Sam in race to WTA Championships
After her exciting recent run to the US Open quarterfinals, Sam Stosur’s sights have now turned to the prestigious season-ending WTA Championships, which will conclude the women’s tennis season in Istanbul in late October.
But along with several other players vying for a place in the elite eight-player field, Stosur’s participation at the championships has not yet been confirmed.
Stosur currently sits at ninth in the Race to the WTA Championships, with the top eight players to qualify for the tournament at Istanbul’s Sinan Erdem Arena. And she has a little bit of work to do to catch the players above her and ensure she books her ticket to Turkey.
While Stosur has posted erratic results throughout the season, several of the sport’s top women have enjoyed remarkable consistency, earning them plenty of points and putting them in a good position to qualify for the event. Victoria Azarenka, Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams – the trio that scooped the year’s major titles and the medals in the Olympic singles competition – have already done so.
Five places in the tournament are yet to be determined, and the results throughout the next month’s Asian swing will go some way to shaping the field.
Stosur is scheduled to play in Tokyo, Beijing and Osaka, and says she may make the trip to Moscow to contest the Kremlin Cup should she still require points to qualify for Istanbul. But of course this is not a given – the women ahead of the Australian in the race will be highly motivated to perform well and cement their top-eight standings.
A semifinalist at the WTA Championships in both 2010 and 2011, Stosur will be motivated herself to return to the event, giving her both a chance to defend her 2011 points as well as improve on last year’s result in which she fell to Petra Kvitova at the penultimate stage in three tense sets.
These factors combine to create an exciting few months ahead on the tennis calendar during a period which is sometimes considered dead time on the tour – the Grand Slams are over, the players are weary, and the Northern Hemisphere becomes more wintry by the day.
By contrast, the race to Istanbul is only heating up.
Looking at the WTA Race to the Championships, Stosur is currently 581 points behind the eighth-placed Li Na, a gap closed from around 900 points thanks to the Australian’s quarterfinal finish in New York (Li fell in the third round).
There are plenty of points on offer in Tokyo and Beijing, which offer winners 900 and 1000 points respectively. The Queenslander could leapfrog Li in the race in one fell swoop in Tokyo should she win the title, provided the Chinese player does not progress beyond the quarterfinals. If that failed, she could do so in Beijing the next week should a similar scenario play out. However, this will be an extremely tough ask – the draws in both Tokyo and Beijing are stacked with top 10 talent, making Stosur’s potential path to the title hardly a walk in the park.
Stosur can still eat away at Li’s lead in the points tally should she progress a few rounds deeper into each event than the 2011 French Open champion.
The Aussie needs to make her move at these two Premier Asian events, as her next tournament – in Osaka – will provide less potential gain. The winner of that event amasses just 280 points, a result she cannot rely on to surpass the Chinese player. Should she desperately be seeking points to qualify at the last minute, Moscow offers the winner 470 points given is status as a Premier tournament. At this stage, Li has not entered the Osaka or Moscow events.
Stosur is not in much danger of slipping lower in the race standings, but does have Marion Bartoli snapping at her heels. The Frenchwoman sits just over 200 points behind Stosur in the race heading into a time of the season during which she traditionally performs well. Bartoli is scheduled to play in Tokyo, Beijing and Moscow.
The Race to the WTA Championships (as of 17 September 2012)
*those in bold have already qualified