What you need to know ahead of Bianca Andreescu’s WTA Finals debut

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Canada's Bianca Andreescu. (Frank Gunn/CP)

The final event of the WTA season starts on Sunday in China and it offers Canadian tennis fans one final look at women’s tennis star Bianca Andreescu.

The 19-year-old from Thornhill, Ont., is one of eight women — and the youngest — competing at the Shenzhen event after a remarkable breakout season.

Here’s what you need to know before the WTA Finals get underway.

WHAT IS IT?

The WTA Finals divide the top eight women’s tennis players into two groups after an accumulation of the most ranking points from 52 tournaments throughout the year — including the four Grand Slams.

Andreescu, after winning the U.S. Open in September, entered the tournament ranked No. 4.

FORMAT

The tournament features two groups — Red and Purple — and a draw took place to determine which players were grouped together.

Andreescu landed in the Purple Group alongside Karolina Pliskova (No. 2), Simona Halep (No. 5) and Elina Svitolina (No. 8), who is also the defending champion.

Ashleigh Barty (No. 1), Naomi Osaka (No. 3), Petra Kvitova (No. 6) and Belinda Bencic (No. 7) are in Group Red.

Unlike other tennis tournaments, the Finals offer more than one opportunity to win as each player plays against one another in their respective groups. The top two records in each group then advance to the semifinals with the winners moving on to the Nov. 3 finale.

The prize purse is US$14 million and Andreescu could earn herself upwards to $4.725 million depending on how she does throughout the tournament.

BIANCA’S COMPETITION

Andreescu’s first opponent is Halep of Romania on Monday morning in Canada.

Andreescu is of Romanian descent and has studied Halep’s game for many years, although this will be their first matchup against each other. The teenager told Melissa Couto of The Canadian Press that she was “super pumped” when she found out Halep would be her first opponent.

“I’ve been going up against a lot of players I used to grow up watching and idolizing so I don’t think I’ll have a problem with that,” she told CP.

Andreescu has fared well against top-10 opponents this year, posting an 8-1 record with her only loss coming against Osaka earlier this month during the China Open’s quarterfinals.

Not competing at the event is American Serena Williams, the 23-time Grand Slam champion, whom Andreescu beat in the U.S. Open final in New York.

LATEST RESULTS

The China Open was Andreescu’s first competition since winning the U.S. Open and was her first loss on Tour in six months — not counting withdrawals or retirements.

She’s posted a 48-5 record this season and has a good chance at doing well at the Finals.

Within her group, Andreescu defeated Pliskova during the Rogers Cup quarterfinals in Toronto — a tournament she won — and got past Svitolina in the Indian Wells semifinals — which she also won.

Three titles, including a Grand Slam win, has made for a dream season so far for Andreescu and there could be more on the way.

DOUBLES

Andreescu isn’t the only Canadian competing in Shenzhen as Ottawa’s Gabriela Dabrowski has teamed up with China’s Yifan Xu.

The duo are the tournament’s No. 4 seed and begin play on Sunday night against Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova.

Dabrowski has appeared in three doubles finals this year and claimed victory in May in Nurnberg, Germany.

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