November 2, 2008

A race to the season-ending Championship

DOHA, Qatar - The eight singles players set to compete in the season-ending Sony Ericsson Championships - Doha 2008 can now prepare their match strategies for the round-robin phase, with the White and Maroon Groups allocated at the official draw ceremony on Sunday. The four Russian women in the draw - Dinara Safina, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Elena Dementieva and Vera Zvonareva - are evenly split between the two Groups. Kuznetsova and Zvonareva are in the White Group and Safina and Dementieva - who squared off in the Olympic final - are in the Maroon Group.

There's nothing split about the allocation of the remaining players. Both Serbian stars - world No.1 Jelena Jankovic and No.4 Ana Ivanovic - were randomly selected to be in the White Group, while the Serena and Venus Williams are both in Maroon. However, this doesn't rule out either an all-Serbian or all-Williams final. After the round-robin phase, with each player meeting the other three in her pool between Tuesday and Friday, the top players in each pool play the second-placed player in the other in the semifinals. The winner of each semifinal advance to Sunday's final.

When asked about being in the same Group as her sister, Serena Williams joked: "It doesn't bother me at all; we're always in the same half of the draw, so I'm used to it." That of course wasn't the case at Wimbledon, where Serena lost to her older sister in a high-quality final that gave Venus her fifth title at the All-England Club. The Group colors were in honor of the flag of Qatar, the hosts for the Tour's year-end event for the next three years.

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