The 2011 TEB BNP Paribas WTA Championships in Istanbul start tomorrow, not affected by the devastating earthquake that killed around 270 people in Turkey. Players and the Tour expressed their condolences, but their job is calling them to focus on the big task ahead.
Since only the most successful eight players of the season are in the competition, it is not entirely reasonable to talk about the toughness of the draw, but we can always speculate: is the world No.1 the favorite, or the most-established players, or the late season bloomers, or someone else? Let’s analyze the two round-robin groups.
RED GROUP: Caroline Wozniacki, Petra Kvitova, Vera Zvonareva, Agnieszka Radwanska
The tournament will start with the clash between Kvitova and Zvonareva. Kvitova is making her debut at the WTA Championships, but at this year’s Wimbledon she showed she doesn’t shy away at grand stages. Also, the Czech is fresh off a WTA title in Linz.
Another first-time qualifier, Agnieszka Radwanska, is also in action on the first day, against world No.1 Caroline Wozniacki. Radwanska is the hottest player this fall, having won 11 of her last 12 matches, including Premier-level titles in Tokyo and Beijing. Zvonareva was runner-up in Tokyo, while Wozniacki had the worst results of the group this fall, losing in the third round of Tokyo and the quarterfinals of Beijing.
To give you a deeper insight into the mutual relationships of the players, here are their head-to-head statistics, with this year's records in brackets.
Zvonareva vs. Kvitova 3-2 (2-1)
Zvonareva vs. Wozniacki 4-4 (1-0)
Radwanska vs. Zvonareva 3-2 (3-1)
Wozniacki vs. Radwanska 4-1 (1-0)
Wozniacki vs. Kvitova 3-1 (-)
Kvitova vs. Radwanska 2-0 (1-0)
Wozniacki looks like the weakest link in this group to me. Radwanska could be the biggest favorite, and I can't choose between Kvitova and Zvonareva for the second place. Maybe 1% more for Zvonareva.
WHITE GROUP: Maria Sharapova, Victoria Azarenka, Li Na, Samantha Stosur
After the two clashes of the Red Group, Maria Sharapova and Samantha Stosur will close the first day action in Istanbul. Sharapova is the only former champion in the draw, having won the tournament in 2004. On the other hand, Stosur is the only player in the draw who has a strikingly negative career record against two players: 0-9 against Sharapova and 0-4 against Azarenka. Azarenka was the last to arrive in Istanbul, having been busy winning the tournament in Luxembourg. Except for her, the other players from the group can't pride themselves on an outstanding win-loss record this fall season, especially Li, who played just one match, at her home tournament in Beijing, and lost it to Monica Niculescu 6-4 6-0. Stosur did reach the title match in Osaka, but as soon as she met a Top 20 player (the inspired Marion Bartoli), she lost 6-3 6-1, and finished the fall season with a 4-3 win-loss record.
Here are head-to-heads of the White Group:
Sharapova vs. Stosur 9-0 (3-0)
Sharapova vs. Azarenka 3-3 (1-1)
Sharapova vs. Li 5-3 (0-1)
Li vs. Azarenka 4-1 (2-0)
Stosur vs. Li 5-0 (3-0)
Azarenka vs. Stosur 4-0 (-)
My favorites in this group would be screamers – Sharapova and Azarenka.
Who do you think has the biggest assets to win the title? (photos: © Neal Trousdale)