Reem's Singapore diary: Finals format baffles players

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Counting game: Ana Ivanovic found the table to be a distraction on the court.

Round robin format is so uncommon in tennis that when the year-end championships come, confusion reigns.

Even the WTA sent out incorrect qualification scenarios the other day and most of the players say they try to avoid thinking about calculations and focus on winning irrespective of their chances.

Not Ana Ivanovic though. She caught herself counting games and sets during her win over Eugenie Bouchard earlier in the week before shutting it down and regaining her concentration.

“At one point in my match today I started counting, and I’m like ‘why am I doing this?’” said Ivanovic.

“Sometimes in a group that’s why it’s tough. You know what? I don’t want to know. I want to go out there and play the best I can and fight for each game.” 

The White Group this week was up for grabs until the final moments.

Maria Sharapova looked like she had no idea she didn’t advance after she beat Agnieszka Radwanska in three sets on Friday but the Russian wouldn’t confirm that when I asked her later.

Meanwhile, Radwanska walked off the court knowing that her fate rested in the hands of her friend of 15 years, Caroline Wozniacki, who was up next against Petra Kvitova. A Wozniacki win guaranteed Radwanska a spot in the semis and the Pole said she would make it worth her while if she got the job done against Kvitova.

“When I saw her (Wozniacki before her match), she was already like ‘I know, I know’.  She knew what was going on. She wasn’t surprised. I think we’re just going to go shopping, but with my credit card,” said a laughing Radwanska of her brief encounter with Wozniacki before the Dane stepped on court.

After finishing off Kvitova, Wozniacki said she’ll hold Radwanska to that promise: “She owes me a handbag. I think that’s what I’m going to go for.”

While it may seem stressful for the players, not knowing whether they would make it or not, Radwanska finds it exciting.

“Well, this is only tournament that if you lose even two matches you can still go out from the group (qualify),” she explained.

“So, well, I think it’s pretty exciting, especially that every match is 50/50. You’re playing against other seven top players, and if you see and watch, I think every match is very exciting.

“You can even see until now that everything is open. So it’s good that until the last day we still don’t know who is going to win and who’s going to go out even from the other group as well.”

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Billie Jean is a lover of on-court coaching on the ATP Tour

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All in favour: Billie Jean King believes the men's game can benefit from mid-match coaching breaks.

With women’s tennis on the cusp of revolutionising the way coaches assist their players during matches, Billie Jean King believes the ATP should follow the WTA’s lead by allowing on-court coaching in the men’s game.

In light of their new sponsorship deal with SAP, the WTA announced this week that, as of next season, coaches will be permitted to bring an authorised mobile device onto the court during a coaching break and use real-time data insights to analyse player performance.

On-court coaching was introduced to women’s tennis in 2009 but has not crept into the men’s game, with a majority of the ATP players strongly against it.

But tennis legend King, the founder of the WTA, thinks the men’s game can benefit from the same model.

“I think they should have coaching for the men and the women. And I think they should be able to signal, because they do anyway, from the stands,” King told reporters on the sidelines of the WTA Finals in Singapore.

“In football, they signal from the sidelines all the time. I think that's what we should do. I don't think we should have to wait between sets and I think the men should do it. You know why? There's more to talk about and there's more content.

 “I think any time we can get more content, that's good. And if we can get our coaches to have more respect in our sport, I think it would really be helpful.”

The new WTA coaching app, which has been used this season by players and coaches post-match to prepare for future games, will be available for use by players when they call on their coaches during matches from the 2015 season.

The news has been met with mixed reactions with some welcoming the technology and others firmly against it.

Wim Fissette, coach of world No4 Simona Halep, believes it will be a useful tool.

“These statistics on the coaching app will make my job easier and my advice more accurate during a match,” said the Belgian.

But his student would prefer it if he didn’t make any mid-match trips to her bench at all.

“I don't like to call my coach on court and to speak about this,” said the Romanian. “I like to be alone there, to see what I can do during the matches.

“I think it helps some players. It's a good idea but I cannot comment on this, because for me I don't like it.”

Caroline Wozniacki isn’t sure her father Piotr, who is her coach, can even know how to use a tablet and pull up the stats but says she can do it herself when he joins her on court.

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Wozniacki eases past Kvitova, Radwanska advances

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On a roll: Caroline Wozniacki remains unbeaten in the WTA Finals.

Caroline Wozniacki is a good friend.

So good, that she stepped on court on Friday in Singapore not really needing to win but she gave 100 per cent anyway to rout Petra Kvitova, and in the process, allowed her long-time pal Agnieszka Radwanska to secure a spot in the semi-finals.

Friendship will mean little though when Wozniacki takes on another BFF, Serena Williams, who clinched the year-end No1 ranking and booked a place in the semis without picking up a racquet on Friday.

It will be the fourth meeting of the year between the pair and the Dane, who enters the semis undefeated this week, is well aware of her poor record against Williams.

“My matchup against Serena so far hasn’t been great,” said Wozniacki after easing past Kvitova 6-2, 6-3 yesterday.

“I’ve won once and lost nine or ten times. I don’t even count anymore. But it’s a new tournament and it’s a new week. I’ve been playing well really and I believe that if I play like I did today then it doesn’t matter who’s on the other side [of the court], I can win.”

– Sharapova crashes out of Finals despite win

Wozniacki is actually 1-9 against Williams, who was only guaranteed a place in the last four after Romania’s Simona Halep took a set off Ana Ivanovic in the last round robin match of the tournament last night.

Ivanovic had to win in straight sets to make it through to the semis but fell short, ending her season with a WTA-leading 58 wins but not enough to stop Williams from taking second place in the Red Group behind the Romanian.

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