Shifting gears to women’s tennis this week, the year-end WTA Championships kick off tomorrow in Istanbul, Turkey. Among the entrants are eight of the best female players in the world including World No. 1 Victoria Azarenka, two-time Slam winner this year Serena Williams and French Open champion Maria Sharapova.
At stake for the favorites is the No. 1 ranking and the Player of the Year honor that will likely go with it. Azarenka enters with a sizable lead over Sharapova and the Belarussian will clinch the year-end top ranking by winning just two round robin matches.
Said Sharapova on her No. 1 chances, “I don’t like to think about what I can’t control in my destiny, what’s not in my hands. It would be a great achievement, no doubt, but the more matches I win here the better chance I have of accomplishing it, so that’s my biggest priority this week.”
The ladies were divided by random alternating ranking into two groups of four, and with three strong players one group will be stronger than the other. And that fell to Group A which is home to both Azarenka and Serena along with Li Na and Angelique Kerber.
In Group B it’s Sharapova, Petra Kvitova, Agnieszka Radwanska and Sara Errani.
Like the men’s Finals, the top two players in each group advance to the knock-out semifinals on Saturday, then the finals on Sunday.
Serena, Sharapova and Kvitova who won last year are all former champions. And even though she won’t overtake Azarenka for No. 1, if she wins Istanbul Serena will have two Slams titles, the Olympic gold and the year-end championships on her 2012 resume, making a very strong case in her Player of the Year campaign.
Serena, though, has nothing but compassion and kindness for her rival Azarenka.
“I like all the players here – but I love Victoria’s attitude,” Serena said. “I have a lot of respect for her. So she could be my younger sister for the week.”
Serena is playing her first event since the US Open. And if she continues the scorching run she’s been on since April there’s no doubt she’ll cap the season with a third year-end title.
“In 2002 it was great, but I had no injuries, no comebacks and no serious issues,” said Serena when comparing her results of 2012 to previous seasons. “I feel like back then I was really just cruising and on the rise. Now in 2012, it’s a different scenario. I’ve been through so much in my life – triumphs, disasters, happy moments, sad moments – when your career comes complete circle like that, you really do appreciate every win more and more.”
With groupings, I think the SFs look like Serena over Kvitova, Azarenka over Sharapova; then Serena beats Azarenka in the final.
Matches are on Tennis Channel until the final which ESPN2 will air.
TUESDAY ISTANBUL SCHEDULE
Stadium (from 17.00hrs)
1. Agnieszka Radwanska vs. Petra Kvitova
2. Serena Williams vs. Angelique Kerber
3. Maria Sharapova vs. Sara Errani
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