The final stop on the women’s tour begins today with WTA Championships in Istanbul, Turkey. The year-ender follows the format of their big brother’s penultimate tournament with a field of eight players split into two groups of round-robin play.
Serena Williams is the overwhelming favorite. Victoria Azarenka, who’s beaten Serena twice this year on hardcourts, is the only real threat to the No. 1. Missing is Maria Sharapova who’s been out since the US Open with that shoulder injury.
Now let’s break down the groups.
RED GROUP: Williams, Radwanska, Kvitova & Kerber
Serena Williams: Seeking a fourth WTA Championships title, it’s impossible to see her not getting out of a group that’s pretty deep with all four players putting up good numbers this fall. Serena’s a combined 13-1 against her fellow players in RED losing only to Kerber. She’s motivated – it’s the last stop of an incredible year – and she’s won the tournament the last two times she’s player (2009, 2012). It’s her event to lose.
“It’s a tough group. I have to be ready,” Serena said. “That’s the thing about this tournament and why it’s so tough, you have to be ready from the first match on.”
Agnieszka Radwanksa: Always consistent, won Seoul and reached the Beijing semifinals where she avenged a Tokyo QF loss to Kerber before losing to Serena. She won’t beat Serena, she could beat Kerber. Kvitova, however, will be tough.
Petra Kvitova: After a shaky season, caught fire this fall winning Tokyo over Venus and Kerber, then beat Li Na and Errani to reach the Beijing semis. The 2011 champion is inconsistent as we know but has the firepower to finish second especially in a closed environment.
Angelique Kerber: With her limited weaponry, I’ll call the lefty a poor women’s Radwanska. Her second serve continues to be a liability and she failed to win a match in her only other WTA Champ berth. The German, though, is playing her best tennis of the season of late. She beat Wozniacki and Radwanska in Tokyo and just won the Linz title, albeit with some controversy. And she gives players trouble with her awkward game. But when push comes to shove I don’t see her beating Serena or Kvitova.
Predicted order of finish: Serena, Kvitova, Radwanska, Kerber
WHITE GROUP: Azarenka, Li, Errani, & Jankovic
Victoria Azarenka: If healthy she should emerge as the winner in WHITE. That said, she’s lost her last three matches entering the event (last win was in US Open SFs) so there’s reason for some concern here especially if her serve stays faulty. But opening against Errani is a perfect way to get back in the groove.
Li Na: Only played one event this fall in Beijing, so she may be a little light on tournament competition. And for all of her skills she only has two wins in two previous appearances in this event. But if her game shows up she’s as dangerous as anybody.
Sara Errani: The lap dog of the event probably won’t win a match here. She’s just 1-12 against the rest of the girls in the group and playing indoors won’t help.
Jelena Jankovic: For me the second spot will come down to her match with Li Na who she lost to at the US Open. Since switching coaches to her brother earlier in the year, Jelena has regained her top form – and she just beat Kvitova in the Beijing semis.
Predicted order of finish: Azarenka, Li Na, Jankovic, Errani
And in the title match I’ll take the oldest player in the event Serena over Kvitova.
Matches begin in an hour or so. Tennis Channel has full coverage.
TUESDAY WTA CHAMPIONSHIPS SCHEDULE
17:00 –  Victoria Azarenka (BLR) V  Sara Errani (ITA)
19:00 –  Serena Williams (USA) V  Angelique Kerber (GER)
21:00 –  Agnieszka Radwanska (POL) V  Petra Kvitova (CZE)
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