The finals matchup in Beijing between the two most recent young Slam champions was an apt ending to a top-level event.
And the fact that Ashleigh Barty and Naomi Osaka, who both have had a few bumps in the road this season, were able to get there and rev up for a run at the Tour finals in Shenzhen was good news for the event, which will be in a new (albeit temporary) facility in a new city for the first year of a planned 10-year-run.
Osaka, in particular, had a renaissance in Asia after a (relatively) disappointing US Open.
She returned to her Japanese namesake hometown and won.
And then she got to Beijing, with its sterling field, and beat all comers to take the title.
The 21-year-old is on her way back up the rankings now, up to No. 3 and less than 400 points behind first-round Beijing loser Karolina Pliskova for the No. 2 spot.
ON THE UPSWING
Bianca Andreescu (CAN): No. 6 =========== No. 5 (The Canadian saw all sorts of nutty streaks come to an end in an absorbing first encounter with Osaka in the Beijing quarterfinals. But she slips past Simona Halep and back into the No. 5 spot. Her goal of finishing in the top three at season’s end is not out of reach).
Marketa Vondrousova (CZE): No. 21=========== No. 18 (The Czech lefty, who is out for the season after wrist surgery, nevertheless jumped back into the top 20 because of what other players ranked near her didn’t do).
Elise Mertens (BEL): No. 23=========== No. 19 (Despite losing to Andreescu in the second round in Beijing, Mertens jumps back into the top 20).
Alison Riske (USA): No. 24=========== No. 20 (At long last for the 29-year-old: she’s in the top 20 for the first time in her career after reaching the third round in Beijing).
Dayana Yastremska (KAZ): No. 26=========== No. 23 (The teenager jumps to a new career high, despite losing in the second round in Beijing. She reached the doubles final as well, and so is at a career-high No. 85 there after ending 2018 at No. 346).
Daria Kasatkina (RUS): No. 45=========== No. 39 (The former top-10 player gets back into the top 40 after stringing a couple of victories together in Beijing).
Venus Williams (USA): No. 59=========== No. 51 (A second-round loss in Beijing, but an opportunity to perhaps do something in Tianjin this week).
Jennifer Brady (USA): No. 66=========== No. 56 (As impressive as her rise to a new career best were the generous words she offered to the younger Andreescu after being beaten by her in the second round in Beijing).
Christina Mchale (USA): No. 90=========== No. 81 (After spending too much time outside the top 100, it’s nice to see the former No. 24 make some progress).
Eugenie Bouchard (CAN): No. 151=========== No. 149 (The idle Canadian slips back into the top 150. But the big moment will come in a week’s time, when she defends her last big cache of ranking points from a run from the qualifying to the semifinals in Luxembourg a year ago. The 25-year-old is on a 13-match futility streak which includes a defeat at an ITF event nearly two weeks ago to the world No. 272, in her only match since the US Open. Without those points, Bouchard could find herself down to No. 220 after Luxembourg).
Xiyu Wang (CHN): No. 161=========== No. 154 (Just to thicken the “X Wang” plot even more, the two X Wangs will meet in the final round of qualifying in Tianjin on Monday).
Xinyu Wang (CHN): No. 162=========== No. 155 (It’s too soon to tell where these two 18-year-olds will go in their careers. But right now they are tied with exactly the same number of points. For Xinyu, it’s a career high).
Caroline Dolehide (USA): No. 203=========== No. 162 (The 21-year-old American wins the ITF in Charleston last week).
Urszula Radwanska (POL): No. 290=========== No. 262 (The former No. 29, now 28 and in her 15th year as a pro, has been back on the scene for awhile after an injury absence. But she’s had trouble getting any sort of momentum, so winning the $25K ITF in Clermont Ferrand last week should help. Radwanska had been 2-7 going back to early June. And despite playing 18 tournaments going into France, she had only managed to raise her ranking 25 spots in 2019).
ON THE DOWNSWING
Caroline Wozniacki (DEN): No. 19=========== No. 24 (It’s been a tough year for the newlywed, subsequent to her rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis. But she did well to make the semifinals in Beijing, where she was the defending champion).
Anastasija Sevastova (LAT): No. 18=========== No. 25 (The Latvian was at a career high No. 11 a year ago next week, which might not have been sustainable given it included a US Open semifinal. She found herself having to defend a Beijing final, and couldn’t do it. She also has semifinalist’s points from Moscow to defend a week from now).
Katerina Siniakova (CZE): No. 47=========== No. 58
Kirsten Flipkens (BEL): No. 101=========== No. 120 (Not only that, Flipkens also lost in the first round of the qualifying in Linz over the weekend. She doesn’t have much time left to make a push for the main draw in Australia).
Daria Gavrilova (AUS): No. 145=========== No. 167 (Call it tough sledding, Volume 1 as the 25-year-old Moscow-born Aussie, a former No. 20, drops again. She has won just one match since Eastbourne in June, and hasn’t played since the US Open).
Aleksandra Krunic (SRB): No. 146=========== No. 169 (Tough sledding, Volume 2 as the Moscow-born Serb and former No. 39 also drops. She has won just one match since July).
Dominika Cibulkova (SVK): No. 159=========== No. 312 (A big chunk of the former No. 4’s points fall off as her absence continues. Cibulkova hasn’t played sicne the French Open, and won just two matches in nine tournaments before she fell off the map).
The road to Shenzhen
Barty, Osaka, Pliskova, Halep, Andreescu and Kvitova have qualified for Shenzhen.
The battle for the last two spots will be interesting even if Serena Williams, who hasn’t played since the US Open, is the wild card in terms of her participation.
Here are the players in the running.
Kiki Bertens has taken a wild card into Linz this week, while Kvitova has pulled out – as it turns out, it was announced Sunday night that she had qualified. So she probably already knew.
Bencic is the No. 2 seed in Linz.
Kvitova and Bertens are entered in Moscow next week – the final week of the WTA’s “regular season”.
It’s a Premier event, so therefore offers more points.
Will Bencic end up trying to snag a wild card, if she’s in the major thick of it? Will Kvitova withdraw there as well?
That harkens back to the great Singapore chase of 2018 (which also harkened back to the great “Switcharoo of 2013”).
Funnily enough, the one player who was completely dependant on all the last-minute machinations working out in her favour last year was Elina Svitolina.
And Svitolina ended up winning the whole thing. And who did she beat in the final? Sloane Stephens!