Rising depth or a lack of consistency? The WTA legends in Singapore for the final edition of the Tour’s year-end event shared their thoughts on how the modern game has changed from when they were on the court.
“You can argue it both ways,” said Lindsay Davenport, whose last competitive match was in 2012. “The consistency was there more for the top players.”
“Let’s say you take a top 5 player or top 6 player, you might get one or two tournaments where they lost first round,” Davenport said. “It wasn’t like, out of 16 or 18 tournaments, it wasn’t like 8 or 7 times they didn’t get past the second round.”
Jennifer Capriati, a three-time Grand Slam champion who retired in 2004, agreed. “Sometimes watching it’s a little frustrating.”
“Some of these girls play so good at certain tournaments, and then they just have a letdown or don’t follow through and you can see that they have that potential to keep going,” said Capriati.
But depending on where you pick up the narrative, a player’s fortunes don’t always follow a downward trajectory. An inconsistent record could mean a dramatic uptick in form later on in the season for a struggling player.
“A player like Sloane Stephens,” noted Monica Seles, who officially retired in 2008, “not starting off as well but then winning in Miami and then qualifying for here.”
Davenport brought up third seed Naomi Osaka as another example. “I think everyone obviously was surprised she came to win the US Open, but if you watched her play the last few years (…) you knew she was going to end up here one day.”
Kim Clijsters, who retired for the second time in 2012, relished the sense of unpredictability that comes with a deeper field. “One of the things I enjoy about the WTA Finals is not knowing, like, who will be the last two standing in each group,” said Clijsters.
“It’s good because it’s so diverse, but at the same time, too, you never know who’s going to show up.”