Serena Williams Skips Remainder of 2015


Sep 11, 2015; New York, NY, USA; Serena Williams of the United States reacts at a press conference after her match against Roberta Vinci of Italy on day twelve of the 2015 U.S. Open tennis tournament at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

What Does The Rest of 2015 Look Like Without Maria Sharapova & Serena Williams?

With the 2015 women’s tour set to wrap up in the next month, the WTA are gearing up for the final two blockbuster events of the year: the Premier Mandatory event in Beijing, and the WTA Finals in Singapore. Yet the WTA is facing a potential crisis – and it’s not the recent departure of Chairman Stacey Allaster. Instead, the WTA are facing the prospect of their two biggest draw cards, Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams, unable to play for the remainder of the year.

Sharapova’s inability to play stems from the injury that she has been enduring since her semifinal loss in Wimbledon. After skipping the US Open Series, Sharapova attempted to make a comeback this week in Wuhan, but retired in her first match against Barbora Strycova, unable to compete for an extended period of time. The leg that troubled her against the Czech has now seen her withdraw from Beijing.

The cause of Serena’s resistance is more mental, as opposed to Maria’s physical handicap. Earlier in the week, Serena’s coach Patrick Mouratoglou said that Serena shouldn’t play any more tournaments in 2015 if she isn’t motivated to compete. Despite her insistence otherwise, the loss of the Calendar Grand Slam obviously took a toll on the American, and any title she could add her to haul this year will still make the year seem like a partial disappointment.

And even though participating in both Beijing and Singapore will be mandatory for Serena, Mouratoglou is absolutely right. If she truly isn’t motivated nor in the mental state to perform, an extended break will help her refocus for 2016. As important as WTA tournaments are, they will no longer contribute to her legacy like the 2016 slams and the Rio Olympics will. If participating in Beijing or the WTA Finals were to threaten the possibility of winning those tournaments, she was right to reconsider her involvement.

Furthermore, every time she enters a tournament that she isn’t hungry to claim or that she doesn’t intend to see through, she’s potentially taking a main draw spot from a Johanna Konta, or an Anna Karolina Schmiedlova, who could do wonders or kickstart their careers with the opportunity. If that sounds a bit far-fetched, just look to Simona Halep. Her outstanding, career-making run of 6 titles in 2013 was instigated by a strong semifinal run to the semifinals at the Premier 5 tournament in Rome. She’s now world no. 2. And sure, the WTA and the tournament directors may not be thrilled by the idea of losing a major money maker like Serena, but they have more than enough star power to bring in the dough.

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With this in mind, Serena has just announced that she will not participate in the China Open or the WTA Finals (via the China Open Twitter page). This will have various effects on the year-ending championships. The tournament in Singapore may now struggle to bring in the crowds that they would have with the world number one in tow. On the other hand, the withdrawal opens up a spot for yet another player to qualify for the tournament (with regards to the current official Road to Singapore rankings, the beneficiary would be Agnieszka Radwanska).

And as a sidenote, the number one seed in Singapore will, rather amazingly, be Simona Halep.

Another question remains though: will Maria Sharapova follow suit and withdraw from Singapore? She’s already withdrawn from Beijing, which precedes the tour finals by 2 weeks. Given her trouble getting back on the court since July, it’s difficult to see her fully recovering before the end of the month. And if she does manage to play in Singapore, it’s very likely that she won’t last long before withdrawing.

Without the two most recognisable stars of the WTA, the WTA Finals in Singapore may potentially be a (somewhat) marketing disaster. I say somewhat because there are still some exciting competitors heading to the Asian city. Simona Halep is beloved in Singapore following her finals run last year (and she’ll undoubtedly bring along those entertainingly voracious Romanians with her), while 2-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova will always attract spectators. And Flavia Pennetta, should she qualify, should prove a fascinating storyline.

But there’s no getting around the fact that players like Lucie Safarova (who may also withdraw) and Garbine Muguruza don’t welcome the same excitement as one of the greatest players of all time or one of the most marketable athletes of all time. And now that the former is hanging up her racket for the year, there’s no doubting that the WTA will be praying that the latter – Maria Sharapova – will be fit and ready to compete for the title in Singapore.

Next: US Open Thoughts: Rafael Nadal & The Worst Moments

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