SHENZHEN, China (Reuters) – Ash Barty does not see her status as the world’s top ranked player as a reason to be installed as favourite to win this week’s WTA Finals as the season-ending jamboree makes its debut in China.
The 23-year-old Australian is looking to cap a remarkable year that has seen her win the French Open and climb into pole position in the rankings with victory at the tournament that brings together the eight best ranked players of 2019.
She begins her quest for the title at the $14 million event against Switzerland’s Belinda Bencic on Sunday in the group phase of the competition at the Shenzhen Bay Sports Center, the tournament’s home for the next 10 years after spending the previous five editions in Singapore.
“I don’t think there ever is a favourite,” said Barty.
“I think everyone is deserving to win that’s in the draw. Everyone has earned their place here and has the right to try to do the best they can to try and win.
“On any given day, anyone can be beaten. That’s the beauty of sport, there are no certainties. There’s always an opportunity for someone to try and bring their best. I think that’s the best thing about sport, there are no certainties.
“It’s an exciting week. We’ve all played well throughout the whole year to try to get here. Now it’s about trying to bring our best this week, if we can.”
Barty will be meeting Bencic, the number seven seed, for the first time in her career after being drawn in the Red Group also containing Naomi Osaka and Petra Kvitova, with the top two in the round robin group phase advancing to Saturday’s semi-finals.
World No. 2 Karolina Pliskova headlines the Purple Group and starts her tournament against defending champion Elina Svitolina from Ukraine on Monday evening, with Bianca Andreescu taking on Simona Halep later the same day.
This will be Barty’s first appearance in the singles event having previously played in the doubles and she is relishing the opportunity to face off against the elite of the women’s game.
“It’s an incredible group of players, I think,” she said.
“It’s very special being here in singles, having had a bit of a taste it in the doubles the last two years. It was really nice.
“I think the goal for all singles players is to make the finals at the end of the year, to be playing against the best of the best to test yourself against the best. Really excited to have an opportunity now after a fantastic year to try and finish really well.”
(Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)