WTA Championships: A Preview of the Field and the Favourites
The eight spot in the women's WTA Championships in Istanbul is still to be decided between Marion Bartoli and this fall's female version of Andy Murray, Agnieszka Radwanska, but the rest of the field is settled and ready to go.
Unfortunately for the tournament, the defending champion Kim Clijsters is not there. Neither is Serena or Venus Williams. What we do have is the three latest slam winners and the women's No. 1.
The seven qualified women are: Caroline Wozniacki, Maria Sharapova, Petra Kvitova, Victoria Azarenka, Na Li, Vera Zvonareva, Samantha Stosur and Radwanska or Bartoli (if she wins in Moscow this week).
Do we have a favourite?
Last year's runner-up is still the No. 1, but she's hardly the in-form player. While she's leading the WTA tour with six titles this year, she's only won once since June and she's taken some surprising and tough losses in the last three months.
Moreover, she is still to win a slam or a tournament the size of the WTA Championships and given that she's just lost to Kaia Kanepi and Flavia Pennatta, it's hard to consider her the favourite. She'll fight her best, but she'll need to find the form that saw her earn three titles early this year in order to lift the trophy on Sunday.
Maria Sharapova is one of the most experienced players and the most recognized name. However, she also injured her ankle three weeks ago in Tokyo. If she's completely fine, she could definitely make a run.
Much also hinges on that serve of hers. The indoor environment should help on that, but it can't fix what's broken.
Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova is perhaps the closest thing we come to a favourite. She's been erratic at best since Wimbledon, but seems to have found her form again with a recent win in Linz and semis in Tokyo. She surely has the game, serve and firepower to win.
Not to mention, she has a 14-0 indoor record. Does it get much better than that? She should be the favourite, but we do not know which Kvitova will show up. The one that just won Linz? Or the one who lost to Alexandra Dulgheru in the first round of the US Open?
We've been expecting much from Victoria Azarenka over the past two to three years, but she still has to make that definite break-through. Could it be in Istanbul? She has the game to do it, but as with the rest of the WTA, it's difficult to know when she brings it or not.
Her late summer and fall season have featured two loses to Serena Williams, one to hot Radwanska and one to rising star, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. I don't know what to expect, but less than a semi would be a huge disappointment.
What about French Open champion Na Li?
Again, she can play. When she's on her game, she can take down pretty much everyone. However, the 29-year-old has been crashing out early in every single tournament since she won the French. It's hard to see why that should change it now, except for the fact that we never know with her.
The star of the ESPN Body Issue, Russian Vera Zvonareva is yet another enigma on the women's tour. Just when she seemed posed to make a run for Wozniacki's No. 1, she crashes out prior to the semis in every slam except the Australian Open.
While her summer and fall have not been great, she's mostly lost to in-form players such as Stosur at the Open and Radwanska before and after the US Open. She can beat everyone, but she can also lose to everyone. I like her game, but I don't see her form as good enough to win the title. She does stand a decent chance to advance to the semis, though.
US Open champ Samantha Stosur showed us all just how good she can be. Normally, however, she loses more often than not when she get's to the final. Hard to believe that the player who made Serena Williams look mediocre in a slam final has only won two other WTA titles.
It's hard to bet against her, if she brings her US Open form. Then again, she lost 6-3, 6-1 to Marion Bartoli in the Osaka final. You never quite know what to expect.
And the eight player? If Marion Bartoli wins in Moscow, she'll overtake Agnieszka Radwanska, who lost early in the same tournament. That would make it the second title in a row and give her a lot of momentum going in.
If she doesn't win, Radwanska already has all the momentum she could wish for after winning the two biggest tournaments in Asia this fall with wins over Azarenka, Zvonareva and Andrea Petkovic.
I say, whoever the eight player is, she could run with it all. Especially if it is Radwanska, but Bartoli could do it too.
Nevertheless, should I pick one favourite. My pick is Kvitova in a field that poses more questions than answers.
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