Doha contender: Victoria Azarenka
Originally published on: 24/10/10 20:23
Age: 21 (31st July 1989)
Birthplace: Minsk, Belarus
WTA ranking: No.10
Season best: W- Stanford RU – Dubai, Eastbourne
Season win/loss record:
Prize money (2010):
Record vs. top eight: Caroline Wozniacki 2-3; Vera Zvonareva 2-5; Kim Clijsters 1-2; Francesca Schiavone 2-1; Sam Stosur 4-0; Jelena Jankovic 2-3; Elena Dementieva 1-3
2010 Grand Slam record: Australian Open QF; Roland Garros R128; Wimbledon R32; US Open R64
End-of-season best: Making her second appearance
Season review: After breaking into the world’s top ten in 2009, this year was all about staying there and despite an injury hit clay court season, her efforts on the hard stuff assured her a place in Doha.
The Belarusian began 2010 strongly, making a semi-final appearance in Sydney, before heading to Melbourne for the Aussie Open.
Azarenka got off to a flyer in Melbourne, winning her first three rounds for the loss of just six games, with all three including a love-set. Her fourth round encounter against the ninth-seeded Vera Zvonareva was a far closer affair, but once again the Belarusian pulled out a bagel to take the deciding set.
In her previous two Aussie Open’s, former world No.1 Serena Williams had stood in her way and it was to be the same again – in agonising fashion this time. Azarenka looked to be well on her way to a last four place at 6-4 4-0 up, but Williams produced an astonishing comeback to take the second on a tiebreak and then pull away to victory.
Despite this, spirits still remained high going into the next tournament in Dubai. Azarenka put together some impressive performances to take down Zvonareva and Agnieszka Radwanska, but in the final Venus Williams proved too strong.
After all the graft on the hard courts, her transition onto the slow clay courts proved too much for the youngster as injuries began to surface, notably retiring from both Marbella and Charleston with thigh and hamstring injuries respectively.
And she ended her clay court season with a disappointing 6-1 6-2 defeat to Gisela Dulko in the opening round at Roland Garros.
The grass then proved a fresh impetus, Azarenka soon forgot what had gone before to reach the final at Eastbourne following victories over Kim Clijsters and Marion Bartoli.
Unfortunately, she failed to carry this positive play into Wimbledon, suffering a third round exit to the surprise semi-finalist Petra Kvitova.
It was clear that her form was on the up as she returned to the hard courts with renewed enthusiasm. And it did not take long for the Belarusian to get back into the flow, defeating Bartoli and Sam Stosur before destroying Maria Sharapova 6-4 6-1 to capture her fourth career title in Stanford.
Primed for the US Open after another strong display in Montreal, Azarenka hoped to put all her impressive work on the hard courts to good use.
However, in somewhat bizzare circumstances, the 21-year-old had to be wheeled off court and taken to hospital after collapsing from exhaustion in her second round encounter against Dulko. She later revealed she had taken a tumble and hit her head in the gym ahead of her clash with the Argentine.
After missing out on big points in her quest to reach the WTA Championships, the world No.10 understood the importance of finishing her season well, and she was aided by her semi-final finish in Tokyo. And despite withdrawing from Beijing, she managed to secure enough points with her run to the final at the Kremlin Cup to book herself a place in Doha.
Last year’s WTA Championship: Making her debut after an impressive 2009, the Belarusian’s opening match couldn’t have gone any better, as she thrashed Jelena Jankovic 6-2 6-3. Wozniacki was next to seal a place in the semi-final but the Dane produced a remarkable comeback to win 6-1 6-4 7-5. However, the sweltering heat took effect as she withdrew at 4-6 7-5 4-1 to end a fantastic season on a down note.
Chances: Making a late entry into the tournament after her success in the Kremlin Cup means she will be the in-form player coming in despite her seeding. However, there are question marks surrounding her fitness, particularly considering the way she deteriorated in the sweltering heat in Doha last year and in unfortunate circumstances at this year’s US Open.