Sunday, 27 October 2013

WTA Champs Istanbul, 2013: Serena triumphs an underwhelming Championships

This afternoon, Serena Williams defeated Li Na to close out the WTA Champs in an entertaining finale, 2-6 6-3 6-0.  Serena began the match in her semi-final slumber mode although Li came out firing on all cylinders with her successful serve-and-volleying a noteworthy feature of the first two sets.  Serena suddenly found her intensity in the second set, but Li hung well with her to 3-3 before completely fading away.  The third set was such a shame to see as Li did crumble having put in a series of mentally tough performances this week.  It reminded me a lot of the Miami final earlier this year (Serena d. Sharapova, 4-6 6-3 6-0) where Sharapova was stunning for a set and half before Serena woke up and then proceeded to destroy her opponent's spirit.

It was all too easy for Serena this week

For me, this year's event was a rather lacklustre event.  I always look forward to the Year Ending Champs. From the iconic picture of the eight challengers to seeing star-striking clashes day in day out through the group stages, it is always a fitting occasion to end the season.  However right from the get go this year, I wasn't feeling this final outing in Istanbul.  Out of the top ten, I would rank Maria Sharapova as my least favourite player, but I actually missed her at this year's event. The third ranked player in this tournament was Agnieszka Radwanska and no disrespect to her, but there was not one person, who thought she had a hope of winning this week.  Serena was the clear favourite and I didn't see one person calling the tournament differently.  Even miles off her best in the semi-finals and final, Serena was light years ahead of the competition, which unfortunately gave this tournament a rather predictable feeling.

I never thought I would say it, but I missed Maria.

I think the WTA Champs could learn a few things from the ATP World Tour Finals and it seems, things are going to change when the tournament moves to Singapore next year for a five year stint.  The tournament from 2014 will run from a Sunday to a Sunday schedule and I think that will only improve the quality of competition.  Three round robin matches on one day makes the tournament feel rushed and has meant that the finalists play five days out of six, which could see one player competing on five consecutive days if their day off is on the first day, which was the case for Li Na this year.  Another problem has been injuries and niggles; since 2006, there have been only two occasions (including this year) where an alternate has not been called on in the WTA Champs.  In my opinion, the heavy schedule is certainly one of the reasons for all the withdrawals, which are something of a rarity at the ATP World Tour Finals with just one withdrawal in the last four years.

Props to Li for a career best performance at the YEC

Another reason I couldn't get on board with this year's WTA Champs was the lack of quality matches.  Last year was actually great and on the top of my head I can remember Sharapova v Radwanska, Radwanska v Errani and best of all, Azarenka v Kerber, which all were noteworthy matches compared to the whole of 2012.  This year saw a large amount of one sided matches with just four that went to three sets and only two which were mildly memorable in my mind.  I really enjoyed the first set of Kvitova v Kerber, which brought out some exciting rallies with so much up for grabs and today's finale, which was fascinating for the first two sets at least before an unforgettable final set.

Kerber features in so many of my favourite matches

The WTA is set up next year with a clear leader at the top of the rankings and only Azarenka has shown potential in threatening Serena.  I still believe Kvitova could beat Serena on a good day and Jankovic competes against her well, but the rest of the top ten just do not come close.  It was a poor ending to the season, but all in all, it's been a good year for the WTA and where I think it stacks up better than the ATP is the vast talent coming through.  Towards the end of this year, the likes of Eugenie Bouchard and Madison Keys started to make their presence felt.  I do not think there will be major changes in the top 5 of the rankings next year, but I do see significant upheaval elsewhere and I think next year's top eight qualifying for Singapore will have a significantly different look to it compared to this year...

The future is bright...

Next Week... Technically the WTA still has the Tournament of Champions in Sofia next week although I think it is a waste of time so do not expect a great deal of coverage from me on it this week.  My focus will be on the last ATP Masters 100 event in Paris leading into the World Tour Finals


  1. Thank you very informative your analysis

  2. Nice round up of the year and will keep your overall general analysis for the next year in the back of my psyche. Thanks! Happy new year Moo! oh oops we're not there yet:-) We still have paris and ATP world tour MEN's finals!

  3. Not quite done for 2013 yet, Aachoo Crony ;-)