Tennis: Serena Williams and Angelique Kerber first to qualify for WTA Finals in Singapore

Serena Williams (left) and Angelique Kerber have confirmed their entry for the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore.
Serena Williams (left) and Angelique Kerber have confirmed their entry for the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore. PHOTO: AFP

SINGAPORE - Serena Williams and Angelique Kerber, the world's top two female tennis players, are set to battle it out for the year-end No. 1 ranking at the season-ending BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global.

The pair have qualified for the Oct 23-30 season finale, which will feature the top eight singles players and doubles pairs of the year. Their season's performances are reflected on the Road to Singapore leaderboard.

Williams (6,270 points) and Kerber (5,802 points) are the two leading players on the leaderboard and they are the first two to confirm their entry to the Singapore showpiece.

Williams, who has a staggering 22 Grand Slam titles, will be making the 10th WTA Finals appearance of her career and it will be the 34-year-old American's second trip to Singapore, having won the title in 2014. She pulled out of the tournament last year.

She said: "I have great memories of winning the title in Singapore in 2014 and being supported by so many fans. I can't wait to be back in Singapore later this year to hopefully win my sixth Billie Jean King Trophy."

Kerber, this year's Australian Open winner, has never advanced from the round robin stage in her past four WTA Finals appearances. The 28-year-old German said: "It is one of the most important events of the year and we all fight to qualify. I have great memories from my other experiences at the tournament and I hope to play some great matches and win the title."

Tournament director and vice-president for WTA Asia-Pacific, Melissa Pine, said: "2016 has been such an exciting year in women's tennis and we are so thrilled to welcome Serena Williams and Angelique Kerber back to compete at the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global. Serena and Angelique have both had a great season so far and the fans will once again be inspired by watching them finish their season on a high in Singapore."

Williams and Kerber enter the later half of this season with little separating the two. Hence, the WTA Finals could be important in the battle for the year-end No.1 ranking.

Last week, Kerber came just one victory short of overthrowing world No. 1 Williams at the top of the Women's Tennis Association (WTA) rankings.

She started this year ranked 10th but now finds herself within striking range (190 points) of knocking Williams off the No. 1 spot, a position the American has held for 184 consecutive weeks - two weeks short of Steffi Graf's all-time record.

Enjoying the best season of her career, Kerber has recorded 47 victories, the most among players, so far for this year. Her season has been highlighted by her first Grand Slam win at the Australian Open in January, reaching the final at Wimbledon, and winning a silver medal at the Olympic Games.

While Kerber has packed her Tour schedule heavily with tournaments - she has played in 17 of them, Williams have been keeping hers light, as she opted to play in just seven events for this year.

Yet Williams has maintained her grip at the top of the rankings by performing well at the majors, lifting her 22nd Grand Slam trophy at Wimbledon and reaching the finals at the Australian Open and French Open.

In the doubles competition, Martina Hingis and Sania Mirza have also qualified for the tournament. But their participation remains in doubt as the Swiss-Indian pair have recently split.