Iga Swiatek faces Daria Kastkina, and Coco Gauff takes on Carolina Garcia in the round-robin phase of the WTA Finals. Damien Kayat previews.
2022 WTA Tour
Dickies Arena, Fort Worth, USA
Group Tracey Austin Round-Robin Matches
Iga Swiatek 19/100 | Daria Kasatkina 36/10
Iga Swiatek goes in search of an incredible ninth title this year in what has certainly been a Laureus-calibre season for the Pole. Her record this year stands at a phenomenal 64-8.
She has won two Slams, four WTA 1000 titles and two WTA 500 events. Her most recent appearance on tour resulted in victory at the San Diego Open. She created a bit of controversy last time out, accused of unsportsmanlike conduct after waving her hands at the net in the final against Donna Vekic.
This wasn’t the first such incident this season: she committed a similar act in her US Open tie against Lauren Davies. These incidents- alongside more socially accepted modes of gamesmanship (like timewasting)- have been a slight stain on an otherwise exceptional campaign.
This will only be her second appearance at the WTA Finals (she failed to go beyond the group stage last year).
Daria Kasatkina is making her WTA Finals debut at a career-high world ranking of 8. She really made it in by the skin of her teeth this year. She doesn’t come into this event in the greatest form (she is 3-4 in her last four events).
Her most recent appearance on the WTA Tour was a round of 16 showing at the Guadalajara Open. But titles in San Jose and Granby provided the basis for a solid campaign.
The semi-final runs in Roland Garros and Rome underlined her status as one of the premier clay-court players in women’s’ tennis. Her record this season is a highly respectable 40-20 and she will be going into this event with little to no pressure at all.
Verdict: Swiatek to win in straight sets at 52/100
Swiatek leads Kasatkina 4-1 in their head-to-head rivalry. All four of those victories have come this season. Moreover, the Russian hasn’t picked up more than three games in either of their eight sets this year.
Kasatkina is almost a dream opponent for the Pole. She is a prototypical defensive baseliner and looks to use her opponent’s power against them. She doesn’t mind surrednring the initiative either.
The problem is Swiatek loves taking the initiative. Her ultra-aggressive approach is different to that of Madison Keys and Jelena Ostapenko. She doesn’t make that many errors.
Her consistency of depth and power is almost unprecedented. Kasatkina will need to be slightly more proactive this time out. And I don’t think a leopard can change its spots that quickly.
Coco Gauff 61/100 | Carolina Garcia 5/4
It’s sometimes easy to forget that Coco Gauff is still just 18 years of age. She is the youngest woman to reach the WTA Finals (in singles) since Maria Sharapova in 2005.
Her and doubles partner Jessica Pegula will play in both formats this year. Gauff’s year has been a model of consistency. Still, I think she will feel a tad disappointed that she hasn’t been able to clinch a title this season.
Her obvious piece de resistance came with her maiden Grand Slam final appearance at Roland Garros. She once again showcased her growing Grand Slam maturity with a quarterfinal run at the US Open (more on that later).
And she has a whole host of quarterfinal and semi-final appearances to her name. In fact, she has reached the final eight in five of her last six events and comes into this match in far better form than her opponent: Caroline Garcia.
Caroline Garcia started this year ranked number 70 in the world. She has now risen to sixth in the world rankings courtesy of a magnificent second half of the campaign.
She largely trundled along in the opening salvos of the season (a semi-final showing in Lyon was her best result in her first eleven events). But she would go on to win three titles in her subsequent eleven events.
The most prestigious title came at the WTA 1000 event in Cincinnati (where she became the first qualifier ever to win a WTA 1000 event). She then produced another elite display in New York, reaching her maiden Grand Slam semi-final at the US Open.
Garcia’s form has dropped markedly since New York: she has won just one match in her last three events. But she has already shown this season that she has the capacity to elevate her game on the big stage.
She will also benefit from the fact that she reached the WTA Finals back in 2017.
Verdict: Garcia to win in three at 42/10
Gauff leads the head-to-head rivalry with Garcia 2-1. Gauff came through an epic three-set match in their first encounter at last year’s Indian Wells.
Garcia won most recently in the quarterfinal of the US Open. And that performance is the basis of my decision. Garcia absolutely blew the American off the court during that one-sided quarterfinal showdown.
Garcia will lean on her powerful serve and utterly immense groundstrokes. I think these courts should suit her flatter hitting style.