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September 21 • 03:36
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Sharapova out, Azarenka, Kvitova clinch spots;

October 28, 2011
This WTA Championship is engaging because so little has been settled during the year. On the ATP Tour in the last 2 years, we've seen one man lay claim to top honors and undisputed achievement over all others (Nadal in '10, Joker in '11). The year-end event can do little more than give another opportunity for Joker to show what we've already seen, or for others to show what they can do when he doesn't. The likely candidates are already known: Rafa, Roger and Andy.

As this week started in Istanbul, the seedings suggested little about how things would play out on the weekend with the field down to 4 players. As with all round robin formats, there's been uncertainty due to contingent results. When #6 Zvonareva was up a set and then serving at 5-3, 40-15 to #8 Radwanska in the 3rd, it looked like she and not #1 Wozniacki would be competing in the final weekend. But the Krakow star dug in and survived a 10 minute assault by the Russian's artillery. Now Cara's fate awaits tomorrow's result between Kvitova and Radwanska. In the red group, #3 seed Wimbledon champ Petra Kvitova rolled over #1 Wozniacki 6-4, 6-2 to clinch the 1st semi-final spot from her group.

The Istanbul tournament experience wouldn't have been complete without a withdrawal, which #2 Sharapova provided today, citing swelling in her recently injured ankle after losing her first two matches and being eliminated from contention in her round robin. A retirement during a match may be next. We won't see one from Azarenka (the queen of 2011 retirements, with 4), who won her first two matches and qualified for the semis without playing her 3rd match. Given her scores in her first 2 wins, 6-2, 6-2 over Stosur and Na Li, it seems silly to imagine her needing to conserve energy, but even if she had a problem in her last RR match (against sub, Bartoli), she could tank and keep her spot in the semis. Li and Stosur will play tomorrow for the 2nd spot from their group. Bartoli can't qualify unless Li and Stosur (the other two of the remaining 3 players in Azarenka's group) withdraw, and they can't both retire as they play each other (unless they ran into each other at the change-over and were both forced to retire). Marion will concentrate on winning her one and only match in order to take home the winner's check of $110,00.

Where are we before tomorrow's matches? Woz waits; Li and Sam play off for a spot; Agnes has a chance if she beats Petra. This is as clear as it's going to get, which is part of the fun of these year-end events.


If I had to guess now, I'd say #3 Kvitova will beat #4 Azarenka for the title. I wouldn't be surprised if 3 beat 4 in London for that title in a month. Kvitova and Murray could be positioning as an early front to change the weather in 2012. The difference: Murray is fitter and more ready, but faces far greater competition.

Friday Order of Play

Friday, October 28, 2011

1. Li Na vs. Samantha Stosur

2. Petra Kvitova vs. Agnieszka Radwanska

3. Marion Bartoli vs. Victoria Azarenka

Rick Devereux

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