Eurosport

Tour Championship Preview

WTA Tour Championships Preview
By Eurosport

06/11/2006 at 08:03Updated

Amelie Mauresmo, Maria Sharapova and Justine Henin-Hardenne all travel to Madrid for the WTA Tour Championships with the added incentive that comes with knowing that the number one ranking is also up for grabs.

All three women have the chance to secure the end-of-year number one slot but it will be 19-year-old Sharapova - who beat Serena Williams to win the title in 2004 - that will be the most confident of her chances going into the tournament on the back of the US Open title as well as back-to-back wins in Zurich and Linz.

"I'm playing with more confidence because I'm playing more," Sharapova said after her securing her fifth title of the year in Linz.

"I'm fitter, I feel as I play more matches I'm getting better and better. I'm excited that at this point in my career I'm fit enough to win three tournaments in a row.

"It's been an incredible year. Winning another major has been great. I've been consistent and have had some great results."

Mauresmo - who won the event in 2005 - has also had a fantastic year, spending time at the top of the rankings after victories at both the Australian Open and Wimbledon.

But the 27-year-old Frenchwoman has been struggling with a shoulder injury in the past couple of months and has hardly played since her semi-final loss to Sharapova at the US Open.

"I'm a bit short of practice and I'm not sure I'll be able to serve at 100 percent, but I'll be fresher than the other girls," Mauresmo said.

"I've got a tiny chance [of finishing the year at number one]. That would be the icing on the cake after a great year, but I'm not counting on it too much."

French Open champion Henin-Hardenne has missed even more of the past couple of months since having to concede the Fed Cup final against Italy after injuring her knee in the doubles rubber.

The Russian trio of Svetlana Kuznetsova, Nadia Petrova and Elena Dementieva will join two-time winners Kim Clijsters and Martina Hingis in completing the line-up

Kuznetsova also qualified for the Championship last year but failed to progress beyond the round-robin stage.

"I've learned how to qualify for this tournament, but this is the first time that I see myself with a chance of winning it," said Kuznetsova, who has won tournaments in Miami, Bali and Bejing this year.

"Maybe the great season I've had has given me more belief in myself."

The 26-year-old Hingis has made a stunning comeback to the tour - winning tournaments in Rome and Kolkata - after a three year absence having retired in 2002 with foot and ankle problems.

"I'm happy to have qualified in my first year back on the circuit," Hingis said.

"I can't ask for more. I have to keep looking ahead so that I can become one of the best players in the world again."

The Championships begin on Tuesday with the eight players split into two pools of four for the round-robin stage. The top two in each group progress to the semi-finals.

Yellow Group: Amelie Mauresmo (1), Justine Henin-Hardenne (3), Nadia Petrova (5), Martina Hingis (8)

Red Group: Maria Sharapova (2), Svetlana Kuznetsova (4), Kim Clijsters (6), Elena Dementieva (7)

Follow LIVE coverage of the WTA Championships from Tuesday on Eurosport and eurosport.com!

0
0