Ash Barty at centre of bizarre WTA Finals chaos: 'Feels weird'

Ash Barty (pictured left) applauds after winning Wimbledon and (pictured right) Elena Rybakina holding the Wimbledon trophy.
Ash Barty (pictured left) is just one grand slam winner that won't play at the WTA Finals this year and now Elena Rybakina (pictured right) becomes the second Wimbledon champ in consecutive years to not play the event after she failed to qualify. (Getty Images)

The WTA Finals qualification race has been chaotic this week but for the second year running the Wimbledon champion won't be involved after failing to qualify, which follows Ash Barty's shock withdrawal in 2021.

World No.1 Iga Swiatek, Ons Jabeur and Jessica Pegula had already locked up the first three spots before the Guadalajara event heading into the final stretch of the year.

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And then American teen Coco Gauff became the youngest player since Maria Sharapova to reach the WTA Finals.

France's Caroline Garcia joined her after advancing in Mexico to leave three spots remaining.

However, a number of upsets meant a grand slam champ wouldn't make it.

Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina's hopes of making the Finals ended after Jessica Pegula saved three match points to emerge 2-6, 6-3, 7-6.

This makes it the second year running the Wimbledon champ won't take part in the finals.

In 2021, Barty won her maiden Wimbledon title.

However, having spent so much time away from Australia on Tour due to Covid-19 restrictions, Barty opted to miss the 2021 WTA Finals.

She then retired from tennis after her historic Australian Open title.

To make matters even harder for Rybakina, the Wimbledon champ would have qualified if the WTA had issued ranking points at this year's grass court major.

Rybakina's failure marks the 13th time in 17 years that a grand slam champ hasn't qualified.

Meanwhile, Danielle Collins and Jelena Ostapenko, who both have an outside shot of making the WTA Finals - which starts on October 31 - won their second round matches.

While another hopeful Belinda Bencic was beaten 6-4, 6-4 by Sloane Stephens.

World No.4 Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka was another top seed to lose in Mexico but managed to qualify because of Victoria Azarenka's remarkable run.

Yesterday, top seed Paula Badosa was forced to retire against Azarenka in Mexico after she appeared to be struggling to breathe.

"You never want anybody to retire, it's really sad that Paula was unable to finish the match," Azarenka said.

Then, Azarenka defeated American Madison Keys to help both Sabalenka and Daria Kasatkina qualify.

This leaves one spot left for the WTA Finals.

WTA Finals race heats up

The race leaves one spot left.

However, many tennis spectators felt it would be an unusual WTA Finals in Texas without Barty (Australian Open) and Rybakina (Wimbledon) not taking part.

Many also questioned whether it was a weaker WTA Finals line-up than usual with the dominant Swiatek heavy favourite to take out the event.

Regardless, one aspect to celebrate is Gauff's incredible achievement in reaching the WTA Finals.

The 18-year-old became the youngest player to reach the WTA Finals since Sharapova achieved the feat in 2004 at just 18 years old.

Sharapova was 17 years old when she reached the WTA Finals in 2014.

This reflects Gauff's results that has seen the American reach the quarter-final or better at six of her last eight tournaments.

Gauff's run stretches back to Roland Garros.

with AAP

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