As the 2021 season draws to a close, there is still time for some to battle it out for tennis’ largest prize pot at the WTA Finals.
Played annually at the end of the tennis calendar, the tournament predates WTA and started in 1972 as the Championship tournament of the tour’s predecessor: the Virginia Slims Circuit.
Commonly regarded as one of the most prestigious events of the year aside from the four Grand Slams, the WTA Finals is contested by the top eight players in the world, based on ranking points accumulated that year.
Last year’s tournament was cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, so this season will be the 50th edition of the singles competition.
Here’s all you need to know about this year’s event:
What is it?
To qualify for the WTA Finals, players compete throughout the year in more than 53 WTA tournaments across the world, in addition to the Grand Slams.
Ranking points are issued to players at the end of every respective tournament, with the tour keeping track of this via a leaderboard. The top eight are then chosen to compete, though if someone withdraws, the next highest-ranked player is selected.
Qualified players participate in a round-robin format in two groups of four. The top two in each group advance to the semi-finals, before a winner is crowned in the final.
Where is it?
The Finals have been held at multiple venues over the years, including Los Angeles, Madrid, New York and Singapore.
In 2019 the tournament was held in Shenzhen, China, and was scheduled to be contested there for each of the next 10 years.
However, travel restrictions have prevented the competition from being held in China this season, meaning the event will instead be held in Guadalajara, Mexico, at the Panamerican Tennis Center.
It will be the first time Mexico has hosted the Finals.
When is it?
The tournament will start on November 10th and run for a week until the 17th.
Over the first four days of the competition, players will compete against the other three competitors in their respective groups.
Following that, the semi-finals and finals will be played over the last three days.
World number one Ashleigh Barty is the defending champion from 2019 and finished top of the rankings leaderboard in 2021.
However, the Australian has chosen not to try and retain her title, citing a need to rest and recuperate ahead of next season.
This opened up a spot for Estonia’s Anett Kontaveit, who won back to back titles at the Kremlin Cup and the Transylvania Open and snuck in ahead of Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur.
Aryna Sabalenka is the highest-ranked player in the competition, while she is joined by the Czech pair of Barbora Krejčíková and Karolína Plíšková.
2020 French Open champion Iga Świątek and Greece’s Maria Sakkari have also made the cut.
Spanish duo, Garbiñe Muguruza and Paula Badosa make up the final two spots.
How to watch?
For UK viewers, the WTA Finals will be broadcast on BT Sport.
The WTA will also show matches on WTA TV –– a paid feature that live streams all matches on the tour.