Capsule looks at the WTA Championships field

Eight of the best players in women’s tennis will meet in Doha, Qatar from Oct. 27 to Nov. 2 to compete for the year-end Sony Ericsson WTA Tour Championships.

The tournament begins with a round robin portion, with two pools of four players each. The top two players from each pool then advance to the semifinals, with the winners of those matches advancing to the final.

Below is a capsule look at each of the tournament’s eight competitors. All stats and rankings are updated through Oct. 26.

Serena Williams

Age: 28

Rank: 2

2009 record: 45-12

2009 highlights: Won the Australian Open and Wimbledon.

Past year-end results: 2001 — Winner. 2002, 2004 — Runner-up. 2007-2008 — Lost in round robin play.

Outlook: She’s only won two of the 15 tournaments she’s played this year, but both of those were Grand Slams. As always with Serena, you have to consider her a favorite at a major event. She has not fared well in Doha in recent years, though, losing in round robin play each of the last two years.


Dinara Safina

Age: 23

Rank: 1

2009 record: 55-15

2009 highlights: Won tournaments in Rome, Madrid and Portoroz. Made the final at the Australian and French Opens.

Past year-end results: 2008 — Lost in round robin play.

Outlook: After months of widespread criticism that her No. 1 ranking wasn’t deserved, the computers finally agreed and dropped Safina to No. 2. She comes to Doha with three titles this year and two Grand Slam finals, but still a load of questions about her ability to win the big matches. She’ll get her chance against the tour’s best this week.

Result: Safina withdrew from the tournament after her first match because of an injury and was replaced by Vera Zvonareva.


Svetlana Kuznetsova

Age: 24

Rank: 3

2009 record: 42-14

2009 highlights: Won the French Open, as well as tournaments in Stuttgart and Beijing.

Past year-end results: 2004, 2006-2008 — Lost in round robin play.

Outlook: The year-end championships haven’t been kind to Kuznetsova — she’s been ousted in round robin play in each of her three appearances. The French Open champion also won in Beijing recently, so she has plenty of reason for optimism this time around, including a competitive 29-27 all-time record against the rest of the field.

Result: Finished 1-2 in round robin play and was eliminated.


Venus Williams

Age: 29

Rank: 7

2009 record: 36-13

2009 highlights: Won Dubai and Acapulco. Made the Wimbledon final.

Past year-end results: 2008 — Winner. 1999, 2002 — Lost in semifinals.

Outlook: The defending champion rides into Doha at the end of a somewhat down year. She has no Slam titles in 2009 and won just two tournaments. Still, the elder Williams sister can’t be counted out at the event she conquered a year ago. Her 34-23 all-time mark against the rest of the field is second only to Serena’s 36-21.


Elena Dementieva

Age: 28

Rank: 5

2009 record: 54-16

2009 highlights: Won tournaments in Auckland, Sydney and Toronto. Made the semifinals at the Australian Open and Wimbledon.

Past year-end results: 2000, 2008 — Lost in semifinals. 2001-2002 — Lost in first round. 2003-2006 — Lost in round robin play.

Outlook: She started the year 15-0, winning in Auckland and Sydney before reaching the semis at the Australian Open. We’re still waiting for big things from her since she won Olympic gold in Beijing last year, beating Caroline Wozniacki, Serena Williams and Dinara Safina in the process. She has the tools to be a serious contender here.

Result: Finished 1-2 in round robin play and was eliminated.


Caroline Wozniacki

Age: 19

Rank: 4

2009 record: 65-21

2009 highlights: Won tournaments in Ponte Vedra Beach, Eastbourne and New Haven. Made the final at the U.S. Open.

Past year-end results: This is her first appearance in the event.

Outlook: One of two newcomers to the event, the 19-year-old Dane will have to overcome her relative lack of big-match experience (though she did make the U.S. Open final last month) and possible fatigue resulting from a busy schedule that has seen her play 86 matches so far in 2009. She’s also just 5-15 all-time against the other seven players in Doha. As she showed in New York, though, she’s ready for the big stage.


Victoria Azarenka

Age: 20

Rank: 6

2009 record: 44-13

2009 highlights: Won tournaments in Brisbane, Memphis and Miami. Made the quarterfinals at the French Open and Wimbledon.

Past year-end results: This is her first appearance in the event.

Outlook: Azarenka already had three tournament titles to her credit this season by early April — including a major one at the Sony Ericsson Open — and looked to be ready to smash onto the Grand Slam scene. But illness stopped her at the Australian Open while leading Serena Williams in a fourth-round match and she didn’t get past the quarterfinals in any of the other three. She’ll be looking to the finish the year as solidly as she started.

Result: Finished 2-1 in round robin play and was eliminated.


Jelena Jankovic

Age: 24

Rank: 8

2009 record: 44-17

2009 highlights: Won tournaments in Marbella and Cincinnati.

Past year-end results: 2008 — Lost in semifinals. 2007 — Lost in round robin play.

Outlook: The former world No. 1 secured the final spot in the year-end championships when Vera Zvonareva and Agnieszka Radwanska both lost early at the Kremlin Cup. Though she barely got into the event, she’s got one very intriguing plus — her 27-20 all-time record against the other seven is third best behind the Williams sisters. She could be around at the end.

Result: Lost to Venus Williams in the semifinals.