The two best players of the WTA Championships in Istanbul have, fittingly, both made it to the final.
While Victoria Azarenka dispatched Vera Zvonareva in straight sets, 6-2, 6-3, Petra Kvitova battled from down a set to take the other spot in the final as she defeated the third best player of the tournament, Samantha Storsur, 5-7, 6-3, 6-3.
Kvitova, current World No. 3, and Azarenka, current World No. 4, will battle for the year-end world No. 2 position.
Do we have a favourite?
In my preview of the tournament I said that if there were to be a favourite, it would be Kvitova. I've seen nothing this week to alter that prediction, so I stick with it.
Why? Here are a couple of reasons.
First, while Kvitova is excellent on grass, she's even better on indoor hard court, at least if we go by her 18-0 record from indoors this year. Her coach says she prefers the stable conditions and giving her high risk hit-or-miss game, that is no surprise.
Secondly, the match is on Kvitova's racquet.
Stosur, who's not exactly known as a soft counter-puncher or pusher herself, was asked how much she felt the match was on her record. “Not a whole lot of it, to be honest,” she answered.
It should be no different against Azarenka, who doesn't have as much power as Kvitova, or Stosur for that matter.
Third, their head-to-head favours Kvitova too. While Kvitova is only leading 3-2, she has won their three last encounters, two of them at this years Madrid and Wimbledon.
While Azarenka has won their single hard court meeting, in convincing fashion no less, Kvitova was ranked 40th at the time, whereas Azarenka was 14th and taking big steps towards the top 10.
Can Azarenka win it? Of course.
Tennis in general and the WTA tour in particular does not always have the most logical winners. If we could predict every single result prior to a match, the number of tennis fans would be far lower.
Azarenka has been playing well. She has just won a tournament in Linz, Germany. And now she's in the biggest final of her career and has, Wimbledon aside, more big-match experience than Kvitova, who has jumped from No. 34th in the world at the end of 2010 to a current No. 3.
Moreover, while the match is on Kvitova's racquet, she can get erratic and she can hit herself of the court. There is a real risk that Kvitova might beat herself as she's often done in the past.
Those reasons aside, Kvitova remains my favourite to win it.
If she does, she will solidify her claim to being the best woman player in 2011. She will have won as many titles, six, as the World No. 1, Caroline Wozniacki, but Kvitova's titles will be bigger, including a Wimbledon title.
Though it is early to say, my feeling is that we're on the verge of a Kvitova era.
At her best, she's close to unbeatable.
What makes that statement even more scary for the rest of the WTA is that Kvitova is still so raw and is still so much a work in progress.
Her net game is not exactly impressive to put it in a polite way. Her court positioning can be improved too. Her serve can become better. And her on-court strategy, which most often can be boiled down to hitting the ball harder, harder and harder, can be improved to allow for different styles of play at the times when she's not hitting her target.
The WTA has been in want of new, emerging stars for years as the veteran greats aren't getting any younger. Kvitova very well might be that player, though Serena Williams and Kim Clijsters will do their best to postpone that development.
There's an interesting detail that a reader pointed out on tennis.com
In 2003 Federer won his first Wimbledon at the age of 21, lost in the fourth round in the US Open and went on to win the Year-End Championships by beating Andre Agassi in straights in the final.
Kvitova also won her maiden grand slam at Wimbledon at the age of 21, lost even earlier at the US Open and may now win her first Year-End Champions.
Is it a sign of things to come?
I'll discuss that more fully in an upcoming article. For now, let's see if she can keep her perfect indoor record for the year.
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