Ready For Play!
DOHA, Qatar - The eight singles players set to compete in the season-ending Sony Ericsson Championships - Doha 2008 can now prepare their match strategies for the round-robin phase, with the White and Maroon Groups allocated at the official draw ceremony on Sunday.
The four Russian women in the draw - Dinara Safina, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Elena Dementieva and Vera Zvonareva - are evenly split between the two Groups. Kuznetsova and Zvonareva are in the White Group and Safina and Dementieva - who squared off in the Olympic final - are in the Maroon Group.
However, this doesn't rule out either an all-Serbian or all-Williams final. After the round-robin phase, with each player meeting the other three in her pool between Tuesday and Friday, the top players in each pool play the second-placed player in the other in the semifinals. The winner of each semifinal advance to Sunday's final.
"It's been a goal of mine all year to qualify for the Championships, so it's a real honor to be here," said Safina, who's enjoyed an outstanding season in 2008, rising from No.15 to No.2 after four titles and runner-up finishes at Roland Garros and the Olympics.
When asked about being in the same Group as her sister, Serena Williams joked: "It doesn't bother me at all; we're always in the same half of the draw, so I'm used to it." That of course wasn't the case at Wimbledon, where Serena lost to her older sister in a high-quality final that gave Venus her fifth title at the All-England Club.
The Group colors were in honor of the flag of Qatar, the hosts for the Tour's year-end event for the next three years.
Four doubles teams will also compete in the Sony Ericsson Championships, although they play in a straight knockout event. Top-ranked duo Cara Black and Liezel Huber will defend their title against two teams that were in Madrid last year - 2007 runners-up Katarina Srebotnik and Ai Sugiyama, and Kveta Peschke and Rennae Stubbs - and Spanish Olympic silver medalists Anabel Medina Garrigues and Virginia Ruano Pascual, who are debuting in the event together.
While Medina is making her season-ending debut, Ruano competed for five consecutive years with Argentina's Paola Suarez, winning the title in 2003. The doubles draw takes place on Thursday, with the matches set to begin on Saturday.