Big servers have the advantage

After a year of domination, the Russians stand a good chance of taking the WTA Championships title.

Updated: November 12, 2004, 1:16 AM ET
By Pam Shriver | Special to
LOS ANGELES -- 2004 will certainly be known as the year of the Russians and with five of the eight qualifiers at the WTA Tour Championships coming from Russia, odds are they'll come away with the title.

This is the first year the Championships have had only eight players instead of 16. Keeping that in mind, before this year the United States was the only country to have accounted for more than half of the players in the tournament. The last time was in 1986 with nine of 16 players coming from the United States. Until this year, only one other country besides the United States had more than five participants at the season-ending event and that was France in 1999. So, the Russians have broken some important ground.

This will be the third straight year that the season played out to have one country dominate. Three years ago, the United States -- through the Williams family -- dominated the majors. In 2003, it was the Belgians, and this year the Russians dominated.

The dynamics of facing a fellow countrywoman could prove to be an interesting intangible for the Russians in this event. They should face each other more than once with the round robin format.

A top player on the women's tennis tour more than 15 years, Pam Shriver hosts ESPN's women's tennis telecasts. She also appears as a sideline reporter on select men's matches.