Join Date: Jun 2001
Location: Cockatoo Island
Galaxy of stars bound for Uncle Tobys Hardcourts
Some of the most talented players on the WTA head to the Gold Coast in January for the new-look Uncle Tobys Hardcourts from December 27 to January 4, 2003.
With a player field that includes Swiss star Patty Schnyder, 1997 French Open champion Iva Majoli, Russian Elena Likhovtseva, Japan's Ai Sugiyama, American Meghann Shaughnessy, rising star Elena Bovina, Nathalie Dechy and Tour favourite Barbara Schett the Hardcourts is sure to provide some thrilling tennis for fans.
Tournament Director, Liz Smylie is justifiably excited by the quality of the entry list which also includes veteran American Martina Navratilova in the doubles draw. "The strong credibility of this event is underpinned by the fact that players return to compete in this event each year, while our reputation as a great tournament encourages others to test their skills on the Gold Coast for the first time," says Smylie. "It makes for a highly-competitive mix."
World No.15, Patty Schnyder, has achieved her best season-ending ranking in four years and as a Gold Coast regular, should head into this tournament favoured to claim her second singles title at this event.
Another former Gold Coast champion, Ai Sugiyama will return as a top contender and, with victories this year over the likes of Jennifer Capriati, Daniela Hantuchova and Amanda Coetzer, she will be a formidable opponent.
Newcomers to the Coast, Elena Bovina and Barbara Schett, will make their Uncle Tobys Hardcourts debuts and are sure to put fear into those unlucky enough to draw them in the opening round. At just 19 years of age, Bovina is setting the world on fire, already racking up two Tour titles in 2002 (Warsaw and Quebec City) and achieving her best result at a Grand Slam with a quarter-final appearance in the US Open.
Similarly, Schett's best appearance at a Grand Slam is a quarterfinal berth at the US Open and she has also advanced to the round of 16 at the Australian Open, and while currently ranked No. 40 in the world, the Austrian should be a dangerous floater in the singles draw. Helping her country achieve a semi-final berth in this year's Fed Cup play-offs is also a sign Schett has what it takes to claim victory.
While there is talented list of competitors who will receive direct acceptance into the maindraw, Smylie believes there are also some players who may gain entry into this tournament who could trouble the big guns.
"Last year's semi-finalist Nadia Petrova is set to return to the Gold Coast and almost defeated Venus Williams at this event before succumbing to a nagging shoulder injury," Smylie says. "Petrova has spent much of this year out of the game due to injury but in September was able to defeat Martina Hingis, a good sign she is back on track to playing her best tennis and may possibly cause problems for the seeded players. Croatian Silvija Talaja has also entered and after winning the Gold Coast title in 2000 she is more than capable of causing an upset."
Meanwhile, Queensland's Nicole Pratt will be leading the Aussie charge as she hopes to claim her first WTA Tour singles title and get season 2003 off to a great start. "I've had to take some time off to treat an injury so I'm really looking forward to starting next year's campaign under 'at home' conditions on the Gold Coast," says Pratt. "When you travel overseas so much to compete it's fantastic to play in front of a home crowd and I always receive wonderful crowd support when I play at Royal Pines."
With family ticket prices starting from $51, the Uncle Tobys Hardcourts is great value for the whole family looking for something to do on school holidays. The Interactive Zone in the grounds of Royal Pines Resort also offers children the opportunity to try fun and exciting tennis-related activities in a relaxed and supervised setting. And this year tennis fans will also have the option of attending Twilight Sessions on New Year's Day and Thursday, January 2 with play scheduled to commence at 2pm.
"The later start means that tennis fans who may have to work or are unable to attend during the day can still enjoy first-class tennis in the evening and have the bonus of watching matches in the cooler part of the day," Smylie says. "Quarter-finals will be played on these days so the best eight singles players in the draw will be featured."
Inspiration is for amateurs
Faves: Mona Barthel / Samantha Stosur / Roberta Vinci