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Ten things to look out for at the 2013 WTA Championships

Serena Williams at the US Open 2013
by Mark Hodgkinson
Tuesday 22 October 2013

The WTA's season will come to a glittering end in Istanbul next week. Here are 10 things Wimbledon.com suggests you should keep an eye on...

1. Perhaps all those joining Serena Williams in Istanbul should be reading Malcolm Gladwell's new book on how underdogs succeed and how to outsmart the strong. If Williams can retain her title in Istanbul, she will have won the tournament four times, which would put her level with Chris Evert in equal third place on the all-time list. Victory would also take her to within a title of Steffi Graf, the champion on five occasions. But Williams, who turned 32 this year, is going to have to carry on until deep into her thirties if she is going to give herself a chance of passing Martina Navratilova, who won eight year-end singles titles.

2. What can we expect in Istanbul from the racket strings of Victoria Azarenka, who has had the roughest of autumns? Since finishing as the runner-up to Serena Williams at the US Open, Azarenka hasn't won a match, after losing on her opening appearances in Tokyo and Beijing. She described her performance against Germany's Andrea Petkovic in Beijing, a match in which she served 15 double-faults, as "awful".

3. There's no Maria Sharapova this year (she withdrew because of a shoulder injury), no Wimbledon champion (after Marion Bartoli's retirement), and no rookies. But there is still a considerable gap in experience between players such as Serena Williams, who will be appearing at the tournament for an eighth time, and Italy's Sara Errani and Germany's Angelique Kerber, who are each playing at the event for only the second occasion. How much will that matter in Istanbul?

4. After Serena Williams, Petra Kvitova is the only other former champion in the field. And Kvitova, victorious in 2011, has been in decent form of late, winning the title in Tokyo, and reaching the semi-finals in Beijing.

5. Can Li Na, playing in Istanbul for the third consecutive season, qualify from her group for the first time? The runner-up at this year's Australian Open, perhaps she might even have it in her to win her biggest title since her triumph at Roland Garros in 2011.

6. For the second successive year, Sara Errani will be competing in both the singles and doubles events, after qualifying in the team competition alongside fellow Italian Roberta Vinci. If she can win both titles, she will succeed where Kim Clijsters, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Serena Williams and Venus Williams - all of whom have played singles and doubles at the same tournament - tried and failed. Go further back into WTA history, to before the introduction of the round-robin format, and you will find women who did the double - Martina Navratilova on five occasions, Jana Novotna once and Martina Hingis once.

7. Will Agnieszka Radwanska, who recently hit a 99mph forehand, show any more of that power at the season finale? "Yeah, that was awesome," she said of the shot. "It was probably the hardest shot I ever hit and it's definitely up there as one of the best. Normally my great shots are more trickery than power so this one was unique."

8. For the first time since 2010, Serbia's Jelena Jankovic will feature at the WTA Championships. Jankovic, a former world No.1, has twice reached the semi-finals of this tournament, in 2008 and 2009, on both occasions losing to Venus Williams.

9. This is the last time that the WTA Championships will be played in Istanbul, with the tournament moving to Singapore next year. The tournament will be expanded in 2014, with the doubles field to be increased from four to eight teams.

10. Angelique Kerber is playing some fine tennis late in the season. "This is an incredible feeling, this victory means a lot to me," she said after winning the title in Linz in Austria at the weekend. "I will go to the WTA Championships with a lot of confidence."

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