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.
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.
It's the second year in a row the Wimbledon champion won't play the WTA Finals:
2021 - Ash Barty (withdrew)
2022 - Elena Rybakina (not qualified)
Also, It's the 13th time since 2005 a Grand Slam Champion won't play the WTA Finals (via @juanignacio_ac). pic.twitter.com/X51Z39KsrF
— Relevant Tennis (@RelevantTennis) October 20, 2022
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.
Big match for WTA Finals qualification coming up between Madison Keys and Victoria Azarenka.
A win for Keys keeps her in contention.
A win for Azarenka means Daria Kasatkina and Aryna Sabalenka seal the 6th and 7th qualifying spots.#GDLOPENAKRON
— WTA Insider (@WTA_insider) October 20, 2022
#WTAFinals update: One spot remains in both singles and doubles.
Singles - Qualified
1. Iga Swiatek
2. Ons Jabeur
3. Jessica Pegula
4. Coco Gauff
5. Caroline Garcia
6. Aryna Sabalenka
7. Daria Kasatkina
— WTA Insider (@WTA_insider) October 20, 2022
"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.
WTA Finals line up almost done:
Kudermetova, Sakkari or Collins
Who does it look for you?
For me it feels weird that two of the three Grand Slam champs in 2022 are missing.
— José Morgado (@josemorgado) October 20, 2022
1. so many players with no titles in 2022 in this line up, zip..nada.
2. Coco is ranked solely on her FO runner up, without she would not even be in the top 20.
The WTA ranking system is a total mess.
— Say Something (@SaySome04986198) October 20, 2022
not sure theres ever been a field this weak in terms of YTD results
— slay panic (@twigsza_) October 20, 2022
Jabeur, Gauff, Pegula, Kasatkina and Sabalenka can't beat Iga even if she played blindfolded.
Garcia is not that impressive right now, after her amazing 3 months.
Iga will clear everyone with ease. Barty's retirement and Wimbledon points did a number on this line up
— Vic (@Victor03643584) October 20, 2022
Rybakina not being in the finals after winning Wimbledon is so messed up in many ways.
— tonio (@ANTONIOEESPARZA) October 20, 2022
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.
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