WTA Top Players: The Road to WTA Championships in Istanbul

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The TEB BNP Paribas WTA Championships is the culmination of the 2012 season with the tour’s elite eight players competing for the coveted title. Here’s a look at how each woman booked her place in this week’s event.

1. Victoria Azarenka: After having long been touted as a future Major champion despite her brash personality and multiple injuries, Azarenka fulfilled her potential by winning Sydney to start 2012 and then claiming her first Grand Slam title in Melbourne and with it the No. 1 ranking. The Belorussian native then went on a 26-match win streak that included titles in Doha and Indian Wells. Azarenka had a successful spring that featured reaching the finals of Stuttgart and Madrid, the semifinals of Wimbledon and winning a bronze medal in women’s singles at the Olympics. After losing in the finals of the U.S. Open to Serena Williams, Azarenka went on yet another winning streak this fall as she claimed the titles in Beijing and Linz.

2. Maria Sharapova: Though the start of the year saw the Russian superstar lose in the finals of three hard court events at Melbourne, Indian Wells and Miami; it was on the red clay of Europe that Sharapova tasted her sweetest success of the season. After winning titles in Stuttgart and Rome, Sharapova completed a career Grand Slam by finally winning Roland Garros. After briefly holding the No. 1 ranking, Sharapova stumbled early on at Wimbledon but rebounded to claim the silver medal at the Summer Games. The summer hard court season saw Sharapova reach yet another semifinal at the U.S. Open while in Asia, she lost in the Beijing finals to eventual champion Azarenka.

3. Serena Williams: Despite a slow start early on including a fourth round exit at Melbourne, Williams got her season going by claiming titles in Charleston and Madrid. Though a shocking first round loss at Roland Garros seemed to derail her momentum, Williams resumed it by winning her fifth Wimbledon title and then the gold medal in singles at the Summer Games against Sharapova. The next week saw Williams defend her Stanford title and though she was pushed to the limit by Azarenka in the U.S. Open finals, Williams prevailed to win her fourth Flushing Meadows trophy and 15th career Grand Slam singles title.

4. Agnieszka Radwanska: The Polish star had her best season ever in 2012 that started with a quarterfinal finish at Melbourne. Radwanska then claimed titles in Dubai and Miami, the biggest of her career. Though she picked up another title on the clay of Brussels, she had her best ever Grand Slam result by reaching the Wimbledon finals. After rising to a career high No. 2 in the world in July, Radwanska posted consistent results during the summer hard court season and reached yet another final in Tokyo this fall.

5. Angelique Kerber: A surprise U.S. Open semifinalist in 2011, the German proved to be one of the most consistent players this season. After winning her maiden WTA title at the Paris Indoors, Kerber made her top 20 debut and went on to reach the semis of Indian Wells. Kerber claimed her second title in Copenhagen and then had a decent clay court season. A semifinal run at Wimbledon cemented Kerber’s place not only in the top 10 but also as Germany’s new No. 1. Though injuries hampered her summer hard court season, Kerber reached the finals of Cincinnati and later on the semis of Tokyo.

6. Petra Kvitova: Last year’s Istanbul champion was poised to possibly take over as No. 1 in the world at the start of the year before a semifinal loss at Melbourne to Sharapova ended that dream for the Czech native. Kvitova struggled during the spring but managed a semifinal run at Roland Garros. Though she failed to defend her Wimbledon title, losing to eventual champion Williams, Kvitova rebounded during the North American hard court season as she won titles in Montreal and New Haven.

7. Sara Errani: Though often in the shadows of her more well-known Italian Fed Cup teammates, Errani made a name for herself in 2012. Beginning with a quarterfinal showing at Melbourne, she then started on her run of four clay court titles including Acapulco, Barcelona, Budapest, and Palermo. Errani then achieved an impressive run to the finals of Roland Garros that boosted her into the top ten for the first time. A semifinal run at the U.S. Open in the late summer cemented her career high ranking. Errani is also competing in the WTA doubles championship with her partner Roberta Vinci.

8.Li Na: After a breakthrough 2011 season, the Chinese superstar struggled during the start of the year including a fourth round loss at Melbourne. Consistent quarterfinal results at Indian Wells, Miami and Stuttgart culminated with a runner-up showing at Rome. Li couldn’t defend her Roland Garros title as she lost in the fourth round and that was soon followed by disappointing results on grass. But she rebounded on the hard courts by reaching the finals of Montreal and then taking her first title of the year in Cincinnati. Li booked the final spot in the elite eight with a semifinal showing in front of her home crowd at Beijing.

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