Sunday, 21 October 2012

WTA Year Ending Championships Istanbul: Preview and Predictions

2012 has been a special year for the WTA and it is now time for the ladies to wrap up proceedings at the Year Ending Championships in Istanbul. The draw looks pretty even; the red group features Victoria Azarenka, Serena Williams, Angelique Kerber and Li Na, meanwhile the white group consists of Maria Sharapova, Agnieszka Radwanska, Petra Kvitova and Sara Errani.  Lets now take a look at the 2012 credentials of each player and my predictions for the tournament.

The Top eight in Istanbul (More Images available on the WTA website)

Red Group: 

Victoria Azarenka
2012 Highlight - A first Grand Slam title in Australia nestled in between a stunning 26 match winning streak was pretty awesome.
2012 Low - A dip was inevitable after the great start to the season and that came during the clay court season.  Azarenka looked lacklustre at the French Open where she struggled in her opener and then fell in the 4th round to Dominika Cibulkova.
Best Win(s) of the Year - There were many but the way she handled her nerves in the Australian Open Final and tore through Sharapova was mightily impressive.
Fun Fact - Excluding retirements and withdrawals, Azarenka lost just seven matches and only one to a player outside of the top 10 (Cibulkova).

Serena Williams
2012 Highlight - Too many to choose! Wimbledon title, check... US Open title, check... Olympic title, check.
2012 Low - The loss in the French Open first round to Virigine Razzano still stands as the most shocking match of the year when so many (including me!) had her down as the clear favourite.
Best Win(s) of the Year - Again so many! Her demolition of Maria Sharapova in the Olympic Final was amazing, but also the semi-finals and final of Charleston where she lost a combined total of three games to Sam Stosur and Lucie Safarova.
Fun Fact - Serena played just seven three set matches this year (losing one to Razzano) and won three titles without losing a set (Charleston, Stanford and Olympics).

Angelique Kerber
2012 Highlight - A first ever title in Paris with top 10 wins over Maria Sharapova and Marion Bartoli was the tip of the iceberg for Kerber who went on to play some stunning tennis during the clay court season... a semi-final at Wimbledon was not too shabby either
2012 Low - Sara Errani was twice her nemesis in the Grand Slams where she could easily have reached a maiden Grand Slam final.  She has looked tired since making the final in Cincy.
Best Win(s) of the Year - Wins over Serena and Sharapova were great, but the one that sticks to mind was a 6-1 6-2 beatdown of Caroline Wozniacki in Stuttgart.
Fun Fact - Kerber has made 4 quarter-finals, 6 semi-finals, 2 finals and won 2 titles this year.  There was only one occasion where she lost her first match at a tournament (to Zheng Jie in Miami).

Li Na
2012 Highlight - Finally winning a first title since Roland Garros in Cincinnati and producing solid results at the Premier events.
2012 Low - Struggled at all the Grand Slams where she failed to get past the 4th round.  She was hyped to do well at all of them bar perhaps Wimbledon, but failed to deliver the goods.  Losing to Clijsters in Australia having had four match points was one of the heartbreaking losses of 2012.
Best Win(s) of the Year - Comeback wins over Kvitova in Sydney and Kerber in Cincy, and a triple whammy of wins over Radwanska this summer steadied the boat too.
Fun Fact - After losing to Clijsters in Australia and retiring in Paris, Li went on an impressive run of 4 straight quarter-finals and a final in Rome... consistency got her that final spot at Istanbul.

Red Group Predictions:
Both groups are tough but I think the red group will be more competitive.  We are immediately guaranteed another match-up between Serena and Azarenka, which promises to be very exciting.  I think Kerber will struggle in this group.  She holds little hope against Azarenka based on their most recent encounters and I think although she did beat Serena in Cincy this year, she will struggle to repeat that having endured a long, long season.  Li can easily throw a spanner in the works if she can secure a win over either Serena or Azarenka, which is not unlikely... however I have to go for Azarenka and Serena (in that order) to qualify for the semi-finals.

White Group:

Maria Sharapova
2012 Highlight - Claiming the career slam with a terrific win at Roland Garros.  Her whole form during the clay court season was immense with titles in Stuttgart and Rome.
2012 Low - There were no major lows although Wimbledon saw a slight hangover from the clay.  A 4th round loss to Sabine Lisicki was certainly not on the cards.  The 6-0 6-1 loss to Serena in the Olympics final was a blow too.
Best Win(s) of the Year  -  The quarter-final win over Stosur in Stuttgart where she saved one match point was a superb performance and set her up for glory in Paris.
Fun Fact - Sharapova was unbeaten in three set matches until her semi-final with Azarenka at the US Open; she is currently 13-1 for 2012.

Agnieszka Radwanska
2012 Highlight - Reaching her first ever Grand Slam final at Wimbledon and putting in an admirable performance where she pushed Serena to three sets.
2012 Low - The American hard court season really caught up with her where she failed to make it past a quarter-final and lost in the 4th round of the US Open.
Best Win(s) of the Year  -  Beating Sharapova in the Miami final was her biggest scalp in a final and a 6-1 6-1 demolition of Angelique Kerber in Tokyo was excellent too.
Fun Fact - Of Radwanska's 17 losses, over half of them came at the hands of Azarenka (6 times) and Li (3 times).

Petra Kvitova
2012 Highlight - Winning two titles in Montreal and New Haven and enjoying solid consistency through the opening three Grand Slams with two semi-finals and a quarter-final.
2012 Low - Struggled to pull off the wins over the big guns and ended the season in disappointing fashion with a 4th round exit at the US Open and poor results in Asia.
Best Win(s) of the Year - Beating Li in the final of Montreal was a great performance and showed she still has what it takes to win big titles.
Fun Fact - Kvitova did not beat a top 10 player until August when she her beat Marion Bartoli in Montreal.

Sara Errani
2012 Highlight - Reaching the final of the French Open, the semi-finals of the US Open and four titles in Acapulco, Barcelona, Budapest and Palermo.  Breaking the top 10 was a superb achievement for the Italian.
2012 Low - Struggled on the grass where she was victim of a golden set by Yaroslava Shvedova at Wimbledon and a heavy opening round loss to Venus at the Olympics.
Best Win(s) of the Year - Her run at the French Open was truly magnificent and the win over Sam Stosur was a huge scalp in her first ever Grand Slam semi-final.
Fun Fact - The highest ranked player that Errani beat all year was number 6 (Stosur at Roland Garros and Kerber at the US Open).

White Group Predictions:
Unforrtunately I cannot see Sara Errani progressing out of this group.  Her only real chance would have been if she drew Kerber in her group.  A win over either Sharapova or Kvitova would be mindblowing although based on her year, nothing is impossible.  Sharapova has owned Kvitova of late so she would be my tip to qualify top.  The match-up between Kvitova and Radwanska will be the decisive one.  I don't think Radwanska will disgrace herself at all this week, pushing both Sharapova and Kvitova, but I think she will come third in the group.

Final Prediction - V.Azarenka d. S.Williams
I have a feeling that Azarenka will scoop the YEC title.  Serena has won all of their encounters this year, but I am not sure how mentally prepared she will be for this tournament.  She has not played since that US Open final, meanwhile Azarenka has rebounded superbly and shown real character to win the titles in Beijing and Linz.  I think Azarenka will be hungrier than ever to beat Serena and confirm her number one status.  

Kvitova will be dangerous on the indoor surface and I really hope my prediction of a semi-final clash with Azarenka takes place because they have yet to play in 2012.  I see Sharapova running into Serena in the semi-finals and coming off second best every time.

It should be a fantastic ending to the tournament and each day, I will be previewing the three matches on show and giving my predictions so keep reading :-D

Predictions anyone?!


  1. Williams to top red group. Williams owns Azarenka 10-1 in their head to head. Azarenka 2nd. Kerber no chance

    Sharapova to win white group. She owns Kvitova 4-1. Kvitova 2nd. Errani no chance

    Williams v Kvitova semi final. 3-1 H2H for Williams. Williams win

    Sharapova v Azarenka semi final. Azarenka shades it

    Williams beats Azarenka in final as she did in group stage.

    No one can stop Serena when she's playing well

  2. You make a good point and when I go against Serena, she often delivers. I agree with your comment that no one can stop Serena when she's playing well, but I am not so sure if she will play her best tennis this week.