|Maria Sharapova is the only former WTA Championships titlist in this year's field. (Dave Thomas/QMI Agency/Files)
ISTANBUL -- The prestigious season-ending WTA Championships will get underway Tuesday in Istanbul just two days after a 7.2-magnitude earthquake struck eastern Turkey, leaving about 270 people dead.
Istanbul, which is situated in northwest Turkey, was not physically affected by the devastating Sunday afternoon quake and will host the WTA event, as planned, from Tuesday through Sunday in the country's largest city.
"I think it gives us an opportunity to sit down and say, 'We're very, very lucky and fortunate to be doing what we're doing,"' said Russian star Maria Sharapova. "These things that happen around the world, you just never know where it can happen. I mean, this was only a few hours from here."
The field in Istanbul features the top-eight female tennis players in the world, spearheaded by top-ranked Caroline Wozniacki, who will lead the four- player Red Group. The Danish star will be joined by third-seeded Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic, sixth-seeded Russian Vera Zvonareva and eighth-seeded Pole Agnieszka Radwanska. The left-handed Kvitova titled in Austria two weeks ago.
Wozniacki, who led the WTA with six titles this season, was last year's WTA Championships runner-up to Belgian star Kim Clijsters.
A four-player White Group will feature a second-seeded Sharapova, fourth- seeded Belarusian Victoria Azarenka, fifth-seeded French Open champion and Australian Open runner-up Li Na of China and seventh-seeded U.S. Open titlist Samantha Stosur of Australia. Azarenka is fresh off her title in Luxembourg on Sunday.
Sharapova (2004) is the only former WTA Championships titlist in this year's field.
Round-robin play will be held here from Tuesday through Friday, while the semifinals will be staged on Saturday and the lucrative final will be held Sunday on the indoor hardcourts at Sinan Erdem Dome.
The 2011 WTA Championships winner will collect at least $1.75 million.
Istanbul will host the $5 million WTA Championships through 2013. The event was held in Doha, Qatar the last three years.