Garbine Muguruza has become the first player to cement her place at the WTA Finals in Singapore.
Muguruza, the new world No.1, will headline the eight-player singles field at the $US7 million season-ending event.
It is unusually late for the first qualifier to be announced in September; in previous years, at least one player has typically qualified in July following Wimbledon.
Last year, Serena Williams and Angelique Kerber were the first to qualify for the tournament, almost a month earlier than Muguruza this year.
“Every season one of my main goals is to qualify for Singapore, as it’s proof you are one of the best eight players of the year,” Muguruza said.
“To secure my place so early gives me great satisfaction and motivates me to keep working hard as we enter the last section of the season.
“I have great memories of the tournament and the city. It will be my third year in a row there, and I look forward to playing my best tennis.”
Muguruza won Wimbledon in July for her second Grand Slam title, and followed that up with victory at the Premier 5 event in Cincinnati. Beginning with Rome in May, she has won 28 of her past 35 matches.
She rose to No.1 after the US Open, where Karolina Pliskova – who previously held top spot – failed to defend her finals points from 2016 when she fell to CoCo Vandeweghe in the quarterfinals.
Muguruza’s best result at the WTA Finals came in 2015, when she reached the semifinals.
Simona Halep, Karolina Pliskova and Elina Svitolina are the next in line to qualify for the eight player field.
Interestingly, Muguruza could be the only major champion in the field in 2017; Australian Open winner Serena Williams remains on the sidelines while Roland Garros champion Jelena Ostapenko clings to eighth place in the Race to Singapore.
US Open victor Sloane Stephens is currently 12th, having played just five events in her comeback from foot surgery.
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