Full-Strength Field In Madrid
Four former champions and five No.1s are in Madrid this week for arguably the most competitive season-ending Championships in Sony Ericsson WTA Tour history, which also features the first-ever three-way battle for the year-end No.1 ranking. The Group allocations for the round robin stage were held on Sunday for the $3-million Sony Ericsson Championships, to be held for the first time in the Spanish capital, November 7-12 (draw attached in PDF format).
Honoring the host nation, the two Groups have been named Yellow and Red, with four players from the elite eight who qualified based on their results during the regular 2006 Sony Ericsson WTA Tour season randomly placed in each Group.
The worlds Top 2 players No.1 Amélie Mauresmo (FRA) and No.2 Maria Sharapova head the Yellow and Red Groups respectively. Completing the Yellow Group is world No.3 Justine Henin-Hardenne (BEL), No.5 Nadia Petrova (RUS) and No.8 Martina Hingis (SUI). The remainder of an almost all-Russian Red Group consists of No.4 Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS), No.6 Kim Clijsters (BEL) and No.7 Elena Dementieva (RUS).
For the first time in Sony Ericsson WTA Tour history, there is a three-way battle for the year-end No.1 ranking, with incumbent Mauresmo up against Sharapova and Henin-Hardenne for the coveted achievement.
Speaking at the official draw ceremony in Madrid on Sunday, world No.7 Elena Dementieva said: I had a feeling I would be in the Red Group and that it would be almost totally Russian. I dont think it really matters what Group youre in; all the players whove qualified deserve to be here. Everyone has a chance to win, and Ill be just trying to do my best its going to be a great challenge for everyone.
The last time I was in Madrid was in 2001 for the Fed Cup Semifinals and Final (featuring Belgium, France, Russia and Spain). Its funny, because there was Justine, Amélie, Nadia and Kim. We were all here, so its interesting were back again to compete this week.
The four former champions Clijsters (2002/03), Hingis (1998/2000), Mauresmo (2005) and Sharapova (2004) are evenly placed in the two Groups. It is the first time since 1992 and only the fifth time overall there have been four former winners in the draw. Not since 1997 have the worlds Top 8-ranked players competed in the season-ending Championships. It is also the first time since 2002 that all the years Grand Slam champions are present at the season-ending Championships (Mauresmo Australian Open/Wimbledon; Henin-Hardenne Roland Garros; Sharapova US Open).
The round robin stage of the Sony Ericsson Championships will be conducted over four days between Tuesday and Friday, with each player meeting the other three women in their Group (with one days rest). The Top 2 performers in each Group advance to Saturdays semifinals (the No.1 performer in each Group taking on No.2), with the final scheduled for Sunday (not before 16.00hrs).
Unlike the singles event, the doubles title will be decided in a straight knockout format; the Top 4 teams compete in the semifinals on Saturday, with the final on Sunday at 13.00hrs. The doubles draw will be conducted on Thursday.
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 Sony Ericsson Championships will be played for the first time at Madrid Arena, November 7-12, 2006.
SONY ERICSSON CHAMPIONSHIPS
Group Designations (numeric prefix denotes seeding)
1. Amélie Mauresmo (FRA)
3. Justine Henin-Hardenne (BEL)
5. Nadia Petrova (RUS)
8. Martina Hingis (SUI)
2. Maria Sharapova (RUS)
4. Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS)
6. Kim Clijsters (BEL)
7. Elena Dementieva (RUS)