Women's Tennis: 5 Questions for the WTA Championships

Michael Ann McKinlayContributor IIIOctober 19, 2012

ISTANBUL, TURKEY - OCTOBER 29:  Victoria Azarenka of Belarus plays a backhand in her match against Vera Zvonareva of Russia during day five of the season ending TEB BNP Paribas WTA Championships Tennis at the Sinan Erdem Stadium on October 29, 2011 in Istanbul, Turkey.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Julian Finney/Getty Images

The women’s tennis season is almost over as the WTA Championships begin next week. The top eight women in singles and top four doubles teams will battle it out in Istanbul. 

Victoria Azarenka, Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams will be present, along with new faces Angelique Kerber, Sara Errani and top ten regulars Petra Kvitova, Li Na and Agnieszka Radwanska. 

Play gets underway on Tuesday, Oct. 23, but before that, lets look at five intriguing questions that will be answered by the end of next week. 


Can anyone stop Serena? 

Serena Williams has been M.I.A as of late, pulling out of the Asian swing with an illness. But before that, Williams was her old dominating self, destroying the WTA field at Wimbledon and the Olympics, as well as outlasting a resurgent Azarenka in three sets at the US Open.

William's career head-to-head versus the other seven players is an impressive 35-5, but her lack of play in the recent month could give players like Kerber and Azarenka a chance for the upset. 

In the end, should Serena play like her Olympic-self, it’s hard not to pick her for the title. 


Who has the most momentum coming into the WTA Championships? 

The player with the hottest streak coming into the year-end championships is Azarenka, capturing title five of the season in Beijing, defeating Top 10 opponents Bartoli and Sharapova convincingly along the way and title six in Linz last week. 

Azarenka was a finalist last year in Istanbul, losing to Kvitova in three sets and winning this championship will confirm her as year-end No. 1.  


Which newcomer, Sara Errani or Angelique Kerber, will perform better? 

Errani has had an unbelievable year reaching the French Open final and US Open semifinal and thus propelling her into the WTA Championships. Errani’s record vs. the other seven this year isn’t that great, 2-8, but look for her to excel in the doubles competition with Vinci, as they are the top seeds. 

Kerber, on the other hand, has an explosive game with her grinding backhands that could trouble the top players in the early rounds. Her best results have come on the hard court this season, and despite losing to Errani at the US Open, has a better record against the other seven players, 6-12, for the year.

Although she struggled with a right foot injury in the last two tournaments, should she be healthy and could be a dark horse for the tournament.


What’s in store for defending champ Petra Kvitova? 

The world No. 5, despite two titles this summer in North America, has had a mediocre season, failing to build up from her breakout 2011 season. Yes, she reached two semifinals in Australia and Paris but looked awful in her US Open loss to Bartoli in the fourth round after capturing the US Open series title. 

This fall season hasn’t got that much better for Kvitova, losing early in Tokyo and Beijing. Next week will be interesting as Kvitova prepares to defend her title.


Who will hoist the trophy at the end of the week?

It’s really hard not to pick Williams to take the year-end championships. Her numbers against the other seven players don’t lie, with this year compiling a 9-1 record vs. the seven, her only loss coming to Kerber in Cincinnati. However, Williams has yet to play a professional match since the US Open and will have to shake off some rust.

With that said, look for Azarenka to continue her success in Istanbul should she meet Williams and provide an entertaining US Open rematch while capturing her first WTA Championship.