WTA Finals History

Steffi Graf
Steffi Graf
© Getty Images
What is now known as the BNP Paribas WTA Finals presented by SC Global has come a long way since its first staging in Florida over 40 years ago.

1972: The WTA Championships was first sponsored by Virginia Slims, with the inaugural US$100,000 Virginia Slims Championships staged on clay in Boca Raton, Florida in October 1972 for Top 16 players; 17-year-old Chris Evert defeated Billie Jean King and Kerry Melville-Reid but had to forfeit the $25,000 winner's cheque due to her amateur status at the time; No.3 seed Margaret Court was forced to retire against Chris's younger sister Jeannie in the first round.

1973: Virginia Slims Championships in Boca Raton; Evert won again in an expanded 32-player field; No.2 seed Court didn't even make it as far as the first round this time, withdrawing before her first match due to injury.

1974: Virginia Slims Championships moved indoors to Los Angeles Arena; 16-player, knock-out draw; Evonne Goolagong ended Evert's two-year reign (and 12-match win streak at the event) to claim $32,000 first prize from total purse of $150,000.

1975: Tournament switched dates from October to April; Evert won her third Virginia Slims Championships title and $40,000 for defeating Martina Navratilova 64 62.

1976: Round robin format - two groups of four players, after first round elimination; Goolagong outlasted Evert in three sets at the LA Coliseum Arena, 63 57 63.

1977: Championships moved to Madison Square Garden, New York City for first time; 16-player field reduced to Round robin; Evert reached her sixth successive Championships final, defeating Brit Sue Barker for her fourth title.

1978: Moved to Oakland Coliseum, California; Navratilova won her first Championships crown, defeating Goolagong-Cawley for the $50,000 first prize.

1979: Avon (Cosmetics) took over sponsorship of the January-March Indoor Winter Circuit; $300,000 Avon Championships returned to the Garden (and would stay there until 2000); Navratilova downed 16-year-old Tracy Austin in three sets for $100,000 top prize in the eight-player double-elimination format draw.

1980: US Open champion Austin gained revenge, toppling Navratilova in three sets, a victory which catapulted the teenager to the top of the WTA's computer world rankings.

1981: Avon Championships saw the oldest player, 24-year-old Martina Navratilova, defeat the youngest competitor (and record youngest finalist at 15 years, nine months, 25 days), Andrea Jaeger, 63 76(3) for only the second time in five meetings.

1982: In the absence of Evert, Austin and Jaeger, unseeded Sylvia Hanika became the first German winner by stunning top seed Navratilova, halting the world No.1's 1982 unbeaten run at 27 matches.

1983: Virginia Slims returned as world title sponsor of the first unified circuit in women's tennis; Top 16 singles players and Top 8 doubles teams, based on the Championships Points System, assembled in the Garden for the $350,000 knock-out tournament; after defeating arch-rival Evert 62 60 for her fourth title and $80,000 winners cheque, Navratilova claimed she was "playing on another level now".

1984: Slims purse raised to $500,000; Navratilova triumphed over Evert again, this time 63 75 61, in the first best-of-five-set women's match for 83 years; Martina won $125,000, a record first prize for a women's only tournament.

1985: Navratilova avenged 1984 Australian Open semifinal defeat to Helena Sukova 63 75 64.

1986: (March) Navratilova avenged 1985 US Open final loss to Hana Mandlikova by winning first four-set Championships final, 62 60 36 61.

1986: Due to end-of-season date change, a second Virginia Slims Championships was held during third week of November; Navratilova won a record fifth consecutive Championships title (and eighth in all) by dealing 17-year-old Steffi Graf a 76(6) 63 62 loss in the title match; 30-year-old Navratilova, who became the oldest Virginia Slims Champion in the prestigious event's history, said after her record eighth win, that the Championships "is a showcase for women's tennis."

1987: Championships purse doubled to a record amount for a women's tennis tournament, at US$1,000,000; Navratilova suffered her first loss at the event since the 1982 final, going down 64 75 to 17-year-old Gabriela Sabatini in the quarterfinals, halting a sequence of 21 matches without defeat, also ending 10 straight final appearances dating back to 1978; world No.1 and Roland Garros champion Graf takes her first Virginia Slims Championships and $125,000, stopping Sabatini in four sets, 46 64 60 64.

1988: Pam Shriver upset both Evert and Graf en route to her most important singles final since the 1978 US Open, falling to Sabatini in three sets.

1989: Graf took her second Slims Championships title with a four-set victory over Navratilova, tying their head-to-head series at seven wins apiece.

1990: Kraft General Foods stepped in as WTA sponsor, but Virginia Slims retained control of the end-of-season Championships; total purse increased to $3,000,000; 16-year-old Monica Seles became the youngest Championships winner in history, by outlasting US Open champion Sabatini 64 57 36 64 62 in three hours, 47 minutes, the first women's match to extend to five sets in 89 years; champion's prize money increased to $250,000.

1991: In a repeat of the US Open final, Seles defeated Navratilova (playing her 13th Championships final), in four sets; Navratilova and Shriver, arguably the greatest women's doubles team of all time, made it a perfect 10 out of 10 in Championships finals; it was the last of 11 Championships doubles titles for Navratilova, having also won in 1980 (with Billie Jean King).

1992: Seles repeated over Navratilova, this time in three straight sets, to become only the second woman behind Navratilova (1983-85) to claim a hat-trick of Championships titles.

1993: Graf won her third crown, defeating Arantxa Sánchez-Vicario in a four set final.

1994: Tournament sponsored by Virginia Slims for the 20th and last time, despite offering a record $3,708,000 (including Bonus Pool money) for a women's only event; after qualifying a record 22 times (1974-94, missing only 1990 due to injury), and taking a record eight singles titles from 14 finals, Navratilova's singles career ended in the opening round, falling to eventual champion Sabatini 64 62; in an upset-strewn event (for the first time, the Top 2 seeds fell before the semifinals), unseeded Sabatini ended a 42-tournament drought by defeating 18-year-old Lindsay Davenport in three straight sets.

1995: Corel Corporation debuted as WTA title sponsor at the 1995 $2,000,000 WTA Championships; Graf defeated unseeded compatriot Anke Huber (third unseeded finalist) 61 26 61 46 63 for her fourth title and $500,000 first prize.

1996: Chase Manhattan Bank stepped in as tournament title sponsor; in her 12th Championships appearance, Graf finally defended her crown, defeating rising star, 16-year-old Martina Hingis 63 46 60 46 60 in the third Championships five-set match.

1997: In the 25th anniversary of the Championships; Jana Novotna finally broke through to win her first big singles title over Mary Pierce, the conqueror of top seed Martina Hingis in a dramatic three-set quarterfinal; Novotna's straight-set victory over Pierce took the Czech back to No.2 in the world to conclude her best season to date.

1998: After a 10-tournament barren stretch which saw her relinquish her No.1 ranking to Davenport, No.2 Hingis came back to win the Championships (at 18 years, 2 months, the fourth youngest winner after Seles, Austin and Evert), defeating arch rival Davenport in four sets, the last time the final would be played as a best-of-five set match; Graf, a last minute qualifier by virtue of her tournament wins in Leipzig and Philadelphia, went on to upset Novotna and Seles in two thrilling matches before Davenport and a hamstring injury ended her run in a three-set semifinal.

1999: The Championships reverted back to a best-of-three-set final for the first time since 1983; in a repeat of the 1998 final, Davenport asserted her dominance over Hingis, winning in straight sets.

2000: Sanex bodycare products became the WTA's title sponsor while it was the Madison Square Garden swansong; in the absence of both Williams sisters, Venus and Serena, Hingis won her second Championships title over former three-time winner Seles in a dramatic three-set final; Seles led, 76 42, but couldn't prevent Hingis from claiming her ninth title of the year; Seles was appearing in the final for first time since winning the last of her three titles in 1992.

2001: Event moved to Olympiahalle, Munich, after 22 straight years in Madison Square Garden; prize money purse increased to $3,000,000 and $750,000 for the winner; Serena Williams became the first player making her debut in the event (after injury forced her out in 1999 and 2000) to win the title when Davenport had to forego the final due to a right knee injury sustained on the penultimate point of her dramatic semifinal vs. Kim Clijsters.

2002: The season-ending Home Depot Championships presented by Porsche was held for the first of four times at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles; in a major upset, Serena Williams, the undisputed No.1 and winner of three Grand Slam singles titles in 2002, was beaten in the final by Clijsters, who claimed her first Championships crown with a 75 63 victory.

2003: The Bank of America WTA Championships presented by Porsche returned to a round robin format for the singles event, with eight players placed into two pools to produce four semifinalists; Clijsters was the only player to win all three of her pool matches and maintained the momentum to beat Capriati in a three-set semifinal and Mauresmo 62 60 in the final; Clijsters earned $1 million as singles champion, the largest ever winner's purse at a women's only sporting event.

2004: Capping a breakthrough season which earlier saw her claim the Wimbledon title, 17-year-old Maria Sharapova became the first Russian to win the Championships singles title and only the second to win in their debut, defeating Serena Williams, 46 62 64, in the final, having trailed 4-0 in the final set as Williams battled an abdominal injury.

2005: Sony Ericsson came on board as global title sponsor; in the last of four stagings at STAPLES Center, it was a first-ever all-French final and Mauresmo became the first all-French champion, defeating Mary Pierce in a dramatic three-set decider; Lisa Raymond and Samantha Stosur took the doubles title over Cara Black and Rennae Stubbs, having trailed a set and 5-2.

2006: The Sony Ericsson Championships was staged for the first time in Madrid, Spain. Belgian Justine Henin secured victory, having never previously advanced past the semifinals and having missed the previous two editions due to injury. The victory also helped Henin finish the season ranked No.1. Lisa Raymond and Samantha Stosur captured the doubles title over Cara Black and Rennae Stubbs.

2007: The Sony Ericsson Championships returned to Madrid, Spain, for the second year in succession and Belgium's Justine Henin retained her title at the prestigious season-ending tournament, with an epic three-set final victory against a rejuvenated Maria Sharapova. The victory also helped Henin consolidate her position as the No.1-ranked player. Cara Black and Liezel Huber took home the doubles title with an enthralling final victory over Katarina Srebotnik and Ai Sugiyama. It was the last year the Sony Ericsson Championships would be held in the Spanish capital, with the event moving to Doha, Qatar, 2008 to 2010 and to Istanbul, Turkey, from 2011 to 2013.

2008: The Qatari capital of Doha staged its first-ever Sony Ericsson Championships, the first time the WTA's year-end event was staged in the Middle East. With $4.55 million in total prize money, Venus Williams defeated Vera Zvonareva in a three-set singles final to win her first WTA Championships title, while Cara Black and Liezel Huber successfully defended their doubles crown. During the event, WTA pioneer Billie Jean King was announced as a Global Mentor for Gender Equality as part of the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour's partnership with UNESCO.

2009: The event was back in Doha for a second straight year, once again with $4.55 million at stake. Venus Williams was back in the final, despite a 1-2 record in round robin play, however, this time sister Serena, who did not lose a match all week, took the title with a straight set victory, her second WTA Championships but first in eight years. Nuria Llagostera Vives and María José Martínez Sánchez were the surprise winners of the doubles, taking out two-time defending champs Cara Black and Liezel Huber in a match tie-break in the final a day after upsetting the Williams sisters in the semis.

2010: The event returned to Doha for the third and final time with $4.55 million up for grabs again. No.1 seed Caroline Wozniacki and No.3 seed Kim Clijsters reached the final, with Clijsters victorious in three sets, the third time she has won the season-ending event. Gisela Dulko and Flavia Pennetta defeated Kveta Peschke and Katarina Srebotnik in straight sets in the doubles final.

2011: BNP Paribas and Türk Ekonomi Bankasý came aboard as joint title sponsors of the TEB BNP Paribas WTA Championships in Istanbul for 2011-2013. $4.9 million was at stake in 2011, when No.3 seed Petra Kvitova, playing the year-end finale for the first time, did not lose a set en route to the final, where she beat No.4 seed Victoria Azarenka in three sets. The doubles title went to Liezel Huber and Lisa Raymond, who topped Kveta Peschke and Katarina Srebotnik in the final. It was their first apperance together at this event, but Huber's third WTA Championships title as an individual and Raymond's fourth.

2012: The event returned to Istanbul with $4.9 million at stake again. Serena Williams bested Maria Sharapova in the final, becoming the first player since the event changed to a round robin format in 2003 to go through the draw without dropping a set. It was Williams' third triumph at the season finale, making her the sixth player with at least three WTA Championships titles. She also was the oldest player, at age 31, to capture this title. Maria Kirilenko and Nadia Petrova, who just qualified the week before, were the surprise doubles winners with a defeat of Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka in the final. Attendance at the Sinan Erdem Arena was 73,072, the highest since 2000. There were also the largest crowds for the semifinals and finals since the tournament moved to Istanbul.

2013: A record $6 million was at stake in the 43rd staging of the WTA Championships and the third and final one in Istanbul. And for the fourth time in event history, Serena Williams was the champion - this time besting Li Na in the final. That tied Williams with Chris Evert for third-most WTA Championships titles. The doubles crown went to Hsieh Su-Wei and Peng Shuai, who defeated Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina in the final, thus becoming the tournament's first Asian doubles winners. With the finals sellout of 16,457, a total of 69,983 fans attended the six-day competition in 2013, with 18 total sessions registering a three-year total in Istanbul of 213,879 fans. Broadcast and digital media reach records were also set at the event.