Pick a winner for the WTA Finals? Don't ask the tennis legends
Missing Serena, it's anyone's game, say the legends
They have 25 Grand Slam singles titles between them and a lifetime of tennis running through their veins.
But Martina Navratilova, Tracy Austin, Arantxa Sanchez Vicario and Marion Bartoli could not come to anything remotely resembling a consensus, on who could come out on top at the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global.
Meeting the media at the Singapore Indoor Stadium yesterday, the legends were united in being perplexed by the fluctuations the sport has witnessed, with the Tour's long calendar and accompanying media pressures singled out as key issues affecting the top athletes.
"On Sunday, I predicted that (Agnieszka) Radwanska had a great chance of beating (Maria) Sharapova and, the longer the match goes, the better chance she has," said Navratilova, of the Red Group match that Sharapova won 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.
"It went completely the other way - so much for expert opinion."
Sharapova has struggled with leg and forearm injuries and has not played since July, but the absence of any rust in her game surprised American former world No. 1 Austin.
"With so many of these players today, I just find their consistency level so up and down. I would like to know why, is it more depth (in the field), is it the pressure?" she said.
"It's just an interesting time," added Austin, who pointed to inconsistent performances, including Garbine Muguruza's blitz to reach the 2015 Wimbledon final before succumbing easily to Serena Wlliams in the final.
"I'm usually pretty bold in picking somebody (to win)... but I just can't feel it. We usually pick from recent (performances) and past history, but I just can't pick."
Bartoli, who retired in 2013 after being plagued by injures, is the most recent active player among the others, and she suggested an explanation.
With growing media attention on players on the Tour, a great performance would see them required to spend more time on media engagements, rather than honing their craft.
"You do less and less on court for your sport, and the other ones (players) are doing the opposite, they're getting ready to beat you," said the 31-year-old Frenchwoman.
"You feel when you come back, it's almost like you have to start it (making your way up to the top) all over again.
"The winning margin becomes tinier and tinier."
Bartoli appeared to be in agreement with Navratilova on the need for the annual tennis calendar to be shortened.
"I think it would probably the length of the calendar, that's a long-term project," said Navratilova, on what new WTA chief executive Steve Simon would address as his first order of business.
"The number of injuries and withdrawals is too high, the season is too long... I think something needs to be done."
World No. 1 Williams pulled out of this year's WTA Finals due to injury, leaving the door open for a new winner here.
Sanchez Vicario says "anything can happen" in a round-robin format, but backed her Spanish compatriot Muguruza to come good.
"She's got the powerful game for today, she's very tall and very big. She's definitely one of the favourites," Sanchez Vicario said.
Bartoli's belief in world No. 2 Simona Halep grew after the Romanian took apart Flavia Pennetta in 70 minutes on Sunday.
"I would have to put (Halep) as the favourite. Although, all things being equal, if Kvitova plays her best tennis, she should win every tournament she plays in," said Navratilova, who trailed off with a wry smile.
"Talk about fluctuation, once again... "
Get The New Paper on your phone with the free TNP app. Download from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store now