Play begins tomorrow at the TEB BNP Paribas WTA Championships, featuring the top eight qualifiers for the event. And with 24 titles won among them—including three Grand Slams—it's a very solid field, to say the least.
However, what would the tournament look like if 13-time Major singles champion Serena Williams were among the elite competing this week? And does her absence hurt the quality of the year-end championships?
The months since the end of Wimbledon in 2010 have been filled with their fair share of highs and lows: injuries and health scares kept her off the court for a year, then upon her return, her game started to return to form during the '11 summer hard-court season. Williams won two events, then made it to the finals of the season's last Major, the U.S. Open, before falling to Samantha Stosur.
So is it fair to say the championships would have a different feel if Williams were in the draw? Of course, because whenever one of the game's all-time greatest players enters an event—seeded, unseeded, as a wild card—the other competitors always have to be wary.
It would be great for everyone involved in the sport if Williams would have qualified for the year-end event. The fans would enjoy seeing her, the tournament director would welcome such a major draw and the players would like nothing more than to test themselves against one of the best.
Her absence does leave a bit of a void, but the players in Istanbul are more than up to the challenge of filling it. Women's tennis is truly at an impressive time in its history, with nearly unprecedented balance as evidenced by four different Grand Slam singles champions this season—including three first-time winners.
Williams, a two-time winner of the championships, has had a stranglehold on the game's grandest prizes over the years. The rest of her peers at the top are ready to show that their time is now—whether she's in the draw or not—and to continue displaying the depth the WTA has to offer.