One of the great things about the WTA Championships is that because it’s an elite eight woman field, tennis fans are treated to intriguing match-ups from day 1 of round robin play. Any one of the three round robin matches were worthy of quarterfinal significance at a Major. The contest between 3rd seed Agnieszka Radwanska and Petra Kvitova might even be worthy of a Major semifinal. Add in that Petra was the defending champion here last year and was bested by Aga in her first match before ultimately withdrawing with a viral illness, and there were storylines aplenty. Petra had to grind it out, but ultimately played the big points better to take down Aga, 6-4 6-4. Randwanska had her chances but couldn’t convert enough break chances to derail Kvitova. It was a great win for Petra; notably because Serena Williams, who also won her first match against Angelique Kerber 3 and 1, is lurking in the Red Group with Kvitova. Had Petra lost this match and then lost to Williams in RR play, it would have taken some help to advance out of RR play. This is not to disrespect Kerber. I certainly am not saying Petra automatically beats Angelique, loses to Serena, which is also not a given, but then advances with a 2 and 1 record in RR. Petra could lose to Kerber and could also win against Serena. It’s sports. Nothing is a given.
Although I think that of the 3 winners on day one, Petra had the toughest opponent, I believe Victoria Azarenka had the most challenging task. Since her inspired effort in losing the 2013 US Open final to Serena in 3 sets, Vika has played just twice, losing both matches. If you told me that Azarenka, injured or not, would lose 4 straight matches this year, I wouldn’t believe it. But early in her match against Sara Errani, she was down 2-5 and looking like Istanbul would not be a trip to remember. Vika dug herself out of her that hole to eventually take the first set in a tie-break before seizing control of the match to win going away, 7-6 (4) 6-2. Had Azarenka lost, it really would have opened up the White Group early. That’s the more unpredictable group to me, with Li Na, Jelena Jankovic (those two did not play on day 1) and Sara Errani all having a shot to advance. Errani is not in as much of a hole as Petra Kvitova would have been in had she lost to Radwanska. The problem with the Red Group is that a loss to anybody other than Serena is devastating because Williams will be tough to beat. It would almost be like starting with 2 losses. In Errani’s case, matches against JJ and Li Na are much more winnable, although not givens by any means.
SCORES AND DAY 2 MATCHUPS
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 22, 2013
|17:00||ROUND ROBIN|| VICTORIA AZARENKA (BLR)||d|| SARA ERRANI (ITA)||| 7 – 6 (4) | 6 – 2 ||
|19:00||ROUND ROBIN|| SERENA WILLIAMS (USA)||d|| ANGELIQUE KERBER (GER)||| 6 – 3 | 6 – 1 ||
|21:00||ROUND ROBIN|| PETRA KVITOVA (CZE)||d|| AGNIESZKA RADWANSKA (POL)||| 6 – 4 | 6 – 4 ||
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 23, 2013
|17:00||–|| NA LI (CHN)||V|| SARA ERRANI (ITA)|
|19:00||–|| VICTORIA AZARENKA (BLR)||V|| JELENA JANKOVIC (SRB)|
|21:00||–|| SERENA WILLIAMS (USA)||V|| AGNIESZKA RADWANSKA (POL)|
1. Victoria Azarenka (1-0 : 2-0)
2. Li Na (0-0 : 0-0)
3. Jelena Jankovic (0-0 : 0-0)