ST. PETERSBURG, FL, USA – The Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) announced today that four-time Grand Slam champion Maria Sharapova, World No.4 Agnieszka Radwanska and the top doubles team of Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci have qualified for this year’s TEB BNP Paribas WTA Championships, to be staged at the Sinan Erdem Dome in Istanbul, Turkey, from October 22-27, 2013. Despite qualifying, Sharapova’s participation in Istanbul remains questionable due to her continuing recovery from injury.
The TEB BNP Paribas WTA Championships showcases the world’s best women tennis players as the Top 8 singles players and Top 4 doubles teams compete for a record-setting $6 million in prize money and one of the most prestigious titles in women’s tennis. Istanbul is set to host the elite season-ending competition for a triumphant third and final year.
“We are excited to add Maria, Agnieszka, Sara and Roberta to the TEB BNP Paribas WTA Championships-Istanbul player field, although Maria continues to rehab from her injury,” said Stacey Allaster, WTA Chairman and CEO. “We are less than a month away from the Championships and are eager to continue building towards what will be another sensational tournament for the fans in Istanbul and tennis fans around the world.”
Sharapova captured titles at the BNP Paribas Open (Indian Wells) and Porsche Tennis Grand Prix (Stuttgart) in 2013 and has now won at least one title annually for the last 11 years. Only three players – Martina Navratilova, Chris Evert and Steffi Graf – have enjoyed longer streaks. The Russian was also a finalist at the Sony Open Tennis (Miami), Mutua Madrid Open and Roland Garros, falling on each occasion to Serena Williams. Despite left hip and right shoulder injuries curtailing her fall hard court season, Sharapova is the third player to secure her Istanbul singles qualification.
The 26-year-old has qualified for the year-end finale for the seventh time in her career. She won the event on her debut in 2004, defeating Serena Williams in the championship match, and is a two-time finalist, in 2007 and most recently 2012. Only once has she failed to reach at least the semifinal stage, withdrawing from round-robin play in 2011 with an ankle injury.
Radwanska opened the 2013 season with back-to-back titles at ASB Classic (Auckland) and Apia International Sydney, in addition to winning last week’s KDB Korea Open (Seoul), taking her career tally to 13. The 24-year-old finished runner-up at Bank of the West Classic (Stanford), and was a four-time semifinalist at Wimbledon, Qatar Total Open (Doha), Sony Open Tennis (Miami) and Rogers Cup (Toronto). After the US Open she surpassed $13million in career prize money and is now one of the Top 20 earners in WTA history.
The Pole has qualified for the WTA Championships for the third successive year, as well as competing as an alternate in 2008 and 2009. Her best result came last year, reaching the semifinals, before falling to eventual champion Serena Williams. Radwanska’s third round-robin match in 2013 against Sara Errani was the longest recorded best-of-three-set match in Championships history at three hours, 29 minutes. The previous record was set during the 2007 final, when Justine Henin defeated Maria Sharapova in three hours, 24 minutes.
Sara Errani / Roberta Vinci
Last year Errani and Vinci earned the distinction of becoming the first all-Italian team to compete at the prestigious year-end event and went on to finish the season as WTA Doubles Team of the Year. Vinci is returning to the Championships for the third time in her career: her appearances now span a 12-year period, having made her debut in 2001 partnering Sandrine Testud. Errani, who played in both the singles and doubles events in 2012, has qualified in doubles for the second straight year and remains on track to secure a singles berth as well.
The Italians began the season in strong form, triumphing at the Australian Open to win their third Grand Slam crown, followed by titles at Open GDF Suez (Paris Indoors) and Qatar Total Open (Doha). They also made finals appearances at Roland Garros, Apia International Sydney, and Internazionali BNL d’Italia (Rome). Underscoring their success, the pair has held the World No.1 Doubles ranking either individually or collectively since October last year. First teaming up on a regular basis in 2010, Errani and Vinci have collected a total of 16 doubles titles as a team. They have also compiled an undefeated record to date in Fed Cup doubles competition for Italy, and are due to face Russia in November’s final.