April 14, 2010

An Open Window

It's not often that a defending champion doesn't get the courtesy of a seed when she attempts to reclaim a title. But that's what happened this week to Roberta Vinci, titlist in Barcelona last year. Now ranked fifty-fourth in the world, she faced a tough draw with a first round match against second seed Aravane Rezai.

But Vinci wasn't flustered. She'd beaten Rezai in Palermo four years ago and she did it again this week in a surprisingly uneventful two sets. She even faced a test in her second round match against wildcard Laura Pous Tio, a woman who beat her earlier this year in Acapulco. After dropping the first set to the Spaniard, she bagelled her in the second and closed it out with nearly an eighty percent first serve percentage in the closing set.

She's by no means out of the woods though. Top seeded Francesca Schiavone, last year's runner-up, powered through her first two rounds and could force a rematch of the 2009 title game. Fancesca, who hadn't won back-to-back matches since Melbourne until this week, may not be the biggest threat.

Carla Suarez Navarro continues to improve on her year, having defeated Flavia Pennetta on her way to the Marbella finals last week and stunning Svetlana Kuznetsova in Indian Wells. The twenty-year-old has won all three of her previous matches with Vinci, so Roberta can't be looking forward to that potential meeting.

Still, plenty of seeds are falling in Spain. Previously red-hot Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez, feisty Maria Kirilenko and on-and-off Sorana Cirstea all exited in the second round earlier today, leaving a crack which Roberta is more than capable of floating through. If she's able to win her third career title, it may not move her too far up the rankings -- but it should garner her a little respect.

And with just a month left before the French Open, there really is nothing better.

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