As the 2019 tennis season comes to a close, the women are set to take center stage at the elite year-end WTA Finals in Shenzhen. More specifically – a trio of BNP Paribas Open champions will look to put the perfect finishing touches on their spectacular 2019 seasons.
Among the eight singles qualifiers, Tennis Paradise titlists’ Naomi Osaka, Bianca Andreescu and Simona Halep are each ready to showcase their play and end their season on a high note. Rounding out the draw in Shenzhen is World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty, along with Karolina Pliskova, Elina Svitolina, Petra Kvitová and Belinda Bencic.
For Osaka, Andreescu and Halep, each of their title runs in Indian Wells served as a kickoff point in elevating their careers to the next level. There must be something in the desert air, as raising the BNP Paribas Open trophy helped to catapult the three into perennial WTA Top 10 standing and title contention at almost every tournament thereafter.
Osaka, the current World No. 3, had undoubtedly the biggest breakthrough of her professional career by winning the 2018 BNP Paribas Open. Having never before made it past the third round of a Premier Mandatory event, she put together a dominant performance including defeating two top-five opponents and dropping only one set en route to the title. Following her Indian Wells triumph, the young Japanese star went on a run for the ages to blossom into global superstardom. She claimed her first Grand Slam title at the US Open in September, and later became the first woman to win consecutive Grand Slams since Serena Williams in 2015 by winning the Australian Open the following January. After struggling to find her rhythm in the middle months of the 2019 season, Osaka returned to form by claiming two more titles at the Pan Pacific Open and China Open to stamp her ticket into the upcoming WTA Finals.
For World No. 5 Andreescu, it’s hard to imagine how she could have put together a more perfect season than what she’s accomplished in 2019. While diehard tennis aficionados may have long had their eyes on the Canadian prospect, she arrived in the desert this past March with almost no expectations. An 18-year-old wild card recipient, Andreescu stunned a loaded player field to become the first-ever female wild card to claim the BNP Paribas Open trophy. Once again, Tennis Paradise turned a relative unknown into a future star, as Andreescu went on to win the Rogers Cup in her hometown of Toronto, and immediately followed up that performance by becoming the first Canadian in history to attain a Grand Slam title by taking the top spot at the US Open. Still in her teens, the future of women’s tennis will indeed include much more of Andreescu.
Blissful Bianca 🙌@Bandreescu_ becomes the only @wta wildcard to win the Indian Wells title in tournament history with her 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 victory over Angelique Kerber.#BNPPO19 pic.twitter.com/QmBMg0tyrQ
— BNP Paribas Open (@BNPPARIBASOPEN) March 17, 2019
Whereas Osaka and Andreescu represent the next generation of the women’s game, World No. 6 Halep has been a consistent staple atop the WTA leaderboard for the better part of a decade. While the Romanian had ascended to as high as World No. 2 before her title in Tennis Paradise, her victory at the 2015 BNP Paribas Open was her first Premier Mandatory trophy and by far the biggest title of her career. Since then, Halep has been ranked no lower than No. 4 in every season following and ended the year ranked No. 1 in both 2017 and 2018. This season, she added to her hardware in claiming her second career Grand Slam by taking home the trophy at Wimbledon. Now at the WTA Finals, she’ll look to show that she’s still atop the food chain amidst a plethora of future stars.
Whether Osaka, Andreescu, Halep or any of the other competitors ends up taking the year-end title in Shenzhen, one thing is abundantly clear: a BNP Paribas Open trophy is the first step towards WTA stardom.