November 5, 2014

A Chance to Shine

Perhaps I don't cover the WTA 125K events as much as I should, but when you look at what's going on at this week's tournaments, you really get a glimpse of some of the players who could become big factors on the main Tour in the months and years to come.

Let's start in Taipei, where previous champions Kristina Mladenovic and Alison Van Uytvanck have certainly scored some big wins since. This year top seeds Anna-Lena Friedsam and Luksika Kumkhum have so far lived up to expectations, but there are a couple others also making a stand. Russia's Vitalia Diatchenko had picked up a couple ITF titles already this year before she stunned top Moscow seed Dominika Cibulkova in their Kremlin Cup opener. This week, a hair off a career high ranking of #105 which she achieved some five years ago, she's dropped just a handful of games to veteran Melinda Czink and China's Ying-Ying Duan. She'll face off against Kumkhum next,but might just have the momentum to pull off an upset. And Poland's Magda Linette, fresh off her biggest title at a 125K event in Ningbo last week, opened her week in Taipei with a straight set win over Tadeja Majeric. Next up she gets a rematch of Sunday's final against Qiang Wang, so she should have confidence on her side. If she pulls off the win she might be able to end the year with quite an impressive winning streak.

There's arguably a little more star power on the courts of the inaugural Open GDF Suez de Limoges, with former French Open champion Francesca Schiavone and heavyweights like Monica Niculescu and Caroline Garcia all in the draw. But it's a couple lesser-known names that may have a bigger opportunity in France. Netherlands' Richel Hogenkamp just broke into the top hundred-fifty this week, but she's had some encouraging results earlier in the year -- she beat Yanina Wickmayer at an ITF event in May and picked up a trophy in Clermont-Ferrand in September. The twenty-two year old has yet to qualify for a Major, but with wins this week over veteran Lourdes Dominguez Lino and seventh-seed Stefanie Voegele she might be ready to change that. And Tereza Smitkova, who quietly sneaked her way into the fourth round at Wimbledon has cut her ranking from sub-#200 to start the year to #83 now. Unseeded in Limoges, she opened with a straight set win over on-the-mend Urzsula Radwanska and earlier today came back from a set down to upset Belgium's Van Uytvanck. With world #20 Alizé Cornet pulling out of the event and Niculescu losing her opener, the Czech won't meet another seed until at least the quarters, and that could be just the chance she needs.

The events on the WTA 125K circuit might not have the highest stakes, but for all the ladies involved, they sure are a great opportunity to pick up some always-appreciated match experience, a couple ranking points and, in some cases, perhaps a title or two. And these rising stars in particular might just use their wins in these weeks to springboard to a whole new level in their careers.

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