Titles Won (3): Miami, Marbella, Luxembourg (3-1 in finals)
Best Grand Slam Result: SF (1): Wimbledon
Win/Loss Record: 52-15
Record Against Top 10: 3-5
SEC History: Making third appearance
It's been a big year for Victoria Azarenka: the year in which she took her career to a new level after two Top 10 season finishes, rising as high as No.3 in the world.
Still hard-hitting, still intense and, well, still a little noisy, Azarenka continued to play breathtaking tennis when at her best. With a couple of exceptions, and notwithstanding a few worrying mid-match retirements, the 22-year-old also produced quite possibly her most consistent season to date: two titles, one runner-up finish, two semifinals and a further eight quarterfinals at the Premier or Grand Slam level.
The highlight for the Belarusian bombshell was her second title in three years at the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami. Her finals victim was Maria Sharapova, having dismissed Kim Clijsters and Vera Zvonareva along the way. All three Top 10 counterparts were summarily dismissed without the loss of a set.
In a neat quick-step, Azarenka went straight to the clay courts of Marbella where she won the International-level title while barely raising a sweat. A run to the final at Madrid followed - coupled with her exploits in Miami, this meant she had reached the title bout at two of the three biggest non-Slam events on the calendar, to that point.
All this augured well for a good showing at the majors, where she had been frustrated in the past. Azarenka lost to Li Na in the last eight at Roland Garros but the breakthrough came at Wimbledon, where she reached her first Grand Slam semifinal after four quarterfinal efforts. Petra Kvitova prevailed on that occasion, but only in three sets.
The second half of the season has been bumpier, though. As top seed at Stanford, Azarenka lost her opener to New Zealand's Marina Erakovic, and she withdrew from Cincinnati to protect a right hand strain acquired during her semifinal with Serena Williams at Toronto. She then had the misfortune to draw the great American in the third round at Flushing Meadows; as ever, she gave Serena something to think about but fell in a second set tie-break.
After reaching the semis at Tokyo, where she was bested by Agnieszka Radwanska, Azarenka pulled out prior to her third round match at Beijing due to a foot injury but bounced back to win her third title of the year at Luxembourg last week. And therein lies the key to her fortunes in Istanbul: if she's healthy, she must fancy her chances of winning her way through the round robin stage for the first time.