capitalize on that in Zhuhai?

Semifinalist: Keys

Camellia Group

WTA Zhuhai 2018: Camellia Group

SeedPlayerRanking2018 titlesvs Sevastovavs Muguruzavs Zhang
2Anastasija Sevastova11Bucharest (Int'l)-1-22-1
7Garbine Muguruza17-2-1-2-1
12Zhang Shuai36-1-21-2-

Ranked as high as world no. 1 in 2017, Garbine Muguruza finds herself trying to rescue a frustrating and unsuccessful season as she joins US Open semifinalist Anastasija Sevastova and wildcard Zhang Shuai in the Camellia Group.

Anastasija Sevastova (Photo by NICOLAS ASFOURI / AFP) 
For the first time in four years, Muguruza's season hasn't seen her make a Grand Slam final or win a major. After triumphing at the French Open in 2016 and Wimbledon in 2017, Muguruza has gone 33-19 in 2018, struggling with a number of minor injuries but above all struggling for confidence. Muguruza won the International-level Monterrey title, finished runner-up in Doha to Petra Kvitova and made the semifinals of the French Open - but she was wiped off the court at the latter by eventual champion Simona Halep and her Wimbledon title defense was ended early by Alison van Uytvanck in a shock result.

Since losing to van Uytvanck at Wimbledon, Muguruza has won back-to-back matches just twice - most recently at the Hong Kong Open where she made the semifinals before losing to Wang - and she wasn't even close to qualifying for Singapore, where she has appeared for the last three years. The Spaniard desperately needs to rescue something for 2018 - can she do that in Zhuhai? Both opponents in her group are very tricky for her. 

Latvian no. 2 Anastasija Sevastova has gone 10-4 in her last four events, starting by reaching her first Grand Slam semifinal at the US Open and followed by a run to the final of the Premier Mandatory-level China Open in Beijing, where she beat Osaka and Dominika Cibulkova before finishing runner-up to Caroline Wozniacki, as well as by a semifinal appearance in Moscow. Sevastova also made Premier-level semifinals in Brisbane and Charleston, won an International title in Bucharest and finished runner-up in Mallorca, so it's been another great season for the crafty Latvian with the nice line in devastating drop shots and she should be a force to be reckoned with in Zhuhai as she tries to break into the top 10 for the first time.

The lowest-ranked player in the field, world no. 36 Zhang Shuai is one of only three players - the others being Keys and Anett Kontaveit - who have not won a title so far in 2018. That doesn't mean that the former top-25 player won't be dangerous in Zhuhai - Zhang has had her best results of the season in recent weeks on Asian hard courts, making the semifinals in Hiroshima and Hong Kong and making the quarterfinals in Beijing with a big win over Angelique Kerber, and her game has given Muguruza fits in the past.

Semifinalist: Sevastova

Orchid Group

WTA Zhuhai 2018: Orchid Group

SeedPlayerRanking2018 titlesvs Sabalenkavs Garciavs Barty
3Aryna Sabalenka12Wuhan (Premier-5), New Haven (Premier)-2-01-1
8Caroline Garcia18Tianjin (Int'l)0-2-1-0
9Ashleigh Barty19Nottingham (Int'l)1-10-1-

An intriguing group in a draw full of intriguing groups puts former top-10 player Caroline Garcia on a collision course with breakout star of 2018 Aryna Sabalenka and the multi-talented Ashleigh Barty.

Aryna Sabalenka (Photo by GREG BAKER / AFP) 
One of our players to watch for 2018, Sabalenka has justified that moniker and then some. Ranked world no. 73 at the start of 2018 and not too well known, apart from to those who followed Belarus's surprise run to the Fed Cup final or saw her finish runner-up to Maria Sharapova in Tianjin last autumn, Sabalenka comes into Zhuhai ranked world no. 12 after winning her first titles in Wuhan and New Haven, reaching finals in Eastbourne and Lugano and making the semifinals of Cincinnati. 

The powerful Belarusian, who is still just 20, has established a formidable partnership with coach Dmitry Tursunov and has won seven of her last eight matches against top-10 players, including wins over Garcia in Cincinnati and Beijing which the Frenchwoman will be aching to avenge.

After her superb end finish to the 2017 season, which saw her perform the unprecedented feat of winning Wuhan and Beijing back to back and then reaching the semifinals on her debut in Singapore, Garcia's 2018 season has been a bit underwhelming with a 38-21 win-loss record highlighted by semifinals in Stuttgart and Madrid during the clay season. Garcia was unable to defend her Wuhan and Beijing titles, losing to Katerina Siniakova and Sabalenka respectively, and her ranking plummeted as a result - but perhaps with the top-10 pressure off her shoulders, Garcia can regroup and rebuild. That certainly seems indicated by her last tournament, the Tianjin Open, where Garcia claimed the title without dropping a set, sealed with a win over Karolina Pliskova. The Frenchwoman must figure out a way past Sabalenka if she is to make it back-to-back titles to end the season. 

Ashleigh Barty finds herself in a group with the two players who have beaten her in two of the biggest singles matches of her career thus far - Garcia in the Wuhan final in 2017, and Sabalenka in the Wuhan semifinals in 2018. Champion in Nottingham this summer, the multi-skilled Barty also made the semifinals of Strasbourg and Montreal and finished runner-up to Angelique Kerber in Sydney in January - and the world no. 19 should be feeling fairly confident and match-fit after competing at the WTA Finals Singapore in doubles with partner Coco Vandeweghe last week. 

Semifinalist: Sabalenka

Rose Group

WTA Zhuhai 2018: Rose Group

SeedPlayerRanking2018 titlesvs Mertensvs Goergesvs Kontaveit
4Elise Mertens13Hobart (Int'l), Lugano (Int'l), Rabat (Int'l)-0-00-1
5Julia Goerges14Auckland (Int'l), Luxembourg (Int'l)0-0-1-0
10Anett Kontaveit20-1-00-1-

Defending champion Julia Goerges returns to the WTA Elite Trophy at the end of another very successful season - and has the opportunity to equal her 2017 feat of winning back-to-back titles to conclude the year, having triumphed at the Luxembourg Open two weeks ago.

Luxembourg was Goerges's second title of the season after the German veteran triumphed in Auckland at the start of the year, and Goerges also made the final of the Premier-level Volvo Car Open in Charleston, finishing runner-up to Kiki Bertens. Ratifying her improvement in 2017 after years of erratic results, Goerges also made the semifinals of St Petersburg and New Haven but the highlight of her year was, undoubtedly, reaching a first Grand Slam semifinal at Wimbledon before being defeated by Serena Williams.

Julia Goerges (STR/AFP/Getty Images)
Goerges will be very formidable in the Rose Group but the form of Elise Mertens and Anett Kontaveit is a bit more open to speculation.

Belgium's Mertens has had a fantastic season. The 22-year-old won a trio of International-level titles, successfully defending her Hobart title in January on hard courts before going on to win Lugano and Rabat in April-May on red clay, and also reached the semifinals in San Jose and quarterfinals in Montreal, Cincinnati and Tianjin. But the highlight of her year was a run to the semifinals at the Australian Open where she defeated Elina Svitolina in the quarterfinals.

Mertens's recent results have been a bit limp, though - she went 0-3 in Wuhan, Beijing and Moscow, three of her last four events - and it's questionable how much energy she has left at the end of a long and unprecedentedly successful season.

Anett Kontaveit made a big leap up the rankings in 2017 from outside the top 100 to world no. 34 and comes into Zhuhai at a career-high ranking of world no. 20 after doing a good job of consolidating and building on those gains. The powerful Estonian had a good clay-court season, making the semifinals of Stuttgart and Rome and the round of 16 at the French Open where she beat Petra Kvitova, but apart from a fourth-round appearance at the Australian Open her results on other surfaces left a bit to be desired - that is, until Wuhan, where Kontaveit beat Sloane Stephens, Wang and Zhang among others to make the biggest final of her career so far before losing to Sabalenka.

Kontaveit could be very dangerous in this group but she can also be very erratic and hit herself off the court, and is a bit of a question mark compared to the more consistent and experienced Goerges, although capable of extraordinarily devastating tennis.

Semifinalist: Goerges

The WTA Elite Trophy Zhuhai is live from Zhuhai from 30 October-4 November.

*Geo-restrictions apply; funded account required or to have placed a bet in the last 24 hours to qualify


We break down the draw and look at what's on the line for each player at the 2018 WTA Elite Trophy Zhuhai.

Share this with your friends

Your comments:

Garbine Muguruza, Aryna Sabalenka among those bidding for late-season glory in Zhuhai

The very last WTA Tour event of 2018, the WTA Elite Trophy Zhuhai, features a stellar field with former world no. 1 Garbine Muguruza, rising star Aryna Sabalenka and Chinese star Wang Qiang among those joining defending champion Julia Goerges

Read more »

You have unread messages

You have unread messages