Sports

Simona Halep rules roost before WTA Finals but Serena is being missed | Jacob Steinberg

World No1 spot has changed hands a few times this year, with Halep the latest holder after Garbiñe Muguruza and Karolina Pliskova’s turns at the top

Sometimes it is not the quality of the competition that matters to an audience but the possibility of witnessing new and exciting narratives. For proof that a contest can be compelling without being entertaining, look no further than the US Open final last month between Sloane Stephens and Madison Keys. It was a stinker. Keys froze and Stephens needed only 61 minutes to beat her friend 6-3, 6-0.

That there have been more memorable finals was indisputable, but that was unimportant. Instead of griping about the level of the tennis, fans and pundits revelled in a stirring comeback tale featuring a character who had just returned from 11 months out with a foot injury. The point of the story was how, in the space of six weeks, Stephens rose from the depths of 957th in the world rankings to become one of the unlikeliest of grand slam champions. This was sport at its most human. It was also ammunition for those who believe that women’s tennis is on the slide.

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