Photo by Getty Images via WTATennis.com
The top ladies of the WTA are in Turkey this week for their Year End Championships. As the tournament begins in Istanbul, the country and the world are rightly focused on a spot about 700 miles to the east, where a 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck on Sunday. Almost 300 people are dead at the latest tally, and the desperate search continues for survivors.
Caroline Wozniacki was asked about the situation in the pre-tournament presser (via WTA):
“I want to say on behalf of all the players that we are, all of our thoughts are with everyone affected. Of course it’s terrible whenever something like this happens.”
But the tennis will go on, and as we all know from watching the twists and turns women’s tennis took this year: it’s anyone’s game. Here’s who’s playing in the two round robin groups:
Red: Caroline Wozniacki, Petra Kvitova, Vera Zvonareva, Agnieszka Radwanska
White: Maria Sharapova, Victoria Azarenka, Li Na, Sam Stosur
Wozniacki and Sharapova have the best head-to-head records in their groups and that’s about all the sense you can make of it. (Click here if you still want to give it a try.)
The forgiving nature of the round robin format; the late season successes enjoyed by Azarenka, Radwanska and Kvitova; and the fact that the top two players in the field haven’t felt the joy of winning a Major this year (or in Wozniacki’s case, ever) all add to the tournament’s aura of anything goes. To make things even more exciting, the No. 1 ranking is in play.
It’s Maria Sharapova, at No. 2 in the rankings who has a real shot at kicking Caroline Wozniacki off her perch. Kvitova and Azarenka also have outside shots if Wozniacki goes down in flames (click here for a full explanation), but I’m hoping that we see both Masha and the Woz pull apart from the pack this week. And may the best woman win.
Caroline likes the view at the top and, to her credit, doesn’t feel the need to apologize for hogging the prime real estate. Woz in Turkey (via Tennis.com):
“Of course when you’ve been No. 1 the whole year, you’d like to finish the last week as number one as well,” she said. “That would mean a lot to me since not a lot of people have finished the year two times in a row as No. 1.”
Can anyone tell me if another non-Slam winner has ever accomplished this feat before?
Maria finally gained some traction this season after starting her long post-surgery comeback in 2009. She’s still in the grateful-to-be-back stage, or so she claims (via the BBC):
“I think I’m just fortunate enough to say that I’m here and I’m going to be competing. That, to me, is a big accomplishment by itself.
“So whether it’s number one or number two, whatever it is, I’m very pleased that I made it here and that I have a chance to compete and do well.”
Sharapova added: “The last couple of years at this time I was sipping a margarita on the beach and now I have another tournament, so I’m quite excited about it.”
I think she wants that top ranking pretty badly. Despite a good season, the losses to Kvitova in the Wimbledon final and Pennetta in the third round of the US Open are the matches that really stuck (at least with me.) A No. 1 next to her name at the end of the year would be as soothing to her psyche as any number of margaritas sipped alongside Sasha on a sun-dappled beach. (Sorry, I couldn’t help attempting the tongue twister.)
Not so soothing: Maria doesn’t hold her destiny firmly in her clenched fist. If Caroline makes the final, the Dane takes the ranking. Maria must make it that far, and face a different opponent, to have a chance.
How do you think it will pan out?