September 22, 2011

The Asian Swings

The courts at the U.S. Open aren't event cold yet and already the ladies have made their way to the other side of the globe for the first leg of the fall season. And some players are already wielding their racquets in an attempt to end their years on a high note.

There haven't been too many huge upsets at the Guangzhou International Women's Open, where three of the four remaining athletes are seeded at the event. Though defending champion Jarmila Gajdasova was ousted earlier today, top seed Maria Kirilenko -- a real fighter, as she proved in New York -- has been relentless in her progress. The world #28 hasn't won a title since 2008, but has so far not dropped a set in China, and with a semifinal meeting against Chanelle Scheepers, who proved herself a journeywoman against Francesca Schiavone in her U.S. Open third round, she has a good chance to at least get back to a final -- the South African has played deciders in all three of her matches so far, and eventually the effort will catch up with her.

But the real story in Guangzhou has been homegrown Jie Zheng, once ranked fifteenth in the world. A semifinalist in Melbourne last year, she notched wins over Maria Sharapova and now-retired Elena Dementieva in 2010, but a wrist injury has largely kept her out of contention for the last twelve months. Now hanging around the low eighties, she's way out of seeding territory, but you know she's capable of doing damage well beyond her rank. So far, she's taken out Alberta Brianti and Petra Martic. And if she truly is back in form, I wouldn't be surprised to see her handle Magdalena Rybarikova in the semis and make a real push for this title.

The stakes were slightly higher in Seoul, where four of the top twenty-five women in the world entered the draw, but the upsets were also more striking. Last year's French Open champion Schiavone dropped her opener to Vera Dushevina and talented, if not slightly spotty, Marion Bartoli fell one round later, giving American doubles specialist Vania King her first ever top-ten victory. That opens the door for remaining seeds like Dominika Cibulkova who, at twenty-two -- in rank and in age -- still hasn't claimed that maiden title. She's shown signs of brilliance, of course, beating world #1 Caroline Wozniacki twice this year and scoring victories over Sharapova and Vera Zvonareva to boot, but she has yet to really shine. If she can make it past the quarters, though, this could be her turn.

Unfortunately for Cibu, she's in the same half of the draw as a girl who's having her own breakthrough this year. Kazakhstan's Galina Voskoboeva has been pro for nearly a decade, but hadn't spent a lot of time in the top hundred -- consistent performances on the ITF Tour and upsets of several top-thirty players, though, has pushed her to a new level. She isn't seeded in Seoul, but pulled off wins over Ekaterina Makarova and veteran Iveta Benesova already on her way to the quarters. She next faces Dushevina, not an easy task, as she's lost four of their five previous meetings, but certainly less intimidating than the Slam titleist she should have met.

There aren't many more weeks left in the 2011 season, and as the ladies wrap up there is a chance for some to prove they belong with the big girls and others to make a name for themselves. There's no telling yet who'll ultimately end up on top, but those who swing the hardest now may be the ones who hold the advantage.

1 comment:

Koh samui villas rental said...

Asian players definitely have a potential to compete in these types of events.