ISTANBUL, Turkey - Victoria Azarenka, Maria Sharapova and the doubles team of Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci are the first players to qualify for the season-ending TEB BNP Paribas WTA Championships - Istanbul, which will feature the world's Top 8 singles players and Top 4 doubles teams and will be held at the Sinan Erdem Arena in Istanbul from October 23 to 28, 2012.
"I congratulate Victoria, Maria, Sara and Roberta on becoming the first players to secure their places at the TEB BNP Paribas WTA Championships - Istanbul," said WTA Chairman & CEO Stacey Allaster. "Maria and Victoria have had outstanding seasons with each earning Grand Slam titles, the WTA World No.1 ranking and Olympic medals, highlighted by Maria achieving her career Grand Slam. Sara and Roberta have been the stand-out doubles pair this year, winning seven titles including their first Grand Slam title at Roland Garros."
"We are delighted that Victoria, Maria, Sara and Roberta have qualified for the second staging of the TEB BNP Paribas WTA Championships - Istanbul, which launched with such great success last year in Turkey," commented Ayda Uluc, Turkish Tennis Federation President. "We are planning to raise the bar even higher at this year's event and look forward to showcasing the talents of these extraordinary players to fans in Istanbul and around the world."
Azarenka got off to a blistering 26-0 start to the year, the longest win streak to start a season since Martina Hingis went 37-0 to kick off her 1997 season. It brought Azarenka four WTA titles, including her first Grand Slam title at the Australian Open - it also brought her the No.1 ranking for the first time.
"This year has been amazing for me so far, starting by winning the Australian Open, becoming WTA World No.1 for the first time and winning two medals at the Olympics," Azarenka said. "Last year, the atmosphere at the WTA Championships in Istanbul was great and I look forward to playing there again."
The highlight of Sharapova's season was winning her fourth Grand Slam title at the French Open, a victory that completed a career Grand Slam for her, just the sixth woman in the Open Era (and 10th all-time) to achieve the feat. It also brought her back to No.1 for four weeks, her first time at No.1 since 2008.
"I am very happy to be returning to Istanbul," Sharapova said. "This year has been really special for me, winning the Roland Garros title to complete my career Grand Slam, rising back to No.1 for a time and of course taking home a silver medal from the London Olympics. It will be great to finish off the season in Turkey. We received such incredible support from the fans last year, so I'm looking forward to competing against the world's best players there once again."
Errani and Vinci have won seven WTA doubles titles this year, including their first Grand Slam doubles title at the French Open - they were the first all-Italian pair to win a Grand Slam doubles title. This coming Monday Errani and Vinci will be to No.1 and No.2 in doubles, respectively, career-highs for both.
"We are so happy, so excited, to have qualified for the WTA Championships," Vinci said of the news. "We've played very good tennis this year and this is the reward. I was at the WTA Championships a long time ago, back in 2001, but it is even more special for me to do this with such a good friend as Sara. The level of competition in doubles has become even tougher over the last decade, so we are looking forward to some great matches at Istanbul this year."