Source: San Francisco Chronicle, July 18, 2006
Clijsters' path isn't that easy
Davenport, Venus Williams out, though
By Maggie Thach, Chronicle Staff Writer
Lindsay Davenport and Venus Williams would have posed big threats to Kim Clijsters' title as the defending champion of the Bank of the West Classic. The three have combined to win the last eight titles. But with Davenport still recovering from a back injury that kept her out of the French Open and Wimbledon, and Williams not registering, Clijsters remains the only one of the trio who can add another title to her resume.
The Bank of the West Classic, a Sony Ericsson WTA Tour Tier II event, will be held at Stanford's Taube Family Tennis Stadium beginning Monday. Qualifying rounds will start Saturday.
Even though Davenport and Williams are out, Clijsters still will have to worry about the five other top-20 players in the tournament: Patty Schnyder, Nicole Vaidisova, Anna-Lena Groenfeld, Daniela Hantuchova and Ai Sugiyama.
Schnyder, 27, reached the second round at Wimbledon, and Sugiyama, 31, played in the Bank of the West Classic final in 1995. Vaidisova, Groenfeld and Hantuchova, all under 23, represent the younger generation of the sport.
Jelena Jankovic, who stands at No. 27, reached the fourth round at Wimbledon by beating defending champion Williams earlier this year.
Along with bringing different playing styles to the tournament, some of the players bring a different crowd, tournament director Adam Barrett said.
"If people watch early on and catch (Nicole) Vaidisova, they'll see the future of tennis. She's like the next Maria Sharapova: pretty, tall, athletic, powerful. She's going to draw a liking," Barrett said. "I would expect a large following for Sania Mirza. She's the most successful player to come out of India. It's a harder sell because the names aren't recognizable, but what's important is the future of the sport."
The Bank of the West Classic is the first stop of five tours en route to the U.S. Open. Players in the tournament have an opportunity to earn bonus money by virtue of their performances at each of the five tours.
"Any event that has crowd support and title sponsors, the players are going to enjoy coming to," Barrett said. "They enjoy top-level tennis at a top-level facility. That's what we have here. Kim may be the No. 2 seed but this won't be a walk-through for her. The competition level is extremely high."