Serena Williams may be vulnerable to the rest of the field at the finale of the 2013 women’s season only if she takes to the court, here, in the figure-hugging one-piece red dress, which illuminated the venue of last night’s (Sunday) draw.
Even then, when she moved, so did the entire Turkish media, who are completely in her thrall.
It is not difficult to appreciate why the extreme focus at the last of the three BNP Paribas WTA Championships to be held on the Bosphorus should be on the oldest of the competitors. Williams, 32, is the overwhelming favourite, the star of the show, accorded the finest of rooms at the official hotel, the most overt security… The best of everything that can be showered upon her.
At the close of the draw, which placed her in the appropriately-named red group — along with Agnieszka Radwanska, Petra Kvitova and Angelique Kerber — Williams grabbed the microphone and warbled ‘Is-tan-bul, Is-tan-bul’ to the throng gathered before the tennis begins on Tuesday.
The lyrics may not quite have the resonance of New York, but they worked well with the audience. Unless any of her seven challengers, here, can deliver a level beyond anything they have been able to achieve this year, Williams will win five matches and move into second spot behind Martina Navratilova (21) for consecutive victories in these season-ending championships.
Williams has already clinched the year ending No.1 ranking for the third time (following 2002 and 2009).
“I have to be ready,” the 2013 French and US Open champion said. “The reason this tournament is so tough is that you have to be tuned in from the first match on. I’m in a tough group.”
Radwanska, the Pole who is still searching for her Grand Slam breakthrough, ought to offer the toughest challenge in the group. But the prospect of playing two left-handers in Petra Kvitova, the 2011 Wimbledon champion from the Czech Republic and the last of the qualifiers and Kerber, at least offers Williams a challenge of alternative angles and lines of attack.
In the white group is placed Victoria Azarenka, of Belarus, who is regarded as the one player who might offer a distinct challenge to Williams, Li Na of China, Sara Errani of Italy, and Jelena Jankovic from Croatia.
The two alternates for the event are Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark and Sloane Stephens, the young American. Wozniacki — in the midst of speculation about her long-term involvement with Rory McIlroy — won her first tournament of the year on Sunday.