Henin Set For Chakvetadze Challenge
MADRID, Spain - The eagerly anticipated Sony Ericsson Championships will finally get underway in Madrid on Tuesday and with the world's top two players both in action it promises to be an evening to remember. The reigning champion and No.1 seed, Justine Henin, gets proceedings underway with a clash against Anna Chakvetadze, while the other two encounters at the $3-million event will see Russian duo Svetlana Kuznetsova and Maria Sharapova take on Ana Ivanovic and Daniela Hantuchova respectively.
(1) Justine Henin (BEL) vs. (7) Anna Chakvetadze (RUS) - Henin leads, 2-0
After a truly magnificent season Henin arrives in the Spanish capital safe in the knowledge she will finish the season as year-end No.1 for the second time in succession. The mercurial Belgian has amassed a stunning 58-4 win-loss record since the turn of the year, which has carried her to nine titles - including Grand Slam titles No.6 and No.7 as Roland Garros and the US Open - and she is currently in the midst of a Sony Ericsson WTA Tour-leading 20-match unbeaten run. However, she is not the only player to have enjoyed 2007 and Chakvetadze's four tournament wins have seen her emerge as the latest Russian superstar to establish herself in the world's Top 10. Nevertheless Henin still enters the contest as firm favorite, but her young opponent's intelligent all-court game means the Yellow Group's opening clash could still be a highly intriguing affair.
(6) Maria Sharapova (RUS) vs. (8) Daniela Hantuchova (SVK) - Sharapova leads, 5-1
One player who knows how to triumph at the prestigious season-ending event is 2004 champion, Sharapova. The 20-year-old former world No.1 has had to contend with a shoulder injury for much of 2007, but has still managed several notable achievements - including a title run in San Diego and a runner-up finish at the Australian Open. Meeting her in the Red Group's opening match-up is one of the year's most consistent performers, Hantuchova. Although the Slovak star only secured her spot at the Spanish showpiece little more than a week ago, title runs in Indian Wells and Linz prove she certainly has the temperament to triumph on the big occasions. While Sharapova has won the past five encounters between the pair, the last of these was more than 12 months ago and on current form Hantuchova will be confident of enacting revenge this time around.
(2) Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS) vs. (4) Ana Ivanovic (SRB) - Ivanovic leads, 3-1
The evening's final match in the Recinto Ferial Casa de Campo will pit two of the game's most gifted players against one another in arguably the most eagerly anticipated contest of the round robin stage. Kuznetsova has undoubtedly been one of the season's outstanding performers, enjoying a title run in New Haven and five runner-up finishes most notably at the US Open. Equally impressive since January has been the Serbian superstar, Ivanovic, whose long list of achievements includes three tournament wins, a runner-up finish at Roland Garros and a Top 5 debut. The world No.4 has also won three of her four previous encounters with No.2 Kuznetsova - including three-set victories at Berlin and Roland Garros this Spring - but all of these matches have been close affairs and the Madrileños in attendance could well be treated to another classic on Tuesday.