Younger tennis players still on the way


Singapore (AFP)

Even without Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova, the changing of the guard in women's tennis still seems a little way off.

At the WTA Finals in Singapore this week, the four oldest and most experienced players in the tournament filled the semi-finals spots at the expense of their younger opponents.

Russia's Svetlana Kuznetsova, the tournament's oldest player at 31, was the first player to qualify for the knockout phase.

She was joined by newly crowned world number one Angelique Kerber, who is 28, and Dominika Cibulkova and Agnieszka Radwanska, both 27.

The elite season-ending competition is reserved for the top eight female tennis players but with Williams and Sharapova missing, it was ripe for one of the younger qualifiers to make their mark but that never transpired.

Just 23, French Open winner Garbine Muguruza came with high hopes. She made the semis last year but lost her first two matches this week and was the first player eliminated.

"It was very emotional for me to be here, and then the way the matches went I couldn't make it," Muguruza said after winning her third and final match.

"I was just happy that I've been through it and I won the match and I'm like done. Yeah, it's been a hard year for me for sure."

Simona Halep, who on her third outing to Singapore is the most experienced of the four younger players, came agonisingly close to the semis but was knocked out after her loss to Cibulkova on Thursday.

US Open finalist Karolina Pliskova, who played both singles and doubles, put her losses down to inexperience.

"Right now I know how is it here to play. I got used to it, the system, and I'll be more experienced next year. Hopefully I'll be back," she added.

Madison Keys, who is widely seen as the next big thing in American women's tennis after the Williams sisters, had her qualifying hopes dashed after Thursday's defeat by Kerber.

Keys said after the match: "I think it just shows that tennis is evolving a little bit. People aren't winning slams at 21 anymore. It's later. Angelique made number one in the world at 28, so that wasn't happening before.

"That just gives me a little bit of a sense of relief. It feels like I don't have have to figure it all out tomorrow."