ISTANBUL, Turkey - Maria Kirilenko and Nadia Petrova have become the fourth and final team to qualify for the doubles event at the TEB BNP Paribas WTA Championships - Istanbul 2012, which takes place this coming week.
The doubles race went down to the wire between Kirilenko and Petrova and the American team of Raquel Kops-Jones and Abigail Spears, with the two teams playing each other in the semifinals of the Kremlin Cup in Moscow, the winner of which would qualify for the WTA finale. It was a close battle - Kirilenko and Petrova originally led 4-1 before closing the first set out, 7-5, and they then had to rally from 3-1 down to win the second set, but they hung tough, 75 64.
"This tournament was very nerve-wracking for both of us," Petrova said. "They were down three match points first round, and in every match we won a super tie-break - so both of us could have been out earlier in the tournament. But it was better that we played each other for it, so the better team goes to Istanbul."
"Everything was going fine for us this year until I got injured, and Raquel and Abigail won so many points in the fall, and it was getting too close!" Kirilenko said. "Today was the deciding match, so it was tough. I'm really happy we won."
Kirilenko and Petrova have had an exceptional year, winning Miami, reaching finals at the French Open and 's-Hertogenbosch and another one this week in Moscow - they also won a bronze medal for Russia at the Olympic Games.
"It has been a very exciting season - Miami, the French Open final, and of course the bronze medal - and now the biggest is Istanbul," Petrova said. "Qualifying for Istanbul is a big motivation all year. All the top dogs who have done the best have a chance to play one more time, which is great for the fans.
"I saw a bit of Istanbul last year and liked how big the crowd was, so I'm really looking forward to that. I also went to Istanbul for a smaller tournament once and didn't have a chance to go sightseeting, so I'm eager to go back there."
Petrova is making her fifth trip to the WTA Championships: she played the doubles once in 2004 and won it with American Meghann Shaughnessy; and she played the singles tournament three times, in 2005, 2006 and 2008.
Kirilenko is in the WTA Championships for the first time in either discipline.
"Congratulations to Maria and Nadia on qualifying for the TEB BNP Paribas WTA Championships - Istanbul 2012," said Stacey Allaster, WTA Chairman and CEO. "These two have had an amazing 2012, winning the title in Miami, reaching the Roland Garros final and earning the bronze medal at the Olympics in London. We are excited for them to join the field in Istanbul."
Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci, Liezel Huber and Lisa Raymond, and Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka were the first three teams to qualify for the four-team doubles event. The singles qualifiers are Victoria Azarenka, Maria Sharapova, Serena Williams, Agnieszka Radwanska, Angelique Kerber, Petra Kvitova, Sara Errani and last but not least Li Na.