Serena Williams may silence some of her remaining critics if she caps a tremendous comeback year by regaining the title at the WTA Championships which begin at the Sinan Erdem Arena on Tuesday.
Having won Wimbledon and the US Open, and an Olympic singles gold medal for the first time in the last few months, Williams is unofficial favourite to deny top-seeded Victoria Azarenka and second-seeded Maria Sharapova at the women’s tour season-ending event.
The 31-year-old Williams overcame blood clots in her lungs which endangered her life and contributed to a 12-month absence during 2010 and 2011.
Nevertheless dissent has been articulated, notably at the influential magazine Sports Illustrated, at suggestions that the American legend should win the WTA Player of the Year award for a third time in five years. Williams’ commitment to the tour is being questioned again after she missed two of this year’s four premier mandatory tournaments — Indian Wells and Beijing last month. Inevitably, these absences have brought back reminders of withdrawals which caused criticism in previous seasons.
As the WTA’s four-year roadmap campaign places special emphasis on player commitment — to avoid upsetting spectators and sponsors — Williams’ non-appearances may be regarded as relevant.
The roadmap has helped the tour’s prize money to rise 51 percent, its player participation to improve 34 percent, and record attendances and television coverage at some tournaments.
The draw (Top two from each group qualify for semifinals):
Red Group: Victoria Azarenka, Serena Williams, Angelique Kerber, Li Na; White Group: Maria Sharapova, Agnieszka Radwanska, Petra Kvitova, Sara Errani. At Kremlin (ATP-WTA Kremlin Cup): Final: Women: Caroline Wozniacki bt Samantha Stosur 6-2, 4-6, 7-5; Men: Andreas Seppi bt Thomaz Bellucci 3-6, 7-6(3), 6-3.
At Valencia (ATP Valencia Open): First round: Marin Cilic bt Martin Klizan 1-6, 6-0, 6-3.