The WTA Tour players are done – well, except for workhorse Belinda Bencic.
But there remain tournaments around the globe at the Challenger and ITF levels.
And there’s a fair bit at stake as the first entry deadlines for the 2019 season come up … next Monday.
(Yes, too soon).
Players just outside the top 100 are vying for spots in the Australian Open main draw.
There also are players who are going to be affected by the change in the WTA rankings system, in which the ranking points for lower-level events are either eliminated entirely, or restricted to the later rounds.
And then, there is Belinda Bencic.
Bencic defending late ’17 points
The Swiss former No. 7 made a big run at the end of last season to get her ranking back after injury. She dropped down as far as No. 318 after the ’17 US Open. But she played a major amount of tennis after that to finish just inside the top 100 at the Australian Open deadline. And by the end of 2017, she was up to No. 74.
But now, as 21-year-old has moved her ranking into the top 40, she has work to do to stay in the top 50 before she ends her season.
So with all those late-season points to defend, she’s still playing.
Bencic earned 470 points after Nov. 1 last year with three titles. Two of them came at WTA 125 events, and the final one came at a $100,000 ITF event in December in Dubai.
So far, on the USTA women’s circuit, Bencic reached the final at an $80,000 ITF in Texas, and won the Red Rock Tennis Open in Las Vegas on Sunday.
She received a wild card, and is the top seed at the WTA 125K tournament in Houston this week.
If she plays nothing else this season, the best-case scenario in winning the tournament would be that she ends up just inside the top 50, around No. 47.
ON THE UPSWING
There are no changes in the top 30, but below that, some moves.
Saisai Zheng (CHN): No. 46 ———–> No. 41
Ekaterina Alexandrova (RUS): No. 93 ———–> No. 71 (Limoges WTA 125 champion. She’s two short of her career best)
Evgeniya Rodina (RUS): No. 88 ———–> No. 74 (Limoges finalist)
Margarita Gasparyan (RUS): No. 105 ———–> No. 92 (Her semifinal in Limoges gets her back into the top 100, into Australia, after a busy fall. She retired after thee games of that semifinal. She was at No. 299 going into Tashkent just six weeks ago).
Mandy Minella (LUX): No. 111 ———–> No. 105 (Minella is now within one ranking spot of the protected ranking she used after maternity leave).
Vera Zvonareva (RUS): No. 123 ———–> No. 112 (A late-season push may not have been quite enough to get her into Melbourne).
Nicole Gibbs (USA): No. 147 ———–> No. 127 (Finalist in Las Vegas)
Ivana Jorovic (SRB): No. 185 ———–> No. 135 (The 21-year-old is one off a career best reached two years ago).
ON THE DOWNSWING
Shuai Zhang (CHN): No. 35 ———–> No. 39
Kaia Kanepi (EST): No. 58 ———–> No. 62
Tamara Zidansek (SLO): No. 70 ———–> No. 80
Taylor Townsend (USA): No. 74 ———–> No. 91
Monica Niculescu (ROU): No. 78 ———–> No. 102 (Niculescu won Limoges a year ago. This year, she lost in the second round to Gasparyan).
The race for Melbourne
(Haven’t seen any of these names in the draw this week. Golubic and Minella are entered in the Dubai ITF the week of Dec. 10 – but that’s too late.
Note the pretty big names here: Vandeweghe, Kuznetsova. Safarova is retiing after this event, and Errani isn’t eligible to return from her doping suspension until after the Australian Open).