Let The Championships Begin
MADRID, Spain - Three former champions and three debutantes are among the stars assembled for next week's Sony Ericsson Championships in Madrid. The prestigious event returns to the Spanish capital for the second year in succession and will showcase the top eight performers of 2007 battling it out for the winner's share of the $3-million prize fund.
Saturday afternoon saw the draw for the two round robin groups made and with such a stellar line-up the coming week promises to serve up some spectacular tennis. The two groups, named Yellow and Red in honor of the host nation, are headed by the world's Top 2 players, No.1 Justine Henin and No.2 Svetlana Kuznetsova respectively.
Reigning champion Henin is in supreme form and the Belgian enters the tournament not only riding high on a 20-match win streak, but also safe in the knowledge she has already secured the year-end world No.1 spot. Her rivals for the round robin stage are comprised of the world No.5 and 2001 champion, Serena Williams, as well as two players making their tournament debuts, No.3 Jelena Jankovic and No.7 Anna Chakvetadze.
The only other past winner at this year's event is Russian star Maria Sharapova, who took home the title in 2004. Her foes for the two semifinal berths come in the form of compatriot Kuznetsova, No.4 Ana Ivanovic - the final player making their bow at the season-ending showpiece - and No.8 Daniela Hantuchova.
The round robin stage of this year's tournament will be conducted between Tuesday and Friday, with each player meeting the other three combatants in their group. After these 12 matches have taken place, the Top 2 performers from each group will advance to Saturday's semifinals (the No.1 performer in each Group taking on No.2), with the final scheduled to take place on Sunday afternoon. The victor of this clash will take home the winner's purse of $1,000,000, while the runner-up receives $500,000.
The Recinto Ferial Casa de Campo will also play host to the four best doubles teams of the year next week, all of whom will be vying for a share of the $250,000 winner's cheque. Unlike the singles event, the doubles title will be decided in a straight knockout format, with the semifinals taking place on Saturday and the final the following afternoon.
No.1 seeds in the doubles event will be the Australian Open and Wimbledon doubles champions Cara Black and Liezel Huber and their opponents in a highly competitive field will come in the form of the No.2, Katarina Srebotnik and Ai Sugiyama, the No.3, Chan Yung-Jan and Chuang Chia-Jung and finally the No.4, Kveta Peschke and Rennae Stubbs.