Best of Three: Kvitova takes No. 2; Istanbul impressive in first year
Petra Kvitova clinched the No. 2 ranking after steamrolling the field in Istanbul
Players weigh in on the grunting debate, but the WTA says it's part of the game
With packed stands, Istanbul was a successful location for the WTA Championships
The WTA wrapped up its season in Istanbul last week and the event may as well have been a metaphor for this curious, scattershot year. Serena Williams, Venus Williams and Kim Clijsters were either absent or ineligible. Though she didn't relinquish her position, top-ranked Caroline Wozniacki lost twice. So did Maria Sharapova. And French Open champion, Li Na.
As innumerable fans (and even Wozniacki) complained, the WTA made weirdly defiant and tin-eared statements about grunting. While players differ where they fall on the issue, a note to WTA: when even Dwight Shrute is mocking you, it's disingenuous to claim it's a non-issue.
In any case, in the end, we got a crisp and commanding performance, a glimmer of hope that order, perhaps, will emerge from the current chaos. Looking like the defending Wimbledon champion -- and not the player who flamed out in the first round of the U.S. Open -- Petra Kvitova rolled through her matches with authority.
In the final, she silenced Victoria Azarenka. Kvitova, who won real cash money of up to $1,750,000 (not a typo), finished the year at No. 2 in the rankings, and, perhaps most important, emerges as the best bet to fill the WTA vacuum in 2012. Good luck to her. And if she does so in a cone of on-court silence, all the better.
Since leaving New York, both Tours have struggled a bit to restore some stability and prestige for their year-end events. The men caromed around the world (making like Yao Ming with stints in Houston and Shanghai) before finally landing comfortably at the 02 Arena in London. After a decade-plus of wandering the desert (literally, in the case of Doha), the women, too, may finally have found a stable home for the year-end soiree. Though there are no Turkish players in the WTA's top echelon and little in the way of regional tennis history, Istanbul did a convincing impersonation of a tennis hotbed last week.
During days of national disaster no less, big crowds descended on Sinan Erdem Arena to watch the matches. Fans were both knowledgeable and passionate. Sponsors got their value. The 5:00 p.m. local start time made it possible for both American and European fans to follow the action. As a friend on the grounds put it, "Any issues were a product of the first year -- and were quickly addressed." It's no secret that Istanbul bid for this WTA event as part of a larger strategy of acquiring the 2020 Olympics. So be it. The city sure appeared to be gracious and capable sports hosts.
More men's titles, more points up for grabs. In St. Petersburg, Marin Cilic -- who's quietly shaking out of a two-year slump -- beat Janko Tipsarervic to win the title. In Vienna, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga beat Juan Martin del Potro in a gripping three-setter while the Bryan Brothers got back on the board, winning the doubles.
We could ask why these events exist, whether, at a time when the men are clamoring to reduce the season, we really need four fall weeks of lesser indoor events. But, hey, if these tournaments give the Tipsarevic types a chance to pad their bank account and attain top 16 seeding at the next Major, well, we commend their opportunism and industriousness.