February 16, 2011

Memphis Belles

There's an interesting phenomenon that occurs at tournaments where the top seed is ranked outside the top fifty -- with even the most favored players so spotty in their day-to-day performances, virtually anyone can turn her run into a Cinderella story.

And that's exactly what's been happening this week at the Cellular South Cup in Memphis, where neither of the two top seeds, Barbora Zahlavova Strycova or Sofia Arvidsson, made it out of the first round. That leaves one-time U.S. Open darling Melanie Oudin as the top-ranked player and while it certainly does give her a monster opportunity to shine, the bigger imact might be felt by those even more under-the-radar.

Qualifier Alexa Glatch has a handful of ITF titles to her name, but has only made a minor dent on Tour. She made the quarters in Quebec City last year, but maybe more impressively defeated both Iveta Benesova and a just-emerging Petra Kvitova in Fed Cup back in 2009. But this week she barreled through Beatrice Capra in her opener, and survived a close call against Michaella Krajicek. With no seeds left in her half of the draw, it might be smooth sailing for the twenty-one year old to finally break through.

Another player to watch is former Junior champ Coco Vandeweghe, one of the ladies I had my eye on back at her first U.S. Open in 2008. She's played well against in the big leagues before, beating Vera Zvonareva last year in San Diego, but now just a smidge off a double-digit ranking, this could be her best chance. Coco notched a solid win over Alexandra Stevenson on Wednesday, avenging a first round loss to the one-time Wimbledon semifinalist from just last week. With some streaky players in her path, she could make a good case for changing the meaning of "Team Coco".

Of course no one can rise to the top of the sport without consistently beating the best players out there. But with the path in Memphis relatively clear for these potential Cinderellas, it looks like they have a good chance to dance at the ball when all is done.

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