Bali Belles: Bartoli and Ivanovic head champions field
We bring you a comprehensive preview of the WTA year-ending event in Bali from November 3 to 6
For the globe-trotting professional tennis player, it’s a long, hard road from the first tournament of the year, before January has even dawned, to the last of the season as autumn gives way to winter.
For the men, the close of play comes in late November””give or take a Davis Cup final in early December””and for the women, respite comes a month earlier””though there is still the Fed Cup to complete.
Along the way, they must criss-cross the world via time zones and injuries, wins and losses, clay and carpet, sunshine and rain. Taking in some of the most beautiful and vibrant places on earth””from Rome to Paris, Shanghai to Sydney, Dubai to Miami, Toronto to Tokyo, Acapulco to New York””all the world is their stage.
And before the rest and recuperation afforded by their short but valuable off-season, the cream of the men and women draw on their remaining physical and mental resources for one of the biggest prizes of all: the end-of-year championships.
For the men, the climax comes in the bright lights and chill of London. For the women, it is exotic, history-laden Istanbul. And while neither would swap their places for the world, they may still find themselves casting envious eyes in the direction of colleagues whose end-of-year climax takes them to the Indonesian paradise of Bali.
For it is amid those sun-drenched coral reefs that eight of the best women players of the year compete for a purse of $600,000 at the Commonwealth Bank Tournament of Champions.
Reigning champion, Ana Ivanovic, summed it up: “It almost goes without saying that Bali is one of the most beautiful places on the tennis circuit””probably the best, in fact. I had a wonderful time there last year, on and off the court.”
Bali has hosted this special season-ending event since its inauguration in 2009. The tournament pits eight of the year’s best players””those who have won an International-level title but have failed to make the WTA Championships””in a four-day knockout competition.
This year’s eight will be particularly keen to make the most of the sun, sea and sand: The event moves to a new venue in the very much cooler climes of Sofia, Bulgaria next year.
So who are the lucky eight to enjoy their moment in the sun?
The six top-ranked titlists are Marion Bartoli, Sabine Lisicki, Roberta Vinca, Daniela Hantuchova, Anabel Medina Garrigues and Nadia Petrova.
They are joined by two wild cards who have not won a title: defending champion Ivanovic and one of the fastest rising players this year, Shuai Peng.
Top-30 title-winners who are not playing:
Andrea Petkovic, WTA ranking 10, won Strasbourg.
Second alternate in Istanbul but nursing an on-going knee problem.
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, WTA ranking 15, won Monterrey.
Early losses in two recent tournaments: Linz and Luxembourg.
Dominika Cibulkova, WTA ranking 17, won Moscow.
Only title of year””last on the calendar””was Premier in Moscow.
Julia Goerges, WTA ranking 21, won Stuttgart.
Only title of year was Premier in Stuttgart.
Serena Williams, No12, and Kim Clijsters, No13, out with injury.
The Bali Belles
The qualifying players have won a total of 11 International singles titles from the 31 available, and they represent eight different countries from Europe in the west, through Russia and into China.
Marion Bartoli, France, WTA ranking 9, won Eastbourne, Osaka.
Qualified for Bali 2009: lost in final.
Bartoli reached five finals in 2011, including Indian Wells, Strasbourg, Standford, and won Eastbourne and Osaka. She made her second Grand Slam semi-final at Roland Garros and a WTA-leading 14 quarter-finals.
Bartoli has equalled her 2007 career-best ranking of No9 and, as a result, she took one of the alternate places in Istanbul, despite withdrawing from her last WTA event in Moscow with illness.
She should be favourite to win the Bali title, although she has now replaced Sharapova for the third Round Robin in Istanbul. With two losses from the Russian in her pool already, Bartoli has little chance of advancing further, but it delays her arrival in Bali.
Sabine Lisicki, Germany, WTA ranking 17, won Birmingham, Dallas.
Qualified for Bali 2009.
After long-term injury, Lisicki has made a stunning surge back up the rankings from No179 at the start of the year to a career-high in September.
As well as titles in Birmingham and Dallas, where she conceded only 13 games in five matches, she reached her maiden Grand Slam semi-final at Wimbledon.
She missed the Asian swing and, after losing her opening match in Linz, she also withdrew from Luxembourg with illness. It means Lisicki has played just two matches since the US Open, so may well fall in the early stages of Bali, just as she did in 2009.
Roberta Vinci, Italy, WTA ranking 22, won Barcelona, ‘s-Hertogenbosch, Budapest
At the age of 28, Vinci is enjoying the best year of her career, with more International titles than any other player, a career-high ranking of 18 in September and three doubles titles.
After a strong summer, however, she has played just three matches since the US Open, losing two, so her prospects at her Bali debut are hard to assess, though she beat Ivanovic in their only two meetings this year and took out Caroline Wozniacki in Toronto. She has the potential, then, to be the dark horse.
Daniela Hantuchova, Slovak Republic, WTA ranking 25, won Pattaya City.
Qualified for Bali 2010.
Hantuchova won her first title in more than three years in the Pattaya Open, was runner-up in Birmingham and reached the semi-finals in Strasbourg and Eastbourne. Her biggest scalp, though, came with a win over Wozniacki at Roland Garros.
The tall Slovak has been on the tour for 12 years yet she has failed to reach the heights of her early days””No5 in 2003 and year-ending No9 in 2007.
Although she has played four tournaments across three continents since the US Open, she has made little real impact and it’s hard to see her making a big impression against the competition in Bali.
Anabel Medina Garrigues, Spain, WTA ranking 28, won Estoril, Palermo.
Qualified for Bali 2009.
After 13 years on the tour, Garrigues won her 10th and 11th singles titles in 2011 to pass Venus Williams in the number of clay court titles””10″”by an active player. She also reached three semi-finals and won two doubles titles.
The Spaniard’s success is almost entirely on clay, however, and she has won just one match since the US Open. On the indoor hard courts of Bali, she will almost certainly flounder.
Nadia Petrova, Russia, WTA ranking 31, won Washington.
Petrova won her first WTA singles title in almost three years””her career 10th””in Washington and went on to reach the quarter-finals in Cincinnati. But the former No3 in 2006 has slipped in the rankings since the start of this year despite a Herculean fight against Stosur at the US Open.
However, Petrova’s best results come on hard courts so it’s possible she will cause the other seven women a few problems in Bali.
Shuai Peng, China, WTA ranking 16, no title.
Peng has a wildcard for Bali as a reward for being one of the biggest risers in the rankings in 2011″”from No72 to a high of No14 in August.
She reached the quarter-finals or better at 10 events and reached her first Premier final in Brussels. She also reached the semis in Auckland, Hobart, Charleston and Birmingham. Her remarkably consistent year included three fourth-round finishes in Grand Slams, too””all except Roland Garros.
With a good record on hard courts, and a doubles title in Bali in 2008, she will be dangerous company in this event.
Ana Ivanovic, Serbia, WTA ranking 26, no title.
Qualified for Bali 2010: won title.
Should Ivanovic win the Bali title, she would do so on her 24th birthday. But despite 10 titles in her young career, including the French Open in 2008, she has won none this year and benefits from a wild card as defending champion.
Her best results are two semi-finals in Birmingham and Carlsbad. The Serb also reached the quarter-finals at two Premier Mandatory events, most recently in Beijing where she beat both Vera Zvonareva and Svetlana Kuznetsova.
The new slim-line Ivanovic, when confident, has the talent to beat all the players in Bali, and with her run of matches on hard courts this autumn, she should be confident.
Honorable mentions: title-holders just missing the cut
NB if Bartoli fails to take up her Bali place after replacing Sharapova in Istanbul, one of the following may yet be called up to Bali
Jarmila Gajdosova, WTA ranking 32, won Hobart.
Reached career-high ranking in May.
MarÃa JosÃ© MartÃnez SÃ¡nchez, WTA ranking 35, won Bad Gastein, Seoul
Also won two doubles titles: Dubai, Bastad
Polona Hercog, WTA ranking 36, won Bastad.
Still only 20 and reached a career high ranking this September.
Chanelle Scheepers, WTA ranking 38, won Guangzhou.
Started year at No107 and, aged 27, won first title and reached career high in October.
Ksenia Pervak, WTA ranking 39, won Tashkent.
The 20-year-old’s first title was won without dropping a set, reached final in Baku, and career-high ranking in September.
The other 2011 International winners
Barbora Zahlavova Strycova, WTA ranking 44, won Quebec City.
Five doubles titles: Sydney, Monterrey, Barcelona, “˜s-Hertogenbosch, Luxembourg.
Greta Arn, WTA ranking 65, won Auckland.
Won first ever title this year, aged 31.
Magdalena Rybarikova, WTA ranking 67, won Memphis.
Also reached final in Guangzhou.
Jelena Dokic, WTA ranking 69, won Kuala Lumpur.
Also reached final in “˜s-Hertogenbosch.
Gisela Dulko, WTA ranking 70, won Acapulco.
Won Australian Open doubles with Flavia Pennetta: the pair qualified for Istanbul.
Alberta Brianti, WTA ranking 73, won Fez.
First ever singles title at age 31, career-high ranking in June, plus doubles title in Dallas.
Lourdes DomÃnguez Lino, WTA ranking 79, won Bogota.
After 15 years as pro, won first title since Bogota in 2006.