If you take away the second half of this season, Wozniacki has been the most consistent player over the last three years and there are signs that she is getting her mojo back. She tried for a spell being a more aggressive player but it didn't work so she has now gone back to where she was. In some ways though this is a step backwards; she is the type of player who will win a lot of matches but not necessarily the biggest tournaments. Looking at the positives: she always plays well at the end of the year, she has more stamina than any of the other players; and it will take a heck of a performance to beat her. However, I think if she wins the tournament then we won't have witnessed a magnificent event. We know what we're are going to get with Wozniacki but the problem is that on any given day her game can be muscled apart by the likes of Kvitova, Sharapova and even Azarenka so I don't think her game is quite good enough to win the event and she will only lift the title if the others are off colour.
Kvitova, for me, is the most unpredictable player in the event. She could win all of her matches in straight sets but she could also lose all of them in similar fashion. It is impossible to predict which Kvitova will turn up on any given day. I feel she took her eye off the ball after winning Wimbledon for a few weeks, and despite some recent positive signs, I'm not fully convinced she is out of that malaise. We have seen some magnificent performances followed by dreadful outings so all I know is that I couldn't recommend anyone putting money on her to win the tournament. I just feel there is too big of a chance that we will see at least one bad performance from her in the tournament and that could very well happen in the semi-final or final. Having said that, if we see Kvitova at her best throughout the tournament, then she wins it. I've no doubt about that, but I don't expect that to happen.
Zvonareva is starting to play better again after what has been a lacklustre year by her standards. She will be very difficult to beat as consistency is one of her strengths. I'm not sure though she's quite playing at the same level as Agnieszka Radwanska and likewise, if Kvitova is on form, I don't think she will be able to cope so that could be her undoing. However, it is certainly possible she could sneak out of what is the tougher group. There was a time in Moscow last week where I felt she was looking like a potential winner in Istanbul but then she was taken out by Dominika Cibulkova - which was a surprise for me.
Radwanska had been the WTA Tour's form player until her early exit in Moscow last week, but that defeat actually might serve her well as she has been playing an awful lot of tennis lately and the rest will have benefitted her. To me, Radwanska is a similar player to Wozniacki, and just at the moment Radwanska might be playing at a slightly higher level. Wozniacki leads their head-to-head 4-1 but I could see that being overturned. So I feel she has a good chance of getting out of the group, but again, like I said with Wozniacki, while she is a potential winner of the event, if she does win the tournament it will be a clear sign that others in the event have underperformed.
The injury in Tokyo for Sharapova was obviously a big set-back and she has been taking the pressure off herself by saying she's just glad to be here, and how she never thought she would make it after her injury. However, now she has arrived in Istanbul, there is no doubt she is in it to win it. Personally though, I wonder if her enforced lay-off might make things a little too difficult for her. The draw has done her a favour though - she is in the easier group - and I feel she's the second most likely player to get out of it.
That leads me to my favourite for the white group and possibly the tournament - Victoria Azarenka. She is really consistent and she carried on her good form in Luxembourg last week even if it was against a weak field. I sense it might just be her time to step up to the truly elite level. She has had to wait a long time to get there, and while she might not have proven herself at the highest level, I have seen her improvement graph inch up on an almost month-by-month basis. It would be a significant statement if she managed to win this tournament. She is in the right group to play herself into things, and I can easily see her winning the group and would also make her my favourite for the tournament if forced to pick somebody.
Li Na is the outsider with the bookmakers and that is an opinion I agree with it. Her confidence has been shot to pieces and I really don't understand why she got rid of her coach Michael Mortensen who only five months ago helped her to win Roland Garros. There must be a strong reason why she ditched him, but it escapes me, and her form since then has just collapsed. Maybe it is the pressure of expectation but she is nowhere near the player she was and I don't expect her to win a match in Istanbul. Having said that, you never do know when a player can rediscover their form, and she certainly has the ability to beat anyone. For me she was the best player in the world for a period over the summer to such an extent that I felt she was even going to win Wimbledon at one stage.
Confidence is the big issue I have with Stosur. A month ago she was winning the US Open but her confidence just seems to go up and down all the time which makes her very difficult to read. She certainly hasn't kicked on from the US Open and become the elite player I thought she might be, so now I'm left with doubts. I was surprised when she won in New York to be honest - it was a great story and fully deserved - but part of me can't really accept that it happened. Maybe I should wise up and accept her as a Grand Slam-winning quality player but at the moment I don't really think she's at that level. I see her beating Li Na and if Sharapova is not fully fit then she could force her way into the semi-finals but she is not my tip for the title.