Russian Vera Zvonareva's electrifying victory against the world's number one tennis player Dane Caroline Wozniacki in the Women's Tennis Association (WTA) Tour championships in İstanbul had the audience standing on its feet Wednesday night.
At one point in Zvonareva's second set, the Sinan Erdem Arena roared in applause in response to the Russian's flawless performance in her second round robin match at the TEB-BNP Paribas Women's Tennis Association (WTA) Championships. Wozniacki fell to 1-1 in the round-robin match-ups after losing 6-2, 4-6, 6-3 to her Russian opponent.
Zvonareva, expertly placing the ball just out of the world number one player's reach, had Wozniacki darting to and fro across the court for most of the match. But Wozniacki increased the heat in the second set, impressively closing in on Zvonareva and forcing a tie-breaker.
A lot was on the line for what ended up being by far the most intense match of the championships yet.
Of the eight matches Zvonareva and Wozniacki have played against one another, each tennis pro has won four. Vera, who was especially in the zone in the first and third set, told reporters afterward that she had expected it to be a trying match. “This match was very tough. But I played my game and was going for my shots and was able to win,” she said.
Zvonareva lost to the world's number four, Czech Petra Kvitova, in her first round robin match Tuesday night. Up next for Vera is the world's number eight, Pole Agnieszka Radwanska. Zvonareva said: “Like with Caroline [Wozniacki], matches against Agnieszka are always tough. But I am looking forward to it.”
World's number four tennis player Belarussian Victoria Azarenka easily beat 2011 US Open Champion Australian Samantha Stosur, wowing the crowd in her debut in the 2011 WTA championships. Stosur's performance Wednesday night differed greatly from her masterful victory over number two tennis player Maria Sharapova in her first round robin match Tuesday night. It was Stosur's first victory of 10 matches against Sharapova.
Azarenka, who crushed Stosur 6-2 in both sets, was surprised as well. “I feel great. I wasn't expecting to play so well the first match,” Azarenka smiled broadly afterward. But she also acknowledged that there were a couple spots where Stosur began closing the gap. “For a while there it was getting pretty close,” Azarenka admitted. “She really started going for every shot at the end,” she said.
Stosur still has a shot at qualifying for the semi-finals, but she must beat China's Li Na in her last round-robin match on Friday. But if Li performs like she did in the second round robin match against Sharapova, Stosur may have her work cut out for her.
Sharapova's chances of securing a spot in the final four were crushed with the French Open champion's first win in the last two months. The face-off between Sharapova and Li was a tight one, with both women fighting every game like it was the final tie-breaker.
Sharapova withdrew from the WTA tournament after losing to Li 7-6 (4), 6-4 for what she said was a flaring up of her ankle injury from Tokyo. Li told reporters after her victory that she was “so happy to beat Maria [Sharapova]. She is a top player.” “Thank you everyone for your support,” she beamed.
Now that Sharapova has pulled out, Wozniacki is the end-of-year world number one for the second consecutive year.
The WTA championships, one of the most prestigious tennis championships in the world, feature the world's top eight singles players and top four doubles teams, who will compete for the coveted title and a share of the $5 million in prize money. Each player meets the other three players in their group, and the top two in each pool move into the semifinals. The final is on Sunday.