With just days to go, and some of the contenders already practising in Istanbul, the final lineup for the climax of the women’s tennis calendar in Istanbul went right to the wire.
Both Agnieszka Radwanska and Marion Bartoli were still in contention for the eighth place on the boat to Turkey as the drama in the deciding tournament in Moscow unfolded.
A fortnight ago, with Radwanska making a late unbeaten run to two Premier titles in the Far East—Tokyo and Beijing—the Pole seemed to have the No. 8 place in the bag. Only Bartoli could overtake her, but the French woman needed to win the last two events of the year. Even then, Bartoli had to hope that Radwanska would lose her opening-round match in Moscow.
Fast forward to last week and two boxes had been ticked for Bartoli. With the Osaka title in the bag, she saw Radwanska lose to her nemesis, Lucie Safarova, in the Kremlin Cup. The French woman continued to keep her chances alive by advancing to the quarterfinals, but then, disaster struck in the shape of viral illness, and Bartoli had to pull out of competition.
It handed her rival the final place in Istanbul.
Bartoli will still make the journey to Turkey as first alternate—if she is fit—but to play, she depends on one of the elite eight becoming ill or injured.
For Radwanska and the other seven contesting the Championship, there is now big money at stake—a total purse of almost $5 million—as well as important points that could determine who will end the year as world No. 1.
While Caroline Wozniacki goes into the event at the top of the pile, it is possible for Maria Sharapova to beat her to the end-of-year finishing line—a first for the only multiple-Grand-Slam winner in the competition. However, the Russian will have to play at her peak, and the Dane will have to play very poorly.
Not possible? Look at the Bartoli/Radwanska race.
So with 26 titles between them, including three of the four 2011 Grand Slams, what are the chances for the cream of the women’s tour in Turkey?