The Super 8

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The eight competitors at the TEB BNP Paribas WTA Championships were split into their two round robin groups at the official draw ceremony Sunday night, with play set to begin at the $4.9-million year-end finale on Tuesday. The following is an assortment of preview info for the elite eight.

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RED GROUP: Wozniacki, Kvitova, Zvonareva, Radwanska...

(1) Caroline Wozniacki (DEN)
~ Third appearance at WTA Championships (5-4 record); best previous result was runner-up finish in 2010 (l. to Clijsters in final)
~ 2011 Titles (6): Dubai, Indian Wells, Charleston, Brussels, Copenhagen, New Haven
~ Best Grand Slam result in 2011: Australian Open SFs & US Open SFs
~ Fall record: 4-2 (Tokyo 3r, Beijing QFs)
~ Quote: "It's a tough group, but both groups are tough. It's all great players. I'm going in there just hoping to play my best tennis and we'll see what happens."

(3) Petra Kvitova (CZE)
~ First appearance at WTA Championships
~ 2011 Titles (5): Brisbane, Paris [Indoors], Madrid, Wimbledon, Linz
~ Best Grand Slam result in 2011: Won Wimbledon
~ Fall record: 8-2 (Tokyo SFs, Beijing 2r, Won Linz)
~ Quote: "It doesn't matter who's in the group. All eight players are very strong."

(6) Vera Zvonareva (RUS)
~ Fourth direct appearance at WTA Championships (7-6 record); best previous result was runner-up finish in 2008 (l. to V.Williams in final)
~ 2011 Titles (2): Doha, Baku
~ Best Grand Slam result in 2011: Australian Open SFs
~ Fall record: 6-3 (Tokyo R-Up, Beijing 3r, Moscow QFs)
~ Quote: "All players who qualify for the Championships are the best players in the world, so it doesn't really matter what group you're in. All players have done an incredible job to get here. I have to play my best every single match in order to win one. That's what I'm going to try to do."

(8) Agnieszka Radwanska (POL)
~ First direct appearance at WTA Championships (2-0 record... played and won one match as an alternate in both 2008 and 2009)
~ 2011 Titles (3): Carlsbad, Tokyo, Beijing
~ Best Grand Slam result in 2011: Australian Open QFs
~ Fall record: 11-1 (Won Tokyo, Won Beijing, Moscow 2r)
~ Quote: "It's the Top 8 players in the world, the best eight players this year. I don't think it really matters who you play here. I was the last one to get in here so I'm just going to enjoy myself and try to play my best tennis, like in Asia."

WHITE GROUP: Sharapova, Azarenka, Li, Stosur...

(2) Maria Sharapova (RUS)
~ Fifth appearance at WTA Championships (13-5 record); best previous result was winning title in 2004 (d. S.Williams in final)
~ 2011 Titles (2): Rome, Cincinnati
~ Best Grand Slam result in 2011: Wimbledon R-Up
~ Fall record: 2-1 (Tokyo QFs)
~ Quote: "I think we all know what to expect going into the groups. It's the Top 8 girls of the year. You're going to get a tough group either way and tough opponents. It's just a matter of being ready from the first match on."

(4) Victoria Azarenka (BLR)
~ Third appearance at WTA Championships (2-4 record); never passed RR
~ 2011 Titles (3): Miami, Marbella, Luxembourg
~ Best Grand Slam result in 2011: Wimbledon SFs
~ Fall record: 9-1 (Tokyo SFs, Beijing 3r, Won Luxembourg)
~ Quote from Luxembourg: "I'm very pleased to win another title. I was improving from match to match. I came here to get matches before Istanbul and of course win the tournament - everywhere I enter, I try to be the best."

(5) Li Na (CHN)
~ First appearance at WTA Championships
~ 2011 Titles (2): Sydney, Frenh Open
~ Best Grand Slam result in 2011: Won French Open
~ Fall record: 0-1 (Beijing 1r)
~ Quote: "There are two groups and both are tough. It's the last tournament for the whole year and we need to show everyone we can play good tennis."

(7) Samantha Stosur (AUS)
~ Second appearance at WTA Championships (2-2 record); best previous result was SFs in 2010 (l. to Clijsters)
~ 2011 Titles (1): US Open
~ Best Grand Slam result in 2011: Won US Open
~ Fall record: 4-3 (Tokyo 2r, Beijing 2r, Osaka R-Up)
~ Quote: "Maria and Victoria I've never beaten before, so there's a great challenge in itself. Obviously Li Na I've had success against, but every tournament is new. It's going to be a tough week but I'm looking forward to it."

From the Associated Press:

ISTANBUL -Wimbledon champion Petra Kvtova won her first WTA Championships title on Sunday, beating Victoria Azarenka 7-5, 4-6, 6-3 for a victory that will also put her at No. 2 in the world rankings.

Kvitova - ChampionKvitova raced to a 5-0 lead in the first set, but Azarenka rallied to level it at 5-5. The Czech player finally converted her fifth set point when Azarenka's forehand sailed out.

Azarenka settled into a consistent baseline game in the second set and clinched it with a forehand winner on the line. Kvitova saved three break points in the first game of the final set and then broke to take the early lead.

Kvitova started the year outside the top 30 and was playing in the season-ending tournament for the first time. "It's unbelievable to play here," said Kvitova, who beat Azarenka in the Wimbledon semifinals on her way to winning her first Grand Slam title this year. Kvitova has won six titles this year, the same number as No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki and twice as many as Azarenka.

"I didn't expect that I would be sitting here as a champion. It's really a big step for me," Kvitova said. She attributed her achievements this year to improvements not only in her game, but also in fitness and mental strength.
Perfect end: Petra Kvitova lifts the WTA Championship trophy and ascends to No. 2 in the world rankings after winning the WTA Championships - her sixth title of the year.

Staying healthy was key, along with the support of coach David Kotyza and the rest of her team.

"It's hard to lose but I'm glad I lost to such a champion," Azarenka said during the awards ceremony. "I gave it all today." Azarenka said Kvitova started well, catching her "off guard." "She has a really big serve," the Belarusian said. "In the important moments, it's really saving her ... I could break her more often."

The Czech holds a 4-2 head-to-head record over Azarenka, who was playing in the championships for the third time and will return to a career-high No. 3 in the new rankings by reaching the final. It was the first time she advanced beyond the round-robin stage. Both players will overtake Maria Sharapova, who had a chance to surpass Wozniacki as No. 1 going into the tournament, but withdrew with an ankle injury after losing her first two group-stage matches. Kvitova took home $1.75 million and Azarenka collected $775,000.

Istanbul Finalists

About 13,700 spectators watched the final, continuing a high attendance level for the weeklong tournament for the top eight players in the world. Turkey does not have a strong tennis tradition, but low ticket prices and heavy government support boosted the event, which was held in Istanbul for the first time. WTA chief executive Stacey Allaster said the high turnout invited comparisons to the "glory days" of the event, when it was held at Madison Square Garden in New York City decades ago. Istanbul's ability to host the tournament was seen as integral to the national campaign to host the 2020 Olympics. The sprawling city of more than 13 million has built or renovated major stadiums, and officials seek to alleviate the city's heavy traffic congestion. "The best way to go to the Olympics or to bid (for the) Olympics is to show that you are good in organizing great events," said Francesco Ricci Bitti, president of the International Tennis Federation and a member of the International Olympic Committee.

Victoria Azarenka (Runner-up) and Petra Kvitova (Champion) with their respective trophies.

Before the final, an announcer asked the crowd not to smoke, a request that would not be necessary at more established tennis venues around the world. The fans, though, displayed an affinity for the game, applauding at key moments or when a momentum shift was imminent. "Azarenka, We love your scream," read a poster held up by one fan. Azarenka exhales loudly when she hits the ball. Greek chair umpire Eva Asderaki announced the score in Turkish and then English.

Last month, Serena Williams was cited for a code violation and fined $2,000 for verbally abusing Asderaki during her loss to Samantha Stosur in the U.S. Open final. Azarenka said she will fly to Belarus on Monday for three weeks of vacation, and she also plans to attend a Rihanna concert in Switzerland. Kvitova has more work ahead, leading the Czech Republic in its first Fed Cup final in more than 20 years, playing Russia in Moscow.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press

And the Winner Takes it All

Petra with her Trophy

With grateful thanks to Getty Images - Petra Kvitova with her trophy and sponsorship ribbons.

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