November 3, 2008 – After a wide open year in women’s tennis, with half a dozen players sharing the top ranking, the best in the world are now in Doha for the WTA Tour’s season-ending championship.
For those in need of a quick geography lesson, Doha is the capital of Qatar located on the Persian Gulf. The oil-rich conservative Muslim country enjoys world-class features and will be home to WTA season-ending championship for the next three years (after which it will shift to Istanbul Turkey).
This Sony Ericsson tournament is without its defending champion following the retirement of Justine Henin in May. With Henin out and a shoulder injury sidelining Australian Open champion Maria Sharapova there is no clear favorite in this tourney. The world’s top eight women’s singles and top four women’s doubles teams compete for the title and a share of a record prize money of $4.45 million. Russians make up half of the top eight singles.
The contenders include:
Serbia’s Jelena Jankovic, who hasn’t won a major but will finish the year in the top spot; No. 3 Serena Williams, who surged to victory at the U.S. Open for her ninth Grand Slam; and Ana Ivanovic of Serbia, who won her first major at the French Open, but slid to No. 4 after a string of losses.
Other elite contenders are Wimbledon winner Venus Williams and the Russian contingent of second-ranked Dinara Safina, former U.S. Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova, Olympic gold medalist Elena Dementieva and world No. 9 Vera Zvonareva.
The eight singles players can now prepare their match strategies for the round-robin phase, which begin on Tuesday, with the White and Maroon Groups allocated at the official draw ceremony on Sunday.
Serena Williams will take on elder sister Venus in the group stages of the tournament. The sisters have been drawn in the Maroon Group, along with Russians Elena Dementieva and Dinara Safina.
Serbians Jelena Jankovic and Ana Ivanovic, and Russians Svetlana Kuznetsova and Vera Zvonareva, make up the White Group.
The Group colors are in honor of the flag of Qatar. Two players from each group will advance to the semi-finals.