Does anybody actually care about the Doha WTA Championships? I’m sure are there some pockets of people that do, but overall there just doesn’t seem to be a lot of buzz about the event. Then again, I’m not seeking to find that WTA buzz, nor do I or even this site put the women’s tour front-and-center as much as we do them men.
But I this case, since it is their final stop of the year, I’ll take some space to discuss it and give them some love.
First, why is this event in Doha? Is that the best place the WTA could find to host the tournament? Was Mobile, Alabama unavailable? Helena, Montana? Madison, Wisconsin? Yeah, I know money talks and tennis almost always listens.
Onto the field…
From my little knowledge of the event (I admit it!) I believe it’s structured the same way as the men, with two groups of four players with the top two in each advancing to a knockout semifinal, then final.
The draw/grouping have already been done and the four Russians have been split up, which is too bad because I would have liked to have seen a Russia v. The World theme. (Maybe next year.) While the Russian got split, the Serbs and the Williams sisters did not!
My gal, the top-ranked Jelena Jankovic, and Ana Ivanovic are in the white group along with Sveta Kuznetsova and Vera Zvonareva.
In the Maroon group (why maroon, anyone?), it’s Serena and Venus Williams plus Dinara Safina and Elena Dementieva.
Of the two groups, I’d have to rate the Maroon tougher with the Williams sisters, Safina and gold medalist Dementieva. All four girls are capable of walking away with the title. But I like Venus and Safina to emerge.
In the White group I think Jankovic will get through and I’m going to lean to Ivanovic to beat Kuzy in the No. 2 showdown. Sorry Vera, more tears await.
So the semifinals, I’ll take Jankovic v. Venus and Safina v. Ivanovic, with Jankovic defeating Safina in the final.
By the way, matches begin Tuesday with Jankovic v. Ivanovic as the main attraction. And unless I’m mistaken the event is on TV here in the U.S. on ESPN2 and on the Tennis Channel. I’m not certain of the times.
Moving on to other news…
The big story today in tennis is the confirmed withdrawal of Rafael Nadal from the Tennis Masters Cup. I’d call it a pseudo-shocker as I think many of us saw it coming but few really thought he’d actually do it. At least that’s how I felt. Why he played Paris we’ll never really know, but perhaps that was the design all along, to play Paris, skip Shanghai as long as the No. 1 ranking was secured, and concentrate on the Davis Cup final.
So is it the right move for Nadal or the wrong move for the sport? Probably both. I don’t know just how bad this knee injury is but I’m guessing had Spain not been in the Davis Cup final I think Rafa would be headed to Shanghai right now. It seems to be more or a precaution, so again, Rafa fans should not get terribly worried over it. If he’s unable to go for Davis Cup, then feel free to hit that panic button. Then again what the hell do I know.
But it is bad for the sport not to have Rafa in Shanghai. His absence will change the dynamics of the tournament, and that’s too bad for the fans and organizers. Recall Rafa won the gold medal there in August so I’m sure he’s got quite a strong following in China.
The loss of Nadal also means that Roger Federer will go winless vs. his chief rival this year (0-4). But Fed will be able to pick up some points on Rafa looking ahead to next year, provided the Swiss has recovered sufficiently from his back ailment.
There has also been some mild speculation that either/both Juan Martin Del Potro or Andy Roddick may also withdraw. We shall see, though either would be a surprise, especially newcomer JMDP.
All of this injury/withdrawal talk has agains heated up the debate over tour scheduling, which James Blake came out against recently saying “it couldn’t be a clearer signal that the year is too long. There’s too many mandatory events, too many times that we have to be playing. Look at baseball players, football players, basketball players, they have a real off-season. That’s why they’re playing into their 40s and we’re retiring at 30. It’s just tough on our body.”
It’s worth noting that Blake has played 22 events this year, plus three Davis Cup ties, plus being the Shanghai alternate and if I’m not mistaken he’ll also be partaking in that upcoming Asian exhibition series with Federer. Now who put a gun to his head and told him to play that schedule, that many events? And now he’s complaining? Sheesh.
As I’ve said many, many times before, when it comes to the schedule it’s really on the players. But the lure of money is always quite the temptation.
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