The WTA Championships are playing in Turkey for the first time in the event's history. As usual, the outcome is difficult to predict.
Group Red: Wozniacki, Kvitova, Radwanska, Zvonareva
Group White: Sharapova, Azarenka, Li, Stosur
Heading into this week's prestigious WTA Championships, there is no clear dominating force in the women's game. It should, in the end, make for some unpredictable moments.
What else did you expect?
Nobody has won more prize money than Agnieszka Radwanska this fall. Or respect, for that matter. But money won't make Radwanska a favorite at the WTA Championships in Istanbul, Turkey this week. In fact, her collective record of 4-8 vs. the Red Group makes her anything but a favorite.
Radwanska will be be a heavy underdog when Round Robin play begins on Tuesday because of the match-ups. She's 1-4 against Wozniacki and 0-2 against Kvitova, the two favorites to make the semis in the Red Group. As good as Rawanska was in Tokyo and Beijing this autumn, she'll have to be even better in Istanbul to win it all.
Caroline Wozniacki's 6 titles and Petra Kvitova's 5 bode well for title hopes, but Maria Sharapova's impressive 17-6 record vs. her group make her look like a cinch semifinalist if her ankle holds up.
Oddsmakers consider French Open champion Li Na of China a longshot, and it makes total sense. Slumping Li has only won 6 of 13 matches since winning the French, and will turn 30 early next year. In fact, the three oldest players in the Championships (Li, Stosur, Zvonareva) are the least favored three in the draw. That makes sense too, but I can't help wondering that they oddsmakers could be wrong about Stosur, who proved to the world at the US Open that she's ready for prime time.
Here are some questions that I have about Turkey:
1) Can Na Li wake up from her French Open slumber in time to add to her massive $3.2 million in prize money earned for 2011?
2) Is Victoria Azarenka carrying the hot hand after winning a title in Luxembourg last week without losing a set?
3) Can the Turkish people pack the Sinam Erdem Dome, or will it be a ghost town?
Notes and Miscellaneous:
-- How is Maria Sharapova's ankle? She hasn' t played since the injury occurred. It was slightly gruesome for those who saw it, and while Maria says it's not an issue, the proof will be in the pudding.
-- Did you know? That Maria Sharapova is the only member of the elite 8 with an all-time winning record against the top 5?
-- Sharapova has the best all-time record vs. her group, at 17-6.
-- Vera Zvonareva's 451 all time wins tops all players in the draw.
-- Caroline Wozniacki's 62 wins and .805 winning pct. in 2011 top all players in the draw.
-- For the 10th consecutive year, 2 or more Russians have qualified for the Championships.