Each week, Tennis Channel and TENNIS.com will feature a Tough Call around a thought-provoking topic, and our panel of experts will weigh in both on-air and online.
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In this week's edition of Tough Call: Will Simona Halep finish 2017 as world No. 1?
Ready, set, go...
3 REASONS HALEP COULD FINISH 2017 AS NO. 1
~ She’s leading the year-to-date Porsche Race To Singapore, meaning she’s earned more ranking points than anyone so far this year—a good benchmark for year-end No. 1.
~ She’ll be one of the favorites to win the U.S. Open—she’s gone deep there the last two years, reaching the semifinals in 2015 (falling to eventual champion Flavia Pennetta) and the quarterfinals in 2016 (falling to then-world No. 1 Serena Williams in three sets).
~ She’s finished the last three years in the Top 4, but this will be the first year that Serena Williams won’t be in her way— usually a major obstacle for the No. 2-ranked Romanian.
3 REASONS HALEP MAY NOT FINISH 2017 AS NO. 1
~ Her lead on the year-to-date race is thin—she has 4,020 points, but there are seven other players within 700 points of her (and the U.S. Open, for example, is worth 2,000 points).
~ She hasn’t won a major yet, and other top players have—and if those top players can pull off a U.S. Open win, they may build an insurmountable lead in the year-to-date race.
~ A few multiple Grand Slam winners have returned to the tour, which could throw the rankings into a bit of chaos. With Maria Sharapova, Victoria Azarenka and Petra Kvitova all back, there could be some tough early draws for the top players, including Halep…
OUR EXPERTS WEIGH IN
STEVE FLINK: No
I see the battle for No. 1 going down to the wire, with Karolina Pliskova and Halep both having a good chance to end the year at the top. Halep is the more reliable player, but Pliskova has a bigger arsenal of shots and the capacity to blast adversaries off the court. I lean toward Pliskova concluding the year residing at No. 1, so my answer is no on Halep.
ED MCGROGAN: Yes
Consistency, rather than excellency, can secure the year-end No. 1 ranking in the WTA this season. In her seven tournaments since Indian Wells, Halep hasn't lost before the quarterfinal round. The current No. 2—but No. 1 in the Race to Singapore—is an all-court threat, and she'll pick up many more points this summer in North America. A Grand Slam title continues to elude Halep, but entering 2018 as No. 1 would be more than a worthy consolation prize.
NINA PANTIC: Yes
She deserves it more than anyone else on tour, mostly due to her stubbornness to play week in and week out. The Romanian has her mental game on track after a blip in Miami. Her tough-to-stomach losses at the French Open and Wimbledon will only further motivate her to win more of the big matches in New York and throughout the rest of the year.
ASHLEY NDEBELE: No
Despite suffering an agonizing loss in Paris where she squandered a handsome lead in the final, Halep continued to play good tennis at Wimbledon, and there's no reason to suggest she won't be able to continue this fine form on the hard courts. However, Pliskova, the reigning WTA queen, is known to peak around the U.S. Open Series, and has a good chance of winning the U.S. Open. I see her keeping the No. 1 crown.
STEVE TIGNOR: Yes
Halep looks up for the challenge. She's healthy, she's taken a wild card into D.C. so she can maximize what has historically been the best part of her season and she doesn't have a ton to defend after the U.S. Open. With three different winners through the first three Slams, this may be a season where a tortoise, rather than a hare, wins the WTA race.
BRAD KALLET: Yes
Coming into this week, No. 1 Pliskova led Halep by 981 points with plenty of season left. Even though the Romanian is probably kicking herself for not winning the French Open—she had a real shot at Wimbledon, too—she’s been awfully consistent. Both Pliskova and Halep have a lot of points to defend in the hard-court season, but the opportunity is there for Halep. She’ll take it.
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