The best men in the tennis world will be rewarded for their year’s efforts with a place at the A.T.P.’s Tour-end jamboree in London.
The British capital has a lot of things going for it, but the November weather isn’t one of them. The autumn leaves will have fallen, the air will be cool and, most likely, damp. And since dusk arrives at around four in the afternoon in late November, the players will get precious little daylight, let along sunshine!
Meanwhile, their female counterparts are enjoying sweltering daytime sunshine and sticky starlit nights at the glimmering Khalifa International Tennis Complex in Doha on the Persian Gulf.
But if the top eight women in the world have got a better deal than the men, the next rank of women have done even better.
For next week, they are bound for Bali.
Bathed in sunshine, and surrounded by coral reefs, this Indonesian paradise is a favored destination for tourists from around the world. Those tourists will shortly include 12 of the best women tennis players that the W.T.A. has to offer, for the Commonwealth Bank Tournament of Champions is set to debut at the Bali International Convention Centre on 4th November.
Although there has been an annual tennis tournament on the island since 2001, this is the first time it has featured as a round-robin style grandstand finale to the year’s Tour.
This is a chance for the 10 highest-ranked women who did not make the cut for Doha, along with two wild cards, to share $600,000 in prize money. More significantly, it is an opportunity for them to stamp their 2010 intentions on their W.T.A. rivals.
To be eligible, each woman must have taken at least one International tournament title from the 30 on offer in 2009. Any player who wins three International tournaments and the Tournament of Champions will also win a $1-million bonus. As if that wasn’t enough incentive, they get to stay in Bali for a week!
So who will make a season-closing splash?
The prime candidates are the three participants who are currently in the top 20.
Marion Bartoli, No.12, won her fourth and fifth Tour titles in 2009 at Monterrey in March and at Stanford in July (where she defeated Venus Williams in the final). Way back in January she also reached the final in Brisbane. However, she pulled out of Osaka in mid-October with a right shoulder injury.
Just below Bartoli is Samantha Stosur, who is at a career-high ranking of 13, and won the Osaka title in October. She was also the runner-up in Los Angeles in August.
Although Stosur is one of the form players of the moment, she will arrive in Bali straight from her participation, with partner Rennae Stubbs, in the doubles in Doha. Her success in Bali may well depend on how much energy she brings with her.
However, Yanina Wickmayer, ranked at 19, must be one of the favorites for this event. She’s had a breakthrough season, winning her first Tour title at Estoril in April and reaching the semi-finals of the U.S. Open.
Since October, she’s had yet more success, winning in Linz and reaching the semis in Luxembourg. As a result, she took second place in the last Bleacher Report Power Rankings.
Sabine Lisicki, ranked 25, has gained a wild card entry to Bali. With a Premier event already under her belt from Charleston in April, she also reached last week’s finals in Luxembourg.
Just below Lisicki, at No.27, is Anabel Medina Garrigues, who has had one of the best seasons of her 13-year career, including a ninth title at Fès in April and the final of Seoul in September.
At No.31 is Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez, who won her first ever title in Bogota in February, and then her second in Bastad in July.
A good tip for a break-through in Bali, though, is world No.32, Shahar Peer. She won her first two titles in consecutive weeks in September, without losing a set, at Guangzhou and Tashkent. She then reached the semis in Luxembourg last week. She’s on a good streak, and she seems to be fit. One to watch.
Others in the mix, but without much form since the summer, are Agnes Szavay, Aravane Rezai, and Magdalena Rybarikova.
Although Melinda Czink won her first title in Quebec in September, she had to pull out of the quarter-finals in Osaka with a foot injury.
For the sentimental vote, however, don’t look any further than the 39-year-old wildcard, Kimiko Date Krumm.
She returned to the Tour in 2008 after 11 years in retirement, and won the Seoul title this September. It was her first title since 1996!
A long shot, certainly, but what a story!
And what a great way to end a long, hard season: soaking up the sun in Bali.
Tip for the title: Yanina Wickmayer
One to watch: Shahar Peer