NEW YORK, NY, USA – The Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) announced today that World No.1 Victoria Azarenka, four-time Grand Slam champion Maria Sharapova and the top doubles team of Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci are the first players to qualify for this year’s TEB BNP Paribas WTA Championships, which will be staged at the Sinan Erdem Arena in Istanbul, Turkey. The WTA’s year-end finale, to be held from October 23-28, will feature the world’s top eight singles players and top four doubles teams, competing for the coveted title and a share of $4.9 million in prize money.
“I congratulate Victoria, Maria, Sara and Roberta on becoming the first players to secure their places at the TEB BNP Paribas WTA Championships-Istanbul,” said Stacey Allaster, WTA Chairman and CEO. “Maria and Victoria have had outstanding seasons with each earning Grand Slam titles, the WTA World No.1 ranking and Olympic medals, highlighted by Maria achieving her career Grand Slam. Sara and Roberta have been the stand-out doubles pair this year, winning seven titles including their first Grand Slam title at Roland Garros.”
“We are delighted that Victoria, Maria, Sara and Roberta have qualified for the second staging of the TEB BNP Paribas WTA Championships-Istanbul, which launched with such great success last year in Turkey,” said Ayda Uluç, Turkish Tennis Federation President. “We are planning to raise the bar even higher at this year’s event and look forward to showcasing the talents of these extraordinary players to fans in Istanbul and around the world.”
“This year has been amazing for me so far, starting by winning the Australian Open, becoming WTA World No.1 for the first time and winning two medals at the Olympics. Last year, the atmosphere at the WTA Championships in Istanbul was great and I am looking forward to playing there again.”
After winning her first Grand Slam title at this year’s Australian Open, Azarenka became the 22nd player to hold the WTA World No.1 ranking. Her stellar start to the season began with a 26 match winning streak, the best since 1997 when Martina Hingis won 37 straight. The streak yielded the Belarusian four singles titles: the Apia International Sydney, Australian Open, Qatar Total Open (Doha) and BNP Paribas Open (Indian Wells).
The 23-year-old’s strong results have also included finishing runner-up at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix (Stuttgart) and Mutua Madrid Open, advancing to the semifinals at Wimbledon and US Open, and claiming singles bronze and mixed doubles gold medals at the London 2012 Olympics. This year Azarenka boasts a WTA-leading 14 victories over Top 10 ranked opponents, including a 7-2 record against Top 5 opponents.
Azarenka returns to the Championships for the fourth consecutive year, having finished runner-up to Petra Kvitova in a close three-set final in 2011.
“I am very happy to be returning to Istanbul for the WTA Championships. This year has been really special for me, winning the Roland Garros title to complete my career Grand Slam, rising back to No.1 for a time and of course taking home a silver medal from the London Olympics. It will be great to finish off the season in Turkey. We received such incredible support from the fans last year, so I’m looking forward to competing against the world’s best players there once again.”
The 25-year-old became only the 6th player in the Open Era to complete a career Grand Slam when she claimed the Roland Garros title in June. The victory propelled her back to WTA World No.1 for the first time since 2008, a position she held for 4 weeks, taking her career total to 21 weeks. The Russian also made her Olympic debut in London, coming away with a silver medal.
Sharapova has won three titles in 2012: the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix (Stuttgart), Internazionali BNL d’Italia (Rome) and Roland Garros, her fourth Grand Slam title. She finished runner-up at the Australian Open, BNP Paribas Open (Indian Wells), Sony Open Tennis (Miami) and the Olympics.
Sharapova, who defeated Serena Williams to win the 2004 Championships, will compete in the season-ending tournament for the sixth time in her career. She also finished runner-up in 2007, and her 3 hour, 24 minute final against Justine Henin remains the longest WTA singles final on record.
Sara Errani/Roberta Vinci
“We are so happy, so excited, to have qualified for the WTA Championships,” said Vinci. “We’ve played very good tennis this year and this is the reward. I was at the WTA Championships a long time ago, back in 2001, but it is even more special for me to do this with such a good friend as Sara. I think the level of competition in doubles has become even tougher over the last decade, so we are looking forward to some great matches at Istanbul.”
Errani and Vinci will be the first all-Italian team to compete at the prestigious year-end event. Vinci will be returning to the Championships for the second time in her career – 11 years after her first appearance in doubles in 2001 (partnered with Sandrine Testud, QF). Errani will be making her tournament debut, joining a list of a list of five Italians who have competed in doubles at the Championships including Rita Grande (2001), Flavia Pennetta (2010, 2011), Francesca Schiavone (2006) and Vinci (2001).
Errani and Vinci have had an outstanding year, winning seven titles, highlighted by becoming the first all-Italian pair to win a Grand Slam doubles title at Roland Garros. The duo won five consecutive titles – Barcelona Ladies Open, Mutua Madrid Open, Internazionali BNL d’Italia (Rome), Roland Garros and UNICEF Open (‘s-Hertogenbosch) – and their 25-match win streak was the longest by a team since 1994, when Gigi Fernández and Natasha Zvereva won 28 straight.
First teaming up on a regular basis in 2010, Errani and Vinci have collected a total of 12 doubles titles as a team. They have also compiled an undefeated record to date in Fed Cup doubles competition for Italy, being key ingredients in the country’s championship runs in 2009 and 2010.
On Monday, September 10, Errani and Vinci will rise to World No.1 and 2 respectively on the WTA’s doubles rankings. Errani becomes the second Italian to hold the honor, after countrywoman Flavia Pennetta held the top spot for 18 weeks during 2011.
RACE TO THE TEB BNP PARIBAS WTA CHAMPIONSHIPS-ISTANBUL
(players/teams in bold already qualified)
Maria Sharapova (RUS)
Errani / Vinci
Victoria Azarenka (BLR)
Huber / Raymond
Agnieszka Radwanska (POL)
Hlavackova / Hradecka
Serena Williams (USA)
Kirilenko / Petrova
Petra Kvitova (CZE)
Kops-Jones / Spears
Angelique Kerber (GER)
Llaogstera Vives / Martinez Sanchez
Li Na (CHN)
Vesnina / Makarova
Sara Errani (ITA)
Samantha Stosur (AUS)
Marion Bartoli (FRA)
Tickets for the 2012 TEB BNP Paribas WTA Championships–Istanbul, as well as info about the event, are available for purchase through Biletix – either online at www.biletix.com or at Biletix ticket counters in Turkey.
Follow all the latest news about the TEB BNP Paribas WTA Championships-Istanbul on www.wtachampionships.com, www.facebook.com/WTA, and www.twitter.com/WTA using #WTAChamps.