group move

Decoding Doha

Alright, so I know I’m a little late to the party. The Year End Championships are half way through and soon women’s tennis will be (almost) done for the year and we’ll move on to men’s World Tour Finals. However, Doha is the most exciting thing happening in tennis this week and I can’t help but think that some fans are a little hazy on the details. I know my twitter feed has been full of what ifs involving the Doha tournament and player rankings. Now it’s possible that you don’t watch tennis every minute of every day and haven’t been looking forward to the YEC since September, which might leave you a little confused about the unorthodox format. Well, here’s your guide to Doha 2010. Think of it as an FAQ of sorts.

What’s the Format of the YEC?

Singles: There are 8 players in the YEC and two alternates. The players are divided into two groups and the first four days of the tournament are played in a round robin. Each player in Group 1 plays each of the other players in Group 1, and likewise for Group 2. This year’s groups are White and Maroon which are the colors of the Qatari flag. The top 2 players from each group move on to the semifinals, where the number 1 woman from the Maroon group will play the number 2 woman from the White group and the number 1 woman from the White group will play the number 2 woman from the Maroon group. Clearly, the winner of each semifinal moves on to the championship match.

Doubles: I’m going to preface this with the fact that the doubles format is stupid and just further evidence that no one cares about doubles. There are only four teams in the doubles draw, which makes the doubles tournament boring. The doubles draw starts play on the same day as the singles semifinals. This draw works the same as the tail end of any tournament. There are two semifinals followed by a championship match. They just skipped the beginning.

The Field

Singles:

Caroline Wozniacki – playing to defend her number 1 ranking and shut up some of the skeptics

Vera Zvonareva – ending what’s been an amazing season with a chance to become number 1

Kim Clijsters – hasn’t played much recently but has a winning record against just about everyone

Francesca Schiavone – making her YEC debut after winning her very first (and likely only) Grand Slam

Samantha Stosur – also making her YEC debut and has already clinched a win against Wozniacki and Schiavone (it’s a shame she couldn’t pull that off at the French)

Jelena Jankovic – I have no idea how she even got here. First match against Zvonareva was embarrassing.

Elena Dementieva – back after an ankle injury and did not look good in her debut against Wozniacki.

Victoria Azarenka – won last week’s Kremlin Cup

Li Na (Alternate)

Shahar Peer (Alternate)

Doubles:

Dulko/Pennetta – won 6 doubles titles together this year

Peschke/Srebotnik – I’m not even going to pretend to know anything about these two

Raymond/Stubbs – reunited this year after a four and half year break, but have previously won the Australian Open, Wimbledon, and the US Open

King/Shvedova – the 2010 Wimbledon and US Open champs

Llagostera/Martinez (Alternate) – 10 points to anyone who can tell me who these people are

I noticed that the Williams sisters aren’t playing, should I still watch?

Yes! There’s been a ton of talk surrounding the lack of Williams in Doha, drowning out the buzz about the players that actually are competing. Believe me, we’re better off this way. Now we actually don’t know who’s going to win.

I don’t get the tennis channel, how can I watch the YEC?

If you’re willing to shell out $19.99, you can buy a one month subscription to tennistv.com, unless you live in Europe or several parts of the Middle East and Africa. There’s no good answer to this one. I can’t explain the weird territorial restrictions of tennistv. If you do live in Europe, you can check out the Eurosport Player. When I lived in London, the subscription was only about £4 and they played tons of tennis, including matches on demand. Make sure they’re airing the YEC before you purchase though.

Is this the last tournament of the year?

No, next week another eight ladies will be playing in Bali. These eight include the six players with the highest rankings who have won international tournaments this year, but did not qualify for the YEC as well as two wild card players. You’re probably wondering why they would have this event after the YEC. I have absolutely no idea.

Who can be #1 at the end of this tournament?

Caroline or Vera. Caroline would have to lose all of her matches and Vera would have to win all of hers. I don’t see both of these things occurring, so Caro will likely end the year as #1.

Why would Jankovic play in this form? Why not give one of the alternates a chance instead?

Even if she doesn’t win a single match, Jelena gets 210 points and $100,000.

How does the WTA describe the YEC?

Here’s a quote from the WTA website. “The WTA Championships is the most prestigious and important tournament in professional women’s tennis. It is the final event on the WTA calendar, contested by only the very best players in the world.” These are both false statements. First, I would in no way consider the YEC as prestigious as a Grand Slam, although the prize money is comparable. Second, apparently even the WTA forgot that there’s a tournament in Bali next week.

Alright, there’s you guide to the 2010 Year End Championships. Maybe next time I’ll get around to writing it before they actually start.