There's something about watching matches at sizable indoor stadiums that adds to the excitement and sense of anticipation, akin to attending a concert. See the World Tour Finals in London.
The women's tour might have gone for the cash when it decided to give its year-end finale to noted tennis hotbeds Qatar, then Turkey -- the top brass will tell you it's trying to, um, develop the game in new markets -- but the atmosphere didn't appear to be lacking at the Sinan Erdem Dome in Istanbul. Most seats were taken.
What, however, were organizers thinking when they opted for light green as the court's hue? For those of us viewing on television and the Internet, picking up the ball isn't easy. It's something to fix for 2012. For now, we'll stock up on the carrots.
On to the Red Group matches.
Where Petra Kvitova's opener against Vera Zvonareva could have been likened to a rock spectacle -- Kvitova was doing the banging from the baseline -- Caroline Wozniacki's marathon clash with good pal Agnieszka Radwanska had a jazzy feel. Long, drawn-out points were on offer.
Wozniacki fans wouldn't have been pleased in the first set, though. Maria Sharapova's serve and Marin Cilic's forehand, for instance, are two utterly unwatchable strokes. They can break down at any time. Wozniacki's forehand was approaching that territory.
As the world No. 1 continued to spray balls on that wing, Eurosport commentator and former world No. 5 Jo Durie said that the forehand -- at that moment -- perhaps wasn't in the top 50.
Not many would have disagreed.
Wozniacki can feed off opponents' pace better than anyone, but in facing the Martina Hingis-esque Radwanska, she was largely forced to generate her own -- and couldn't. In the second game, for example, presented with a short midcourt forehand, she failed to punish the Pole and lost the point.
Despite a dearth of power, Radwanska makes up for it with her on-court intelligence. And she picked on Woz's forehand with success. When Radwanska saved three consecutive set points in the first, the chances of an upset increased. But after missing an overhead on break point down at 1-0 in the second, she began her downfall.
From the middle of the second set onward, Wozniacki became more aggressive; Radwanska dipped, and she needed treatment for a lingering shoulder problem. Wozniacki overcame a mini-lapse in the third, dropping serve from 40-0 up at 4-2 to prevail 5-7, 6-2, 6-4 in a typically grinding affair. At 30-30 in the final game, Wozniacki was at her counterpunching best, keeping balls in play and eventually drawing an error.
Going forward in this tournament, Wozniacki's forehand probably won't look as shaky -- at least she hopes so.
Net result: What would a Kvitova match be without a wobble? Up a set and double-break at 4-1 in the other Red Group tussle, the Wimbledon champion went off the rails, unable to find the court. Suddenly it was 4-4.
So what did Zvonareva need to do in the next game? Keep it tight. Instead, she coughed up three unforced errors, got broken and that was that. Kvitova won't be overawed facing Zvonareva in next month's Fed Cup final in Moscow.
Kvitova's return game, groundstrokes and lefty serve aided her at Wimbledon. But against Zvonareva in her year-end championship debut, there was another element: Kvitova came to net 23 times, winning 17 points. In the first set alone, she was 10-for-12. The Czech's wide wingspan makes her difficult to pass.
Her development continues, which isn't good for her rivals.
Well done, Eva: The year-end championships needed Serena Williams for some star power.
One person, though, who probably won't be too disappointed with her absence is chair umpire Eva Asderaki. You know, by now, what happened in the U.S. Open final. Whether Asderaki did the right thing has been debated long and hard.
But credit her for a nice gesture during Wozniacki's match. She correctly overruled a Wozniacki ball called long, with replays showing the ball was well in. Asderaki gave a comforting glance to the linesperson in question.
Contrast that with Mohamed Lahyani -- whom we generally like -- at the Shanghai Masters. When a linesperson erred and was caught out, he shook his head disapprovingly.