The great eight: Top women’s stars prepare for WTA Finals in China – but who has the edge heading into $14mn season finale?

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The eight top-ranked female tennis players in the world have gathered in Shenzhen, China, for the season-ending WTA Finals which kick off on Sunday.

Throughout the entire season players have been fighting for titles and precious points to qualify for the season finale, which has moved from Singapore last year to Shenzhen – and has seen its prize money double from $7 million to $14 million, with the champion picking up a whopping $4.7 million.

READ MORE: ‘I love Russia, I love the tournaments & the breakfasts!’ Meet Kremlin Cup 2019 winner Belinda Bencic (PHOTOS, VIDEO)

RT Sport takes a look at the contenders who will be in action in Shenzhen from October 27 till November 3.

Red Group: Ashleigh Barty, Naomi Osaka, Petra Kvitova and Belinda Bencic

Ashleigh Barty (Australia)

World number one and Roland Garros champion Ashleigh Barty has had a sensational season that has seen her rise to the summit of the women’s rankings.

In June she claimed her maiden Grand Slam singles title, defeating Markéta Vondrousová in the French Open final, 6–1, 6–3.

She also added the Miami Open and Birmingham Nature Valley Classic titles to her name, topping the WTA rankings as she edged out Naomi Osaka, becoming the first Australian woman to be number one since 1976.

Naomi Osaka (Japan)

The two-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka of Japan saw her results nosedive after victory at the 2019 Australian Open where she defeated Petra Kvitova.

A recurring knee injury and split with longtime coach Sascha Bajin appeared to affect her results this year, as she failed to deliver a strong performance at three other Grand Slam tournaments.

However, the Japanese looks to have become competitive again at the autumn tournaments, taking consecutive titles in Tokyo and Beijing.

Unbeaten for 10 matches in row, Osaka has regained form at the right time to establish herself as one of the main contenders to clinch the WTA title.

Petra Kvitova (Czech Republic)

The Czech tennis ace will be one of the most experienced players in Shenzhen, taking part in her in her seventh WTA Finals.

She had a superb start to the year, winning the title in Sydney and reaching the final of the Australian Open, but a left forearm injury ended her sensational run, forcing the player miss a major part of the season.

Belinda Bencic (Switzerland)

Belinda Bencic was the last player to book a spot in the WTA Finals after her victory at the Kremlin Cup in Moscow. Having qualified for the season finale, she denied US tennis icon Serena Williams a berth leaving her in ninth place.

The former world number one junior advanced to her first ever Grand Slam semifinal this year, reaching the last four at the US Open where she lost to the eventual champion Bianca Andreescu.

Purple Group: Karolina Pliskova, Bianca Andreescu, Simona Halep and Elina Svitolina

Karolina Pliskova (Czech Republic)

Karolina Pliskova enters the WTA Finals as the player with the most titles won during the season.

She has claimed four WTA trophies – in Brisbane, Rome, Eastbourne, and Zhengzhou – and made five final appearances.

She also made it to the semifinal of the 2019 Australian Open where she was beaten by Naomi Osaka.

Bianca Andreescu (Canada)

Canadian rising star Bianca Andreescu made a huge sensation at this year’s US Open, upsetting 23-time Grand Slam winner Serena Williams in the final.

With that remarkable triumph the 19-year-old became the first Canadian ever to lift a Major singles title.

Simona Halep (Romania)

Simona Halep got off to a brilliant start this year by reaching two finals in Doha and Madrid.

However that relative success was overshadowed by a huge disappointment at the French Open when she failed to defend her title, being eliminated by unseeded US player Amanda Anisimova in the quarterfinal.

Halep redeemed herself in style by winning Winbledon, where she outplayed Serena Williams in the final.

Elina Svitolina (Ukraine)

Ukrainian tennis star Elina Svitolina will be attempting to defend the title she took home last year in Singapore.

She hasn’t enjoyed a brilliant season, being left without a title and losing all five semi-finals she took part in, including her maiden US Open last four clash against Serena Williams.

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