Women´s look forward: Bali
Women's Look Forward: Bali
Looking at the field, you would never, ever guess that Bali is a Tier III. Oh, if you went by last week's rankings, it's weak for a Tier II -- but any tournament with two of this year's Slam winners as the top two seeds can't be too bad, now can it?
The real shock is to see Svetlana Kuznetsova in the draw. She's the #2 seed, behind countrywoman Anastasia Myskina, and apparently she plans to play even though she just was involved in both U. S. Open women's finals. She's even in the doubles, having reunited with Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario, her first significant doubles partner. This was, in fact, the place where she won her second career title, back in 2002, though on the other hand, when she and Sanchez-Vicario lost the doubles final in 2002, it was their first loss as a team in that year after they had won Sopot, Helsinki, and the Princess Cup (of course, winning 14 matches together before your first loss isn't too bad).
And Kuznetsova isn't even the #1 seed; Anastasia Myskina is. And she too is playing doubles also, and with a very distinguished partner: She and Ai Sugiyama are the #1 seeds. Sugiyama is the #3 singles seed as well. Nadia Petrova is #4, last year's finalist Chanda Rubin is #5, and only then does the field really start to weaken: Last year's semifinalist Maria Vento-Kabchi is #6 (and would be lower if this week's rankings were used), and two promising young players round out the seeds: Gisela Dulko is #7 and Jelena Jankovic #8. Last year's champion Elena Dementieva is not returning.
Noteworthy First Round Matches
Given the strength of the field, there are surprisingly few of these -- a combination of luck of the draw and the fact that the field weakens rapidly below the top seeds. We would note the following:
Brandi vs. Obata. Obata was last year's semifinalist, but now in a funk. Can coming back to the site of arguably her best career result revive her? (Obata did have one career final, but that was at Tashkent, which is an overgrown Challenger. We would consider her semifinal here last year to be more impressive.)
Cho vs. (6) Vento-Kabchi. Yoon Jeong Cho was turning into a very good hardcourt player before getting hurt. If she by some chance is approaching that form again, this could be quite interesting.
Morigami vs. (4) Petrova. Another Japanese player who had the best result of her life at this time last year -- though, in Morigami's case, it was the Shanghai semifinal (we'll get to this below). Can she somehow find a way to defend some points?
(8) Jankovic vs. Widjaja (WC). Angelique Widjaja is Indonesia's best player -- indeed, with Wynne Prakusya out, she's their only touring player. Can the crowd give her enough support to do any good?
Now that the U. S. Open is over, we're back to the pattern of events coming off a week before they can be replaced (though that will mean less after next week, due to the massive revisions in the fall schedule caused by the failure of Leipzig). That means that the points coming off this week are from the Tier II at Shanghai. That doesn't affect any of the Top Four, who didn't play at this time last year. Anastasia Myskina can pick up some points here, of course, but not enough to make her #1. Below that, it gets interesting. #5 Elena Dementieva has 291 points from Shanghai last year; with those points coming off, she leads #6 Svetlana Kuznetsova by less than 100 points. If Kuznetsova can reach the final -- probably the semifinal -- she will hit the Top Five.
There likely won't be any other changes in the Top Ten; the only player with a chance to move up that high is Nadia Petrova, and she would need a title with good quality points. At least one player is likely to fall, though: Shanghai finalist Chanda Rubin is barely clinging to the Top 25, and needs at least a final and perhaps a title to stay there. Ai Sugiyama also has points on the line, but her ranking looks safe.
Not so for another Japanese player, Akiko Morigami, with 137 points to defend from Shanghai. An early loss could leave her around #70.
(1) Myskina vs. (7) Dulko. We said above that Myskina can't make #1 here. She can't. And with Leipzig coming off next week, and Moscow the week after that, it doesn't appear she will have a chance this year. But she can perhaps start building up steam for a run at the Australian Open next year. Or she could let her recent failures get to her. This match might tell us a lot; Dulko is turning into a very tough customer. If Myskina wants to win this, she'll have to finally bring out her "A" game.
Quarterfinal: (5) Rubin vs. (4) Petrova. This is the first real test for Rubin as she tries to keep her spot in the Top 25. It's also the first big test for Petrova's rather weak nerves.
Semifinal: (4) Petrova vs. (2) Kuznetsova. If Kuznetsova wins this, she is absolutely guaranteed to be #5 in the world. But if Petrova wins it, she leaves herself one win away from the Top Ten. Too bad she struggles so much with big matches.
For once, let's add one doubles match to our list. Quarterfinal: Kuznetsova/Sanchez-Vicario vs. (2) Vento-Kabchi/Widjaja. This is the first tournament Sanchez-Vicario has played since the Olympics, and her first with a really top-flight partner. It would appear that her comeback is more permanent than we might have thought. And this is the first time the pair will be tested. This match just might decide Sanchez-Vicario's future.