Even for WTA International events, Istanbul has been wacky… On the first day of the tournament three seeds fell including the number two seed, Elina Svitolina. The number one and three seeds, Venus Williams and Jelena Jankovic both lost on the Tuesday and by the quarter-finals there was just one seed left in Tsvetana Pironkova. The Bulgarian player lost out in a third set tiebreak in the quarter-finals with a dead net cord on match point… rough. I didn’t get to watch any of Thursday or Friday’s action and to be honest i’ve kind of checked out with all the upsets. I did get to watch the semi-finals though where Urszula Radwanska and Lesia Tsurenko both won to set up Sunday’s final encounter of the 2015 TEB BNP Paribas Istanbul Cup.
In the first of the semi-finals, the younger of the Radwanska sisters, Urszula reached her first WTA final since 2012 where she was a finalist on the grass in ‘s-Hertogenbosch. Radwanska has been slowly working her way back up the rankings after having surgery on her shoulder back in October of 2013. Radwanska returned at the ITF tournament in Midland in February of last year but really struggled on her comeback; Radwanska played 11 WTA main draws in 2014 and won just three matches with one victory in Baku and a quarter-final appearance in Tashkent.
Radwanska has had a solid 2015 so far moving up from number 180 in the rankings at the end of 2014 to just inside the world’s top 100 before Istanbul. As a result of her ranking Radwanska has been slugging it out in the WTA qualifying events this year. She has done reasonably well coming through qualifying at seven tournaments this year. Prior to Istanbul her best results of the year had been quarter-final appearances in Auckland and Monterrey. En route to the final in Istanbul, Radwanska defeated the number two seed, Jelena Jankovic in the first round, 6-4 3-6 6-2 and then secured further wins over Bojana Jovanovski (6-3 6-2), Tsvetana Pironkova (6-2 3-6 7-6) and Magdalena Rybarikova (6-3 4-6 6-3).
In the semi-finals against Rybarikova, Radwanska was the more dynamic player and overcame an error-strewn second set to prevail in three sets, 6-3 4-6 6-3. While Radwanska missed multiple break point opportunities at 3-2 in the third set, she took her chances in Rybarikova’s next service game and served out the match to 15.
Tsurenko is into her first ever WTA final after defeating Kirsten Flipkens in the semi-finals, 6-4 6-2. Tsurenko served extremely well in the first set, dropping just seven points in five service games. The pair exchanged breaks at the start of the second set; after Flipkens received a medical time-out for her knee, Tsurenko rolled through the last five games of the match, serving, returning and moving much better. Tsurenko has had a couple of tough matches this week; in the first round she defeated Daria Gavrilova, 7-6(2) 3-6 6-3 in two hours and 47 minutes. Her quarter-final against fellow Ukranian, Kateryna Bondarenko may have been a straight setter but it involved an epic first set (I feel like epic is worthy here) which Tsurenko won 7-6(13)… it lasted nearly 90 minutes!
Tsurenko’s previous best results on the tour were semi-finals appearances in Brisbane (2013) and Tashkent (2014). She reached a career high ranking of 55 earlier this year after a superb run to the quarter-finals in Indian Wells. Tsurenko came through two rounds of qualifying and then defeated three top 30 players in Andrea Petkovic, Alizé Cornet and Eugenie Bouchard. Injury ended her run in the quarters against Jelena Jankovic. Her results on clay and grass were disappointing with just three victories since April but a return to the hard courts in a depleted draw has seen Tsurenko enjoy a superb week. If she wins the title on Sunday, Tsurenko will crack the world’s top 50 for the first time in her career.
Both players are likely to be fatigued going into this final. A first ever WTA title is up for grabs so there are bound to be plenty of nerves. I don’t have a strong opinion about who will prevail but based on what i’ve seen this week i’d give the slight edge to Tsurenko.