Posts Tagged ‘season ending championships’

wta sec: armchair commentary wrap up

October 31, 2011

By Matt Trollope

While Vika is looking up, Petra is really only looking ahead. (Getty)

Armchair commentary always takes a hit on a weekend because, quite simply, you spend a lot less time in the armchair. So without further ado, here is a wrap of the final weekend in Istanbul which offered up a new tournament champion, some quality tennis, and plenty of juicy plot-lines entering 2012.

Player of the year: Petra Kvitova‘s absorbing three-set win over Victoria Azarenka in the final went a long way to cementing her — unofficially at least — as the player of the year in 2011. With the four Slams being split between four players and a pervading sense of parity (or instability) throughout the tour, Kvitova’s resounding win at the prestigious event elevated her above all other candidates. Although Caro matched her haul of six titles, the Czech’s Wimbledon and WTA Championship titles were much more significant than anything Wozniacki achieved. Add to this her sparkling 19-0 indoor record, titles on all four surfaces and her rise from no. 34 to no. 2 and you see a player with a compelling case for POTY honors.

A new era? The weekend’s results caused a significant shift in the upper echelons of the WTA rankings, with Kvitova and Azarenka leap-frogging Maria Sharapova into second and third place respectively. For all the talk of veterans flourishing on tour — which remains true at Grand Slam level at least — the top trio are the youngest players in the Top 10. With Wozniacki and Kvitova just 21 and Azarenka just a year older, they have many more years ahead of them, and with the players possessing contrasting styles, the stage could be set for a compelling three-pronged rivalry into the future. Trivalry? We sort of dig this trio.

Inflated ranking: How on earth was Vera Zvonareva ranked no. 2 as recently as the US Open? The Russian, who now sits at no. 7, finished the round-robin stage with a mediocre 1-2 record. Somehow she qualifyied for the semifinals thanks to a count-back technicality, but it was there that she was comprehensively outplayed by Vika on Saturday, a player she had won six of her last nine matches against. With the emotional, mentally-fragile Vera of old resurfacing in Istanbul, the chances of her repeating her major final appearances of 2010 and re-ascending the rankings ladder in 2012 seem increasingly slim.

Tight battles: While it may not have been the best quality tennis ever staged, the championships produced some resounding battles that thrilled the fans in Istanbul. In the round robin stage, Zvonareva and Wozniacki fought out a tough three-set match on the second night of the event, and the next day, Zvonareva again found herself in a three-set fight, blowing a 5-3 final set lead and match points to hand Agniezska Radwanksa a 1-6, 6-2, 7-5 win that featured several rallies worthy of the highlight reel. The final weekend was no different: Kvitova came through roller-coaster affairs against Sam Stosur in the semis and Vika in the final, defeating both in dramatic three-set contests.

Success story: More than 13,000 spectators reportedly packed into the Sinan Erdem Dome for the final, continuing a run of impressive crowds that attended each session. The support for the championships in Turkey was one of the bigger stories of the week and was pleasantly surprising given the event’s prior flops in Los Angeles, Madrid and Doha. With a state-of the-art venue, knowledgeable and enthusiastic crowds and an atmosphere the players relished, the unofficial “fifth major” has had some of its former glory restored and appears to be in good hands for the next two years in Istanbul.

So what’s next? The stories and results from this year’s championships have left us with many tantalising questions heading into the 2012 season. Will the young brigade of Kvitova, Azarenka, Wozniacki and Radwanska continue to flourish when the established greats — Serena, Kim, Venus and Maria — return to the tour fresh and healthy? More specifically, how will Kvitova’s impressive game stack up against a fully-fit Serena or Clijsters? Will Azarenka continue her steady improvement and eventually capture a major title? Will Li Na rediscover her confidence in time for the Australian circuit, where she’s defending a truckload of points? Will Wozniacki continue to cling to her no. 1 ranking or will she be usurped by bolder, more aggressive shotmakers? Will more decisive action finally be taken on the grunting issue, in the face of increasing complaints and media coverage? And will the WTA unearth a dominant player to bring stability to an erratic, unpredictable tour? Stay tuned …

Matt Trollope began covering tennis in 2008, a natural extension of his childhood obsession for the game that included hitting for countless hours against his bedroom wall and self-producing and editing a fictitious tennis magazine. Based in Melbourne, he has covered four Australian Opens and one Wimbledon championship, and his tennis writing has featured in Australian Tennis Magazine, the Australian Open Official Program, and Alpha Magazine.

sunday survey: petra pushes for POTY

October 30, 2011

Reigning queen? Kvitova swept her last 10 matches of ’11. (AP photo)

Player of the year? With her triumph over the field in Istanbul this week, Petra Kvitova made a convincing push for winning the title of player of the year for the 2011 season. The Season Ending Championships are often called the “fifth slam” beyond the majors, and Petra is now the only woman to grab two out of those five tournaments. Sure, Miami is often also brought up in the same breath, but Petra beat Miami’s victor, Victoria Azarenka 7-5 4-6 6-3 to nab the SEC title, cementing herself as the cream of the WTA crop to end the season. Sure, there was the blip between Wimbledon and after the USO when the Czech 21 year old went 5-5, but she closed the year winning ten straight matches, including five over five of the best players on the planet. Can anyone edge her out for such an honor? Your picks for player of the year below.

wta yec: armchair commentary, day four

October 29, 2011

By Matt Trollope

UPDATE: Kvitova is already into the semis with a 5-7 6-3 6-3 win over Stosur. Who said the ladies’ season ender had to be a bust? (AP)

Stat of the day: A lot was made of the H2H records involving Sam Stosur entering the tournament — 0-9 against Maria Sharapova, 0-4 against Victoria Azarenka, yet 5-0 against against Li Na. Playing the Chinese player in Istanbul, Stosur improved that to 6-0, with a demoralizing 6-1 6-0 win handing Li her heaviest professional loss in five-and-a-half years. Stosur has only ever dropped one set against Li in her career, and thanks to the victory, now takes her place in the semifinals in Istanbul.

Typical WTA moment: Women’s tennis is never short of drama, with cat-fights, tears, and the grunting issue among its many facets. Controversial figures have also been a mainstay — how many times have we seen crowds in the past turn on Venus and Serena, Sharapova, Henin and Hingis? Today it was Vika’s turn. The Belorussian has never made a habit of trying to please people — her shrieking being a prime example — and today was no different. Already having qualified for the semifinals, she appeared to tank in the final set of her last round-robin match against alternate Marion Bartoli, gave the Frenchwoman a poor handshake, and was booed off the court at the Sinan Erdem Arena.

Startling admission: All Agnieszka Radwanska had to do was win a set in her match against Petra Kvitova to qualify for the semifinals, and leading 5-1 in the opening set, it appeared she was on track. But Kvitova improved her level, took the set in a tiebreak, and ran out a 7-6(4) 6-3 winner. “Even when I was 5-1 up in the first set, to be honest, I didn’t feel I was close to win[ning] the set,” Aga said following the match. That’s (a lack of) confidence right there. The result allowed Vera Zvonareva to progress to the semis, and despite Vera owning a mediocre 1-2 win-loss record this week, her overall game-winning percentage proved better than the Pole’s.

Thought for today/tomorrow: Can anybody stop the Kvitova juggernaut? The Czech is the only player to go undefeated in Istanbul — she hasn’t dropped a set — and enters her semifinal against Stosur with a 2-0 winning record over the Australian. A final against Azarenka seems to be looming.

Flashback: We know some of you have been nostalgic for classic women’s tennis this week, so why not a little taste of it from the Chase Championships in 1996. Steffi Graf beat Martina Hingis in one of the few five-set encounters in women’s tennis history, 6-3 4-6 6-0 4-6 6-0. Cheers, ladies!

Matt Trollope began covering tennis in 2008, a natural extension of his childhood obsession for the game that included hitting for countless hours against his bedroom wall and self-producing and editing a fictitious tennis magazine. Based in Melbourne, he has covered four Australian Opens and one Wimbledon championship, and his tennis writing has featured in Australian Tennis Magazine, the Australian Open Official Program, and Alpha Magazine.

wta sec: armchair commentary, day 3

October 27, 2011

By Matt Trollope

Stat of the day: Petra Kvitova now boasts a 16-0 win-loss record indoors this year after brushing aside Caroline Wozniacki. The Wimbledon champ has picked up indoor titles in Paris and Linz as well as claiming four Fed Cup indoor singles wins. Add to this her two round-robin victories in Istanbul and you’re looking at an extremely impressive record. The Czech is looking in dangerously confident form at the year-end event …

Typical WTA moment: People may have complained for ages now about the ignominy of slamless No. 1′s on the women’s tour and how attaining the top ranking seems to be a poisoned chalice. But should they be blamed? Wozniacki’s performances in Istanbul have gotten progressively worse: she scraped by Agnieszka Radwanska, then lost to Vera Zvonareva in three, before falling to Kvitova in straights. Had just a few points gone Aga’s way, we could be looking at a No. 1 with a 0-3 record in the round-robin stage. A disappointing year in the Slams and a poor performance against her fellow top players at the Championships is not great for the confidence. Are we starting to see the first signs of a Jankovic or Safina-esque descent?

Biggest surprise: For all the talk of how unpredictable the WTA Tour is these days — and I include myself among those voices — Kvitova and Victoria Azarenka‘s smooth progression has been one of the few times in recent memory a women’s event has followed the form guide. This year’s Championships were among the most open in history and without a clear favorite, yet experts were generally leaning towards an Azarenka or Kvitova victory, with both claiming titles in the lead-up weeks to the event. With each winning their first two matches in straight sets and already qualifying for the semifinals, it’s the first time in forever we’ve been able to use the words “as predicted” for anything to do with women’s tennis. Feels kinda nice, right?

Beer goggles? Is that you, Aggie? Stumbling?! We imagine this to be the front one viewpoint of Maria’s Sasha after he drank away his sorrows over his soon-to-be wife withdrawing from Istanbul. Oh right, and the fact that he still has no job.

Thought for today/tomorrow: All eyes will be on tomorrow’s match between Sam Stosur and Li Na, with the winner locking up the second semifinal place in the White Group. Both were obliterated by Azarenka this week with an identical 6-2, 6-2 scoreline, yet Stosur should go in with greater confidence thanks to a 5-0 winning record against the Chinese player.

Matt Trollope began covering tennis in 2008, a natural extension of his childhood obsession for the game that included hitting for countless hours against his bedroom wall and self-producing and editing a fictitious tennis magazine. Based in Melbourne, he has covered four Australian Opens and one Wimbledon championship, and his tennis writing has featured in Australian Tennis Magazine, the Australian Open Official Program, and Alpha Magazine.

(Caro image via Getty; Radwanska image via the AP)

wta sec: armchair commentary on day 2

October 27, 2011

By Matt Trollope

Stat of the day: Vera Zvonareva defeated Caroline Wozniacki in three gruelling sets in the last match of day two action in Istanbul. The primary reason? The Russian’s 49 winners to the Dane’s 13. Note to Caro: relying solely on superb defensive skills just won’t cut it at the highest level. Yet while that may be, Wozniacki has secured the year-end No.1 ranking for the second straight year thanks to Maria Sharapova‘s withdrawal from the event due to a persistent ankle injury.

Typical WTA moment: Masha’s withdrawal continues the unfortunate theme of WTA events lacking in star power. The past four winners of the Championships since 2006 — Kim Clijsters, Serena Williams, Venus Williams and Justine Henin — all failed to start, and with 2004 winner Sharapova now gone as well, the event is missing the five most successful players of the past decade. Could you imagine the equivalent scenario occurring at the ATP World Tour Finals? If Federer retired before it began, Nadal, Djokovic and Murray didn’t enter because of injury, and then Del Potro withdrew during the week, the tournament would be decimated.

Intriguing interviews: Caro added some spice to the event by telling reporters that she thinks some players grunt on purpose. “They don’t do it in practice and then they come into the match and they grunt. I think they [officials] could definitely cut it,” she said. Does this mean she thinks the same of her friend Victoria Azarenka, also in the draw and who’s one of the loudest shriekers out there? That potential match-up may have gotten a whole lot more interesting | Speaking of complaints: Agniezska Radwanska aired her grievances about the court at the Sinan Erdem Dome. “It’s pretty slow. It’s weird bounces, and surface very sticky so it’s hard to run, as well,” she said. But it’s not all doom and gloom in Turkey — Caro and Masha shared their enthusiasm about the potential combining of the ATP and WTA year-end events. “It would definitely be nice to see. I think that would be a lot more fun for the fans to see the men and women together,” Sharapova said. The ATP will have to streamline their calendar first — its World Tour Finals are still almost a month away.

Photo of day: We’ve always loved Vika’s intense post-match winning celebrations. Today’s win over Sam Stosur was no different.

My vocal chords are just fine, Caro. Thanks for asking… (AP photo)

Thought for today/tomorrow: Who will come up trumps in the match between Azarenka and Li Na? Given that both women own unblemished records in the tournament so far with one straight-set win apiece, the winner will break the deadlock in the White Group, vault to the top of the group standings and put themselves in prime position for a semifinal berth.

Matt Trollope began covering tennis in 2008, a natural extension of his childhood obsession for the game that included hitting for countless hours against his bedroom wall and self-producing and editing a fictitious tennis magazine. Based in Melbourne, he has covered four Australian Opens and one Wimbledon championship, and his tennis writing has featured in Australian Tennis Magazine, the Australian Open Official Program, and Alpha Magazine.

statology: runnings the #s on the wta sec field

October 24, 2011
By Christopher Phillips


Maria is rearin’ to go.
(Getty Image)

Who said the numbers don’t matter?
TSF’s resident bracketologist, Chris Phillips, has run the numbers on the upcoming WTA Season Ending Championships to try to shed some light on just what, exactly, may come of the tennis being played in Istanbul. Will Caroline crumble on the pressure? Is Maria meant to be an afterthought for the rest of her carry? Chris carries the 3′s and breaks down the head-to-heads to help us understand.1. Lay off, will ya? Despite all the crap on Caroline Wozniacki not doing well at the Slams, she has the second most points of all the players accumulated at Slams with 3240 point accumulated. That puts her behind Li Na with 3505 — pretty much all from Australia & Roland Garros). Wozniacki maybe hasn’t won one, but she’s definitely the most consistent at them.  The next closest is Petra Kvitova (2785), and then Maria Sharapova(2740).

2. Dark horses in a field of eight? Agnieszka Radwanska and Victoria Azarenka are clearly the players to beat this fall. Aggie is 11-1, winning Tokyo and Beijing and perhaps serendipitously losing in her opener against Lucie Safarova in Moscow. Vika is 9-2, winning last week in Luxembourg.

3. H2Hs m-a-t-t-e-r. Kvitova has the best record against the rest of the field (8-4) followed by Sharapova (7-5). The worst? Azarenka (4-8).

4. Play it, girl. Vera Zvonareva has the most matches against the field with 14 meaning … she’s generally the most consistent out of everyone? It’s hard to say exactly what it means, but Vera’s consistency has helped pay off in the past. Perhaps she can conjure up a big title in Istanbul.

5. A new No. 1? Wozniacki is 1025 points ahead of Sharapova, 1425 ahead of Kvitova and 1805 ahead of Azarenka.  1500 points go to the tournament winner if they don’t lose a round robin match. That means that Sharapova and Kvitova are the only players with a chance of finishing 2011 No. 1.  All Wozniacki has to do is play two round robin matches and Kvitova is out of the running for the top spot. If Sharapova wins the title and Wozniacki fails to make it to the semifinals, Maria is your new No. 1.

6. Li Nahasn’t beat a top 10 player since the French Open. And all five of her wins over the field came from the Australian and Roland Garros.

7. Playing indoors could give Sam Stosur and her booming serve an edge. And she won’t need to worry about Maria Kirilenko.

8. Apart from Auckland and Stanford, Sharapova has only played the Slams and Premier tournaments. She is the only player in the field to win at least one match at every tournament she entered – everyone else had one first-round loss (or second-round loss if receiving a bye).

Chris’ picks: Red Group
1. Kvitova 3-0 2. Wozniacki 1-2 (def. Zvonareva) 3. Radwanska 1-2 (def. Wozniacki) 4. Zvonareva 1-2 (def. Radwanska)
With a three-way tie for second, I’d give the final spot to Wozniacki.
White Group
1. Sharapova 2-1 (lost to Azarenka) 2. Azarenka 2-1 (lost to Stosur) 3. Stosur 2-1 (lost to Sharapova) 4. Li Na 0-3
With a three-way tie for first, I’d give the SF spots to Sharapova and Azarenka.
Semifinals: Kvitova def. Azarenka and Sharapova def. Wozniacki
Finals: Kvitova def. Sharapova
***Wildcard?! Sharapova’s ankle. Chris says: If she doesn’t finish RR then that gives Azarenka and Stosur a good chance to get in there. 

After the jump: Chris breaks down the ladies number by number to give you a clear head on what might/could/should happen. Hey, it’s the WTA!
(more…)

sunday survey: who’s your lady?

October 23, 2011

All roads have led to Istanbul. Or flights, that is. The WTA‘s season will (mostly) wrap up this week in Istanbul, Turkey, with the WTA Championships (some women will compete in the Championships 2.0 event next week in Bali). But after Frenchwoman Marion Bartoli pulled out of Moscow last week the eight-woman field was set, ending the run-off between herself and Agnieszka Radwanska. Radwanska joins Caroline Wozniaki, Maria Sharapova, Petra Kvitova, Victoria Azarenka (fresh off a title in Luxembourg), Li Na, Vera Zvonareva and Sam Stosur for the round-robin format. Play begins on Tuesday.

But we’re curious: Who is your pick to win the title this year in Istanbul? Vote below.

(getty images photo)


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