The women’s WTA Tour season comes to a conclusion this week in the tennis hotbed of Doha, Qatar. Sarcasm aside, the story is not who is in Doha but rather who isn’t.
Both Williams sister, Serena and Venus, are absent leaving the year-end crown jewel both Williams-less and American-less. And that likely translates into very little media coverage here in the U.S.
Justin Henin, who would have likely qualified had she been able to play more events, will also be watching (or not watching!) from home as will the newly-engaged Maria Sharapova, who finished ranked No. 17 and well off the qualification pace.
With the four biggest stars in women’s tennis not in Doha, is there any reason to watch? Well, yeah.
First, the No. 1 ranking is still undecided. Serena Williams has dropped to a current mark of No. 3 leaving Caroline Wozniacki and Vera Zvonareva to duel for the final year-end No. 1 spot. What an opportunity for both girls and what a match it would be if both met with that at stake. (I can only imagine the emotional rollercoaster Vera would on in that match!)
“Actually, I am really feeling good this year,” Wozniacki said after a busy 2010 season. “I feel fresh now and ready for this tournament. Last year I had some injuries going into Doha, but this year I am feeling really good. Actually, I feel like my scheduling this year has been really good for me.”
US Open champion Kim Clijsters is also in the field. After foot surgery to remove a wart, the Belgian returns to tennis for the first time since her NY win.
“I’ve been practicing physically, and tennis-wise I’ve been working out for about three and a half weeks, three weeks now, I think, in total,” Clijsters told the The Peninsula. “So, I was physically still doing a bunch of stuff, swimming, biking, things that I was allowed to do without putting too much pressure on my foot, just to stay in shape.
“Physically, I mean, I feel fine. (I) had a lot of tests done with Sam,” she added. “Yeah, so, I feel good. Obviously you feel a little different when you get here. You just feel a little bit more, how should I say, heavy because of the heat. First half hour everything goes well, and you hit the wall after a while. Your body just has to adjust again.”
French Open winner Francesca Schiavone, Sam Stosur, Jelena Jankovic, Viktoria Azarenka and Elena Dementieva complete the 8-women, round-robin field.
But my guess is the winner will come from the top three of Wozniacki, Zvonareva and Clijsters.
The eight players have been divided into two groups, the Maroon and the White.
Maroon: Wozniacki, Schiavone, Stosur, Dementieva
White: Zvonareva, Clijsters, Jankovic, Azarenka
As for my picks, from the White Group it looks like Zvonareva and Clijsters should emerge. The oft-injured and ill Jankovic seems to be running on fumes of late and while Azarenka, who we know struggles in the heat which is forecast in Doha, is coming off a tournament win, she has a poor record against Vera and Kim. Vera’s been solid all season while Kim, with her three Grand Slams and 39 overall titles, is simply the class of the field.
In the Maroon group, the steady Wozniacki will try to use Doha to justify her top ranking and the Dane should get through to the last four. Then it’s toss-up. I think Schiavone should be able to make some waves – remember the Italian beat both Wozniacki and Stosur in Paris, albeit on a much different surface – but I’ll go with the experience of Dementieva. I know Elena is nursing a bad ankle but it’s her 10th WTA Championships and that counts for something. And Stosur hasn’t seemed to gotten over her US Open defeat.
The semifinals then look like: Clijsters v. Dementieva and Wozniacki v. Zovnareva. And in the final I’ll go with a US Open replay with Clijsters beating Vera.
I know she hasn’t played much but Kim’s a two-time champion of this event and she’s proven that she can manage time away from the Tour like no one else.
Matches begin Tuesday with live coverage (I think) on the Tennis Channel.
TUESDAY DOHA SCHEDULE
Khalifa Tennis Complex (from 17.00hrs)
1. Vera Zvonareva vs. Jelena Jankovic
2. Caroline Wozniacki vs. Elena Dementieva
3. Francesca Schiavone vs. Samantha Stosur
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