Maria Sharapova heads into this season’s WTA Championships as world number two, with a Grand Slam to her name and an Olympic silver medal this year.
The Russian faces tough opposition against the top eight players in the world for the WTA Championship crown, but with her recent run of form Sharapova will feel confident she can win the curtain call event of the season.
Sharapova has been drawn in in the White group for the round robin stage, alongside Serena Williams, Angelique Kerber and Li Na. And although Sharapova will have her work cut out to overcome Williams – who beat her 6-0 6-1 in the final of London 2012 – few will contest her position as favourite against the other two in the group.
Statistically, Sharapova has been on fire this season and has only missed out on another Grand Slam through the impressive determination of opponents. Fifty-six wins to 10 losses prove her position as world number two is well earned and bar a bad mid-summer in the UK she has performed well all year.
She looked exhausted during the Olympic final representing her home country Russia, a criticism noted in her fourth-round exit at Wimbledon. Yet a final appearance at the Australian Open before claiming the title at Roland Garros over Sara Errani 6-3 6-2 proves Sharapova can make it to big event finals.
The 2004 WTA Tour champion will head into Istanbul next week with great confidence of reclaiming the title she won eight years ago and performances in the group stage will give us an early indication of if she can fulfil that dream.
She must convincingly beat Kerber and Li to finish at least second in the group. If she can do this then her energy levels should be enough to pull through the gruelling final rounds.