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Sony Ericsson WTA Championships, Doha - Preview
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The final fight for supremacy begins at the 2009 Sony Ericsson WTA Championship in Doha, Qatar where the world's top eight women compete for the top honours.
The elite eight have been divided into two groups - White & Maroon
White Group -
Maroon Group -
A mere look at the division confirms that where on on hand, the White Group features two slamless No.1's and a couple of breakthrough performers, the Maroon Group consists of the creme-de-la-creme of Grand Slam tennis.
Out of the entire lot, there are only two former champions, with Serena winning in Los Angeles in 2001 and Venus triumphing in Doha last year. The top eight players come into the Championships backed by an explicitly varied set of careers and perhaps this is what makes this year's championships quite unusual. Names like Elena Dementieva and Svetlana Kuznetsova, who have been on this stage plenty of times are yet to prove their mettle, whereas debutants Victoria Azarenka and Caroline Wozniacki have brought a breath of fresh air to the Grand finale. Most notable of the entire lot are the slamless No.1's Jelena Jankovic and Dinara Safina, who carry a huge burden of expectations as this is probably the only event other than a Grand Slam that can fetch them a long overdue "champion-status".
Let's take a look at each of the eight women's contendorship at the year-end Championship -
Dinara Safina -
With three titles this year in her kitty, Dinara Safina stayed on top of the rankings for most of the year. Although her 'below expectation' performance at the slams invited a lot of criticism, even though the Russian managed to reach the two finals in Paris and Melbourne. Despite the losses, there is an element of ferocity and competitiveness in her that makes her the strongest contendor in the White Group.
Serena Williams -
There is a reason why everyone finds Serena Williams the safest bet for to champion in any event she appears. Williams' resume features two Grand Slam titles this year and a return to the top spot in rankings. Although Williams' past record at the year-end championship is not very stellar, her triumph in 2001 (Davenport withdrew from the final) and a surprise final loss to Clijsters in 2002 do make her the best performer among the eight women.
Svetlana Kuznetsova -
Sooner or later, things have fallen into place for one of the most talented Russian women ever, Svetlana Kuznetsova. Five years after her breakthrough triumph at Flushing meadows, Kuznetsova proved that she is not a one slam wonder with her win at Roland Garros. Kuznetsova enters the year-end finale with an interesting winning streak (she, being the only player in the draw to enter with such a back-up) that includes her triumph at a corner-stone event in Beijing. However, out of the three Russians, she possesses the strongest stakes at the title for sure.
Venus Williams -
Defending champion Venus Williams has had a less-than impressive year with two titles, although her most significant run at an event is her final appearance at the prestigious All England Lawn Tennis Club. Many considered her triumph in Doha last year as a long overdue achievement, but ironically Williams seems to have lost her focus over the course of time. Unexpected early round losses in Melbourne and Paris, followed by a disheartning loss to comeback queen Kim Clijsters at Flushing Meadows have emerge as an aberration for Williams. The seven time champion can very well restore her legacy with a win here, though chances are slim.
Caroline Wozniacki -
Danish star Caroline Wozniacki emerged as the 'most promising star of tomorrow' this year with her three titles and a final finish at a stage no less than Flushing Meadows. Wozniacki's qualification at the year-end championship is well-deserved and makes her a probable semifinalist despite a less-than-perfect Asian Swing season, which saw her fall victim to injuries. Wozniacki is one of the very few players on tour to have won titles on all three surfaces and that gives a new dimension to her game. As far as adaptability is concerned, she seems to have an upper-hand over immediate competitor Victoria Azarenka, though her run to the semifinal is, to a large extent, dependent on how the Jankovic's and Safina's of the game perform.
Elena Dementieva -
Elena Dementieva has been a favourite to most forum discussion when it comes to being an 'under-achiever in the sport. Dementieva, who made it to two Grand Slam semifinals this year boasts of wins over all the big players in the circuit. The Russian came pretty close to reaching her first Wimbledon final this year when she held a match point against the insurmountable Serena Williams, but destiny had something else to offer. With a win at a premier event in Toronto, Dementieva emerged as the favourite for U.S. Open, but a dispiriting loss to 'Story of the tournament - Melanie Oudin' left Dementieva with a lot more than just professional humiliation. The Russian has the game to beat the best in the business, it's just a matter of timing, which seems to go wrong most of the times.
Victoria Azarenka -
Victoria Azarenka hit the headlines when she won her first Tier-I title in Miami after dethroning five time champion Serena Williams in the final. The Belarusian soon became the favourite subject for the tabloid and media alike. However, what followed was pretty discouraging as her most significant win became the last win of the season. Azarenka possesses both the game and strength to be at par with the big guns of the sport, unfortunately though, her run can easily be cut short by names like Safina and Wozniacki, who have been more consistent of the whole lot.
Jelena Jankovic -
If there are two players in the circuit right now who are hungrier for supremacy than anyone else then they have to be Dinara Safina and Jelena Jankovic. Afterall there is so much in common between them. Both are former No.1's, both are slamless and both have invited plenty orf criticism for not performing while under pressure. As a matter of fact, these two have struggled the most this season and that too against players who could easily have been a straight set demolition. The only triumph worth a mention is Jankovic's victory in Cincinnati which saw her beat some of the biggest names in tennis. As far as securing the spot in the semifinal is concerned, she is in direct competition with Dinara Safina, the equations may change with variation in Wozniacki's performance though.
The year-end championship has emerged as a platform for each of the elite eight to prove their mettle whether it's Serena Williams' perfect finish to a brilliant year or Safina and Jankovic's rise to the occasion as six of them take their chances to win the big prize for the first time in their elusive careers.
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