The 8 best women tennis players (singles and doubles) in the world gathered to compete for the 2013 TEB BNP Paribas WTA Championship which kicked of today in the Turkish capital, Istanbul.
The first year-ending WTA championship tournament was held in Houston, Texas in 1971 and was won by Billie Jean King of the U.S., Martina Navratilova won the tournament 8 times, more than any other woman tennis player. Navratilova, initially representing Czechoslovakia, played under the flag of the United States in later tournaments.
The annual year-end women's tennis championships are limited to just the 8 singles players who earned the most points during the calendar year, and the 4 top points-earning doubles teams. Every autumn, the tournament splits the singles players into two groups of 4, with each player guaranteed at least 3 matches during the week, against the other three members of her group. Following this round-robin play of tennis “all-stars” with each match the potential caliber of a Grand Slam semifinal or championship, the top 2 in each group move on to a conventional, single-elimination knockout stage of semifinals and the final match. The 4 doubles teams also compete in this single-elimination format. Winners of the group stage and the runners-up from the White and Red Groups will enter the semifinal.
The 2013 TEB BNP Paribas WTA Championships, will conclude on 27 October with a prize pot of $6 million, The player who wins all five matches of the competition (three group-stage matches, a semifinal and a final) will get $2.145 million. Wow !
In 2014, the WTA Championship competition may change its format and location, this time with Singapore becoming its host.
The singles games will highlight the most accomplished players of the year 2013 led by Serena Williams of USA, Victoria Azarenka of Belarus, Agnieska Radwanska of Poland, Petra Kvitova of Czech Republic , Na Li of China, Sara Errani of Italy, Jelena Jankovic of Serbia and Angelique Kerber of Germany.
The doubles competition will feature the 2013 Australian Open champions and Fed Cup powerhouses Sara Errani. Roberta Devinci (Italy), Katarina Srebotnik (Slovenia)/ Nedezhda Petrova (Russia), Peng Shuai/Hsieh Su-Wei (China) and Yelena Vesnina/Yekaterina Makarova (Russia).
Maria Sharapova of Russia has earned enough points to qualify for the 2013 Championship Tournament but unfortunately she will not will compete for the tour championship title due to an injury. Marion Bartoli of France has likewise qualified but, much to the surprise of tennis fans around the world, decided to retire a few months after winning the 2013 French Open Championship. Alternate players for the 2013 Championship series are Caroline Wozniacki (10) of Denmark and Sloane Stephens (11) of the US.
In 2012, Serena Williams won the WTA Championship title after beating Maria Sharapova of Russia in the final game. At the top of the ranking, 2013 U.S. Open and French Open winner Serena Williams will attempt to win her 2nd-consecutive year-ending singles championship and the 4th of her Hall of Fame career. Williams showed no signs of slowing down even after a tremendous 2012 season. Playing in the final tournament of the year 2013, she has accumulated a mind-blowing 73-4 (win-loss) match record and has already won 10 titles including victories at the French Open and US Open tournaments. Being the World No. 1, Serena is very much the player to beat in 2013. She's on a bit of a winning streak right now, having reinforced her Flushing Meadows success by winning the China Open.
|Victoria Azarenka. Photo courtesy of ccn.com|
However, in the absence of Sharapova, all attention will be on Victoria Azarenka considering her distinction of being the only player to beat Serena Williams twice this year. Being her fifth time in the same tournament Azarenka played in the 2011final where she lost to Czech Republic’s Petra Kvitova. Last season she suffered another setback losing to Russia’s Maria Sharapova and failing to reach the finals in 2009 and 2010.
As she pursues her fourth year-end title, Serena faces a strong field that includes 2012 and 2013 Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka and six other women's tennis heavyweights in the persons of Agnieszka Radwanksa, Li Na, Petra Kvitova, Sara Errani, Jelena Jankovic and Angelique Kerber.
Angelique Kerber of Germany has also been in good form lately although her statistics will pale in comparison with Serena Williams.The German reached the draw here as the final qualifier after finishing 9th in the WTA race to Istanbul. Had it not been for the withdrawal of Maria Sharapova she wouldn't be in this competition. Nonetheless, Kerber played a good 2013 season and was able to win her first title of the year by winning the Generali Ladies Linz in Austria this month.
I was “glued” to the TV since 7AM here in the US West coast watching the first day of the championships with 3 “singles” games being played.
As expected, Victoria Azarenka (2), Belarus, defeated Sara Errani (6), Italy, with a straight 2-set win, 7-6 (4), 6-2. Errani displayed guts and determination in the first set at 6-6 but she failed to win the “tie break”. Although there were some erratic service games from Azarenka, Errani failed to capitalize on the weakness to get the win. The Belarusian enjoys a considerable lead in head-to-head matches against the Italian with 6 victories and only 1 defeat.
|Serena Williams. Photo courtesy of blackfeminists.org.|
In the second game, Serena Williams (1), United States, easily defeated Angelique Kerber (8) Germany, 6-3, 6-1. It was a lopsided win for the No. 1 player, barely feeling under pressure in the whole duration of the game. Kerber is evidently the underdog in the game, but she's one of the few players to have beaten Williams in the past. Williams has the edge though in the head to head though, having won two of her three games against Kerber. The two players last met at the 2012 WTA Championships, where Serena clinched a 6-4 6-1 victory.
The third game had Petra Kvitova (5), Czech Republic, winning over Agnieszka Radwanska (3), Poland, with the score of 6-4, 6-4. Although Radwanska has maintained to be at the top 5 of the WTA, her play lacks the luster of a top ranked player. She won games mainly because she is a good court “tactician”, expert in returning the ball to the other court and always defensive in nature. Her statistics will support this observation with her record of low “winners” as well as low “unforced errors” in every game gaining remarks from both sports reporters and fans as being too “safe” and not exciting to watch.
Na Li (5) of China’s and Jelena Jankovic (8) of Serbia’s will play on 23 October. Good luck to both….
Rogelio G. Balo
Central Valley, California USA
Oct. 22, 2013