Sony Ericsson Race Update: October 9, 2006
The battle for the final four singles spots at the Sony Ericsson Championships is nearing fever pitch, with six players still in with a realistic chance of qualifying for the $3-million, season-ending extravaganza. Nadia Petrova (RUS) signaled a return to form last week with her stunning victory at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart, Germany, improving from 8th to 7th position in the process.
With 5th-placed Kim Clijsters (BEL) still rehabilitating a left wrist injury and unlikely to return to play until the Gaz de France Stars in Hasselt, Belgium, the next three weeks are an opportunity for the players below her in the Race to grab their place in the elite eight.
In contention to do so this week are Petrova and compatriot Elena Dementieva (RUS), who are the No.5 and No.4 seeds respectively in their hometown event, the Tier I Kremlin Cup in Moscow. Currently in 7th and 8th place respectively in the Sony Ericsson Race (6th-placed Martina Hingis (SUI) is not competing this week), Petrova (1819) and Dementieva (1808) are both less than 60 Race points behind Clijsters (1860). Both of them only need to win their first match this week in Moscow to overtake Clijsters; whoever performs better throughout the rest of the tournament will be in the drivers seat to book the next ticket to Madrid.
Having collected four clay titles and a career-high No.3 ranking earlier in the season, 24-year-old Petrova was struck down by a hip injury in the spring, which contributed to her shock first-round exit at Roland Garros and subsequent withdrawal from Wimbledon. Going 3-8 in her next eight events, Petrovas resurgence in Stuttgart saw her defeat Top 25 players Groenefeld, Hantuchova, Kuznetsova and Golovin.
The first four players to qualify for the eight-woman singles field in Madrid were Justine Henin-Hardenne (BEL), Amélie Mauresmo (FRA), Maria Sharapova (RUS) and Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS).
The doubles portion of the Sony Ericsson Race to the Championships is in a very similar position, with only half of the spots in Madrid confirmed. Cara Black (ZIM) and Rennae Stubbs (AUS) added valuable points to their total with a runner-up finish last week in Stuttgart, falling to Lisa Raymond (USA) and Samantha Stosur (AUS), the first doubles qualifiers for the Sony Ericsson Championships. The same teams could clash again in the Kremlin Cup final, and a strong showing by Black and Stubbs in Moscow could very well secure the third spot in the four-team field.
Australian Open and Wimbledon champions Yan Zi (CHN) and Zheng Jie (CHN) were the second team to qualify. By reaching the semifinals at the Tier III AIG Japan Open Tennis Championships in Tokyo last weekend, Virginia Ruano Pascual (ESP) and Paola Suárez (ARG) took over 4th spot from Daniela Hantuchova (SVK) and Ai Sugiyama (JPN).
The Sony Ericsson Championships will gather the Top 8 singles players and Top 4 doubles teams from the regular 2006 Sony Ericsson WTA Tour season as they battle it out for the season-ending titles and a share of the $3-million prize purse. The defending champions are Mauresmo (singles) and Lisa Raymond and Samantha Stosur (doubles). The Sony Ericsson Championships will be played for the first time at Madrid Arena, November 7-12, 2006.
RACE TO THE SONY ERICSSON CHAMPIONSHIPS
As of October 9, 2006
(previous position in parentheses | ** indicates players already qualified)
1. (1) Justine Henin-Hardenne (BEL) 3473**
2. (2) Amélie Mauresmo (FRA) 2872**
3. (3) Maria Sharapova (RUS) 2727**
4. (4) Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS) 2532**
5. (5) Kim Clijsters (BEL) 1860
6. (6) Martina Hingis (SUI) 1851
7. (8) Nadia Petrova (RUS) 1819
8. (7) Elena Dementieva (RUS) 1808
9. (9) Patty Schnyder (SUI) 1540
10. (10) Dinara Safina (RUS) 1441
=11. (12) Jelena Jankovic (SCG) 1169
=11. (11) Nicole Vaidisova (CZE) 1169
13. (13) Anastasia Myskina (RUS) 1000
14. (14) Ana Ivanovic (SCG) 976
15. (15) Francesca Schiavone (ITA) 938
(previous position in parentheses | ** indicates teams already qualified)
1. (1) Lisa Raymond / Samantha Stosur (USA/AUS) 3669**
2. (2) Yan Zi / Zheng Jie (CHN/CHN) 2947**
3. (3) Cara Black / Rennae Stubbs (ZIM/AUS) 2158
4. (5) Virginia Ruano Pascual / Paola Suarez (ESP/ARG) 1774
5. (4) Daniela Hantuchova / Ai Sugiyama (SVK/JPN) 1746
6. (6) Kveta Peschke / Francesca Schiavone (CZE/ITA) 1653
7. (7) Dinara Safina / Katarina Srebotnik (RUS/SLO) 1144
8. (8) Eleni Daniilidou / Anabel Medina Garrigues (GRE/ESP) 1011
9. (9) Meghann Shaughnessy / Anna-Lena Groenefeld (USA/GER) 975
10. (10) Li Ting / Sun Tiantian (CHN/CHN) 929