Who Will Win The WTA Tour Championships 2013?
The WTA Tour concludes in Istanbul this week with the WTA Tour Championships. Today on the blog The Sultan returns to deliver his detailed WTA Tour Championships betting preview.
The WTA Championships get underway in Turkey on Monday. The traditional year end get-together of the top 8 ranked female tennis stars was first held in 1972 and switches venues every few years. In 2011 it was Istanbul's turn to host and this time around will be the final show before it heads off to Singapore in 2014.
Since moving to the Sinam Erdem Dome, the Championships have reached new levels of fervour and interest, with packed, vociferous crowds at every match, held in a fantastic indoor stadium. Istanbul has turned this tournament into the prestigious, glamorous event that it should be, as we see with the men's version in London. This makes it much more of a spectacle and of far greater betting interest than it has been at previous venues, such as Doha, where it's often been an anti-climax.
The format begins with the players split into 2 groups of 4 on a round-robin basis - so each player plays one match against every other player in their group. This is very important to remember, as it is possible that the final round of group matches will have some dead-rubbers - meaningless matches where the outcome will not affect who qualifies for the semi finals. The winner of each group will play the runner-up of the other group in that semi final, with the final on October 26th. It's only the second time since the round-robin format was introduced in 2003, that all 8 qualifiers have played the tournament before - so they all have experience. Let's take a look at those 8 qualifiers:
Current WTA Championship Odds - Odds as at 21st October 2013.
13 wins in her last 16 matches just cemented Kerber as the 8th and final qualifier. She's had a disappointing year by her standards, starting it ranked 5 and currently ranked 9 - only making these Championships because Maria Sharapova dropped out. She hasn't made the quarter-final stage of any Grand Slam this year and only won the one title - last week on the indoor courts of Linz, which secured her the final spot.
But this does mean that she comes into the tournament in great form and will be a real threat to whoever she plays. Her showing in Tokyo just a couple of weeks ago, was particularly impressive; beating Radwanska, Ivanovic, Wozniacki and almost finishing off Kvitova in the final. Is she a genuine contender? I don't see her winning but definitely a dark-horse who may cause some upsets.
In complete contrast to Kerber, Jankovic has had a storming 2013, her best year in several seasons. She began outside the top 20 and has catapulted into the top 10 with a title in Bogota, quarter-final at the French Open and impressive wins over top ten players Li Na and Petra Kvitova. She's also taken sets of Azarenka and Williams this year and comes into Istanbul in top form having reached the final of the Premier event in Beijing recently.
Can she win? Well, when she was regularly qualifying for these Championships from 2007-2010, she never reached the final, so I wouldn't expect her to do so now when the standard at the very top is arguably higher. But what Jankovic has in abundance is experience and confidence - she does not fear anyone, including Serena Williams. That makes her a dangerous outsider on current form, even on this, her weaker surface. Current odds of around 30.0 make her the best back to lay bet in the outright markets.
Just the one title this year for the rank outsider of the draw, way back in February on the clay of Acapulco. When you consider she won 4 titles and reached the French Open final in 2012, you would have to say it's been a slightly disappointing year. Her semi final run at Roland Garros this time around, has kept her inside the top 10 but other than that, she's not made waves anywhere outside of her favourite clay surface.
She comes to Istanbul with no form at all on hard courts and will rightly be installed as pre-tournament favourite for the wooden spoon, no matter which group she ends up in. However, at odds of 100.00+, it can be argued she's worth a few pennies in the outright market.
A terrible year at the Slams, where she only reached the quarters at one tournament, threatened to knock the Czech out of the top 10. Even that quarter final appearance was disappointing, as she failed to take advantage of a weak draw at Wimbledon, which had her installed as favourite out of the final 8.
But over the last few weeks on the hard courts of the USA and Asia, Kvitova has found top gear finally, during a season where she has failed time and time again to finish off opponents from a set up. Winner in Tokyo and runner-up in Beijing 2 weeks ago (to add to her early season win in Dubai), means she is a genuine contender right now. Plus, she won in Istanbul 2 years ago - these courts are perfect for her game.
Has not won a title since week 1 of the season, in the new event in Shenzhen, China. Despite this, she has gone deep in several big events but always falling short when it really matters, in the latter stages against the very best payers. Li has flattered to deceive in 2013.
Just when you think she's hitting peak form and becomes everyone's favourite, she puts in an unfathomable display. Sharapova, Azarenka, Radwanska twice, Williams twice and Kvitova recently in Beijing, have beaten her in a semi or final. She has beaten Kerber, Kvitova, Sharapova and Radwanska but only one of those wins was in a semi-final. That's a terrible record against the best in the world in crunch matches and she's also never gone past the group stages - perhaps the reason why you can't back her to win Istanbul. But I think she's one of 3 or 4 here who has got it in her to win the whole thing.
Now established as the 4th best player in the world - the "best of the rest", if you like. But never quite good enough to topple the big 3 of Williams, Azarenka and Sharapova. After an astonishing start to the year, where she went 13 matches unbeaten, winning 2 titles and reaching the quarters at the Australian Open, she has had an unremarkable season. Despite going deep at Wimbledon and The French, ultimately she was knocked out by lower ranked players and missed out on relatively weak draws which should have seen her in with a genuine shot at a first Slam.
However, the early season form has shown signs of returning during the final stretch of 2013, with a title win in Seoul and some good runs in Beijing and Toronto. But her current nemesis Serena Williams was there to halt her progress in these events and whilst her record remains so poor against the 3 players ahead of her (just 5 wins in 33 ties and most of them from years back), she'll always be a bridesmaid. Did qualify from the group stage last year.
One of the few players coming into the Championships with no form. Ousted in round one of Beijing and Tokyo, Azarenka mentally looks to be really suffering following her US Open final loss to Serena Williams. That said, it's been a brilliant year again for her, taking the Australian Open title and coming back strongly after a nasty injury during Wimbledon, with a second win over Serena Williams in 2013, in Cincinnati (following her win in the Doha final in February). She remains the one player who you feel can match Williams even at her peak but with no wins for an entire month, you have to wonder whether she can pick herself up for one final push.
She's only reached the final once, back in 2011 where she lost to Kvitova. And she's not a fave with the vocal Turkish crowds, following her astonishing decision to blatantly tank a dead-rubber match against Marion Bartoli 2 years ago, as she'd already qualified. People say these things don't bother the head-strong personality of Azarenka but I don't buy it - I think it affected her then (when she lost the final) and it probably still does now, deep down. But you can never rule her out.
Currently on a 13 match unbeaten streak. Has lost just FOUR matches all season. Has won 10 titles (her best ever yearly haul) including 2 Grand Slams. She's the reigning champion of this tournament and has won it 3 times in total. Should we just give her the crown now?
Well, there is a flicker of hope for the others. Firstly, she's lost twice to Azarenka this year - they are 2-2 in 2013. She's surprisingly been knocked out of 2 Slams by players outside the top 10 - Sloane Stephens in Australia and Sabine Lisicki at Wimbledon (though it has to be said, she was injured in Melbourne). Yep, that's pretty much it. With the round robin format, you always feel it favours the top players because if they make a slow start, they can still qualify. I don't think she'll even give them the luxury of that slow start.
What To Watch For In Istanbul
I see Kerber and Jankovic as two dangerous dark-horses and would not want to oppose them in the early rounds with their current form. I expect both Li Na and Radwanska to come out all guns blazing but both of them I feel will ultimately fall short against one of the top 2. Petra Kvitova is the one player I would fancy most to give Williams a run for her money for the title but she is so erratic from one game to the next and from one set to the next, that I wouldn't back her with any confidence - unless she's behind in a match. The main question mark is over Azarenka; the only player with really poor form coming in, yet the only one who has proven she can match Williams. I will be watching her closely in round one and looking for tell-tale signs that she is mentally "on it". If she is, then she's the one to watch. If not, the other players are generally playing too well to let her off the hook.
The draw is made on Sunday 20th and I feel the two key things to look for are which group Williams is in and who has to play Errani. Errani is capable of an upset but most of the others are in pretty decent form coming into this and they all prefer the quick, hard surface more. She's also involved in doubles, which might be a factor, especially as she has genuine title aspirations there. So anyone in her group will fancy their chances, just as anyone with Williams knows it's one semi-final place instantly gone. The rest are all at a similar level right now, apart from the enigma that is Azarenka, who could swing either way. It promises to be a very interesting Championships and I expect Istanbul to go out with a bang, with Williams retaining her crown, lots of tight matches but a few surprises along the way.
Serena Williams, Agnieszka Radwanska, Petra Kvitova, Angelique Kerber.
Victoria Azarenka, Li Na, Sara Errani, Jelena Jankovic.
I would fancy Kvitova to join Williams in the semis but the red group is tougher and I would not rule out Kerber or Radwanska. It's 2 from 3 in the white group but I think Jankovic can cause an upset and sneak through ahead of Azarenka or Li.
Looking for more WTA Tour Championships betting tips? Be sure to check our WTA Tour Betting Tips Board throughout the tournament. And while we are at it: you can get a 100% match bonus up to £200 when signing up at bet365 and using bonus code MAXBONUS.
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