WTA Championships 2012: Draw Preview and Analysis
October 21, 2012 · Print This Article
A scintillating season on the WTA will conclude this week at the WTA Championships in Istanbul, Turkey. With five of the eight combatants having won a major at some point throughout their careers, this year’s culminating event should provide a great end to a physical 2012.
Entering the event with two straight titles in Beijing and Linz, world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka continues to prove that her incredible start to the year was no fluke. Compiling a 67-8 record on the season, the Belarusian has bagged six titles and just short of seven million in prize money. Azarenka stands at 14-5 against the other participants in the event (this year), but with a less-than-impressive 31-26 career mark against her upcoming foes.
Azarenka isn’t a shoe-in for the year-end No. 1 just yet; she’ll have to win at least two round robin matches to claim that honor.
Elsewhere, Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams—the two other draw-cards this week—will be out in full force to put an exclamation mark on their own memorable seasons. For Sharapova, 2012 will always center around Paris and the completion of a career slam. Fighting through her least favorite surface on the red clay, Sharapova accomplished her ultimate challenge before falling to her knees. In saying that, though, Sharapova has been a shell of herself since that victory in France, and a good showing here would give her confidence heading into 2013.
By absolutely dominating the summer circuit, Serena took home a Wimbledon title, the Olympic Gold and the US Open crown. Not bad for a 31-year-old, eh? When fit and willing to compete, Serena remains in the eyes of many the player to beat in any tournament. However, given the fact that she hasn’t played an event since winning in New York, one has to think that she won’t be at her dominating best? Or will she?
At any rate, Serena’s quest for the title in Turkey will also be challenged by Wimbledon finalist Agi Radwanska, Wimbledon semifinalist Angelique Kerber, former Wimbledon winner Petra Kvitova, French Open finalist Sara Errani and former French Open winner Li Na.
With a line-up like that, it’s easy to imagine that there will be some close matches and memorable moments in Istanbul to close out the WTA calender.
Let’s now take a look at the two groups for this year’s finale and who will walk away the winner by week’s end.
Featuring: Azarenka, Williams, Kerber and Li
Led by the Azarenka’s intensity, the top seed will have to fend off a tough group consisting of 15-time slam winner Serena and former Roland Garros champion Li Na.
On paper (or on the court) it would be silly to pick against Azarenka and Serena to plow through into the semifinals, but what about Kerber and Li? Kerber is a modest 4-2 this fall, while holding a poor record against Azarenka and Li. The feisty German does have a career win over Serena, but when push comes to shove I don’t expect her to come up with a second victory here.
Azarenka is a solid 13-0 post US Open and hasn’t lost a set since New York; Serena by contrast hasn’t played an event since winning in the Big Apple. So, what does this all mean? Does it matter if Serena hasn’t played a tournament since the beginning of September? I’d say no. She has proved time-and-time again that little play equals great results, and that shouldn’t be any different here.
The match of this group clearly remains Azarenka vs. Serena, and the outcome could very well set the tone for who walks away with the title.
At his point I’ll have to stick with the two favorites to advance, but watchout for Kerber to put up a good showing.
Picks: Azarenka, Serena
Featuring: Sharapova, Radwanska, Kvitova and Errani
Indoors have always been good to Sharapova throughout her career, but I still feel that she plays her best ball under the sun. Although Sharapova has had a great year-to-date, she has been blown out of her last two finals at the Olympics and Beijing. Sharapova will have to dig deep this week, but her group—which is much more manageable than Azarenka’s—should allow her to reach the weekend’s action.
Radwanska continues to delight any crowd she plays in front of with her court-craft and consistency, while Kvitova’s 1-2 record this fall could put an end to her title defense.
I think it’s safe to say that Errani is just happy to be here and make the top eight. Playing with passion and defense all year, the Italian’s serve is just too weak to do damage indoors.
All in all, I believe Radwanska turned a corner at Wimbledon and is ready for a strong end to 2012. That includes reaching the semis in Istanbul and joining the power-hitting Russian.
Picks: Sharapova, Radwanska