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Sharapova Top Seed in Strong Berlin Field
BERLIN, Germany - A large delegation from the country of Russia headlines the field at this year's Qatar Total German Open 2005, including world No.2 Maria Sharapova. Sharapova will be the top seed in a strong field that will include seven Russian players in the top 10 seeds playing in this year's Berlin field.
Sharapova, who celebrated her 18th birthday on April 19th, will be playing for the first time since her loss in the Miami final to Kim Clijsters. She will take a stellar 22-3 record onto the clay courts for the first time in 2005 and will start her clay season off against either German Anna-Lena Groenefeld or fellow Russian Evgenia Linetskaya in the second round.
Defending champion Amelie Mauresmo will be the No.2 seed this year, starting her title defense off against either Anna Smashnova or Jelena Kostanic. Mauresmo, who also won the Berlin title in 2001, will return to action after missing France's Fed Cup tie and also last week's scheduled appearance in Warsaw due to an abdominal strain.
Seeds No.3 through 6 all hail from Russia - Anastasia Myskina, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Vera Zvonareva and Nadia Petrova. Myskina and Zvonareva have struggled in recent weeks, while Kuznetsova finished as runner-up to Justine Henin-Hardenne on Sunday in Warsaw.
Patty Schnyder will be the tournament's No.7 seed and is joined by No.8 Elena Bovina, No.9 Nathalie Dechy and No.10 Elena Likhovtseva.
Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin-Hardenne continue to make their respective climbs from injury and illness and will be the No.11 and 12 seeds this week in Berlin.
Clijsters saw her 17-match winning streak snapped by Kuznetsova in the semifinals at Warsaw and will be aiming for her first clay court title of the year against qualifier Yuilana Fedak in the first round.
Meanwhile, Henin-Hardenne makes her way to Berlin as the hottest player on clay right now, tearing through the fields at Charleston and Warsaw on her way to two titles and an 11-match winning streak. Henin-Hardenne will face Iveta Benesova in the first round.
Henin-Hardenne is also a two-time winner in Berlin, having captured back-to-back titles in 2002 and 2003. She did not play this tournament in 2004, while battling a viral illness.
American Serena Williams was scheduled to appear at this year's event, but was forced to withdrawal late last week due to the ankle injury she suffered at Amelia Island. The injury also kept her out of the Fed Cup tie against Belgium two weeks ago.
"Unfortunately, because of the ankle injury that I sustained at the Bausch & Lomb Championships in Amelia Island, I am not fully prepared to compete in the Qatar Total German Open in Berlin," Williams said. "I'm obviously very disappointed that I can't play in front of the great fans in Berlin, but there's every reason to expect that I will be 100 percent ready to return to the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour at the Telecom Italia Masters in Rome the following week."
This is the 25th year the Qatar Total German Open has been a clay court fixture on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour. Previous Berlin champions include nine-time winner Steffi Graf, Chris Evert, Monica Seles, Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario, Conchita Martinez and Martina Hingis.