Angelique Kerber, Dominika Cibulkova win Red Group at Finals

The round-robin play completed Thursday in the Red Group with both a not-so-surprising advancer and a surprising one.

Angelique Kerber, who is looking for her first title since winning the 2016 US Open and seizing the World No. 1 ranking, advanced to the knock-out stages of the 2016 WTA Tour Finals in Singapore. The German only dropped one set in her three matches, defeating all of Madison Keys, Dominika Cibulkova, and Simona Halep. Β Kerber will be the top seed from the Red Group when it crosses over to play the White Group, the latter having not yet been settled at time of writing.

Cibulkova also advanced from the Red Group, she on tiebreakers. The No. 7 seed finished 1-2 with a victory over Halep proving crucial. Keys, Halep, and Cibulkova each had an identical record, but Cibulkova managed to go 3-4 in the tournament on sets played while the other two players went just 2-4. That edge keeps her alive and she will face the top seed on the other half of the draw once the White Group settles.

That group itself will see completion on Friday. Svetlana Kuznetsova is the leader at 2-0 while both Agnieszka Radwanska and Karolina Pliskova are 1-1. Garbine Muguruza, at 0-2, is already eliminated from contention as the Spaniard continues her poor post-French Open form.

For Kerber, the prize money and ranking points are both already piling up in Singapore. She earned 250 ranking points per victory in the round-robin stage and carries the maximum 750 into the knock-out round. For prize money so far she has earned $610,000 with more to be won if she can keep up her solid form.

The victories also help consolidate her No. 1 ranking. Despite holding the edge in the rankings already, she did not do well at the 2015 WTA World Tour Finals, going 1-2 in the round robin last year. That means she’s doing much better already relative to last season with more to gain in the days ahead.

On live rankings (ie. including this week’s results), Kerber currently holds a 1700-point lead over Serena Williams, a player who is idle and whose expected impact in the future is unclear at her advanced age. Kerber’s edge over third-ranked Agnieszka Radwanska is a huge 3400-point advantage, so if Williams isn’t fit to make a charge at the World No. 1 in 2017 it could set up the German for a lengthy run at the top.

A title in Singapore has to be the expectation this weekend for the top-ranked women’s player. Β The German isn’t quite at even odds for that, however many sportsbooks are pricing her at 11/10 as the leader in the outright market (ie. BetVictor).

Shane Lambert