ISTANBUL — Some highlights from the WTA’s All-Access Hour with the eight players competing at this week’s WTA Championships:
• Serena Williams isn’t sure she can break Margaret Court’s record of 24 Grand Slam titles, but she’s going to try.
“That would be amazing. I’m less than 10 away (she has 17), so that’s a start, but even if I was at 23 Grand Slams, it would be very hard, you know, with so many wonderful players, especially now. There are so many great new players coming up. Everyone is so young, everyone is so hungry, everyone wants to be the next No. 1. So, you know, it’s going to be even tough for me to get to 18. Obviously that’s my goal, but I take it one match at a time.”
• Victoria Azarenka and Serena Williams could renew their rivalry this week. Azarenka trails their head-to-head record 3-13, but the two have split their four meetings this year.
“I think it’s been growing,” Azarenka said of the rivalry. “I think it’s been becoming more and more interesting, and we had a lot of very good matches, very good battles, and it’s great. I’m honored to be a part of that. That’s what takes me every time to work harder to the next level, and, you know, I’m excited about that.”
• Petra Kvitova sounds ready to take on Serena in their group match. Kvitova pushed Serena in a three-set thriller in their last match, losing 3-6, 6-3, 7-5 in the quarterfinals of the Qatar Open, and she says that match made her believe she could beat the No. 1.
“It was really great match for my side, and I was very close to win the match but I didn’t. But it’s okay. I think that I can improve my game too, and, yeah, I think it was for the first time when I really knew that I can really play her and any chance to beat her. I don’t think that I’m really like mentally down [having] her in [my] group. So, yeah, I’m looking forward [to it].”
• Li Na has been drawn into Azarenka’s group, and the last time the two played was at the Australian Open final in which Li fell to the court twice — one time even banging her head to the court necessitating a head trauma evaluation. Therefore, her goal for their match is a simple one.
“Hopefully this time no [fall] down, okay? At least I have to finish the match healthy.”
• Angelique Kerber secured the final qualifying spot thanks to a late season surge through Asia and Europe, and spoke openly about the pressure she felt to follow up her breakthrough 2012 season, in which she won three titles, over 60 matches and finished in the top five.
“It was a little bit different because last year I had nothing to lose the whole year,” she said. “I played very well, and this year, you know, I had points to defend. I had the pressure from outside and also I did it [to] myself.”
• Kerber isn’t the first player to complain about the pressure this season. Sara Errani broke down in tears at the U.S. Open after losing early and complained about the expectations of being a top player.
“Last year I end the season in the top 10, and of course I make the pressure to be better and better, and I think it was too much at the end that I put the pressure too high, and I was not able to control this,” Kerber said. “But after Wimbledon I was relaxed some more, because then I find my rhythm again. I was playing because I love the sport, and I was relaxed and I was just having fun on my practice court again. I think this was also the point in the season which shows me that without pressure I can play much better than when I make the pressure [on] myself.”
• Jelena Jankovic almost fell out of the top 30 earlier this year, but she never doubted she could get back to the top eight and compete at her fifth WTA Championships.
“Once you have, once you did it, you have been here, I think you can do it all over again,” the Serb said. “And not once; many times. Like I said, it’s my fifth time playing the Championships, so I know what it takes to be here to make it. But it’s not easy. It’s a difficult road. It’s a lot of hard work and determination and sacrifice.
“But it’s doable. Everything is possible. I’m one of those, you know, that it shows that even though you fall out and you don’t play so well ‑‑ I almost fell out of top 30, and, you know, coming back to the top 10, you know, top 8, it’s a great achievement even though I was No. 1 in the world in the past, but still, you know, coming a long ways is great.”
• Agnieszka Radwanska was asked how Serena’s game has changed over the years.
“She’s dictating everything from the beginning of the match, and, you know, [serving] very good also. The return is also very powerful and, [she is] always going forward. It’s very tough to stay in the game [by] really running, you know, really far from the baseline. I think against her you really have to try to, you know, play aggressive from the beginning of the match. If you start too slow it’s not good.”
• Sara Errani knows what it’s like to get an on-court beatdown from Serena, having been on the end of one at the French Open semifinals, losing 6-0, 6-1. But she insists the field still believes Serena is beatable.
“Of course Serena is very strong at the moment,” Errani said. “She’s very consistent. So it’s not easy, but everybody can have a bad day, so why not? Everybody wants to go there and win and try their best. Maybe if she’s not 100% or the others are playing much better, I think also she can lose. It’s not impossible. Is difficult but not impossible.”
• Errani is the lone clay-court specialist in the field, which is quite the disadvantage given the quick indoor conditions. She lamented the fact that more tournaments moving away from clay to hard courts.
“I feel that in the last year that there are a bit less tournaments on clay, but I understand also because there are a lot of important tournaments on hard. So the most of the year is on hard. And the tournament like Acapulco [which switches to hard courts next year] they want maybe to have more players going there. If you want to prepare for Indian Wells, it’s normal that you want to play on hard court before an important tournament on hard. It’s a bit sad, because, I mean, for me I like more clay. I like to play more that, but I understand also that there are a bit less of tournaments.”