FÈS, Morocco - The WTA's lone African event, the Grand Prix de SAR La Princesse Lalla Meryem, has had 11 champs in its 11 years. Two previous winners are in the 2012 draw, so it will be up to them to change that trend.
Anabel Medina Garrigues - Fès champion in 2009 and runner-up in 2008 - will be delighted to return to her beloved red clay, the surface on which she has won 10 of her 11 career titles. In fact, the top-seeded Spaniard is the WTA's active career leader for clay court titles, one ahead of Venus Williams. In her most recent red clay outing last July, she was victorious in Palermo.
Defending champ Alberta Brianti is hardly a clay court specialist, as she had never even won back-to-back matches on the surface until her triumph here in 2011. Though unseeded this year, she certainly won't sneak up on anyone.
"It's not my favorite surface, but better late than never," Brianti said of her first and only WTA title. "I always try to improve my tennis and the last few years I've really been playing the best tennis of my career."
Looking for her first title since 2010 is No.2 seed Svetlana Kuznetsova, one of only two Grand Slam winners to ever play here - the other being Li Na. Kuznetsova has had plenty of success on the dirt, including two of her biggest titles - Roland Garros and Stuttgart in 2009.
Fifth-seeded Simona Halep could be a threat, considering she has made two finals in her career - Fès in 2010 and 2011. Another player to keep an eye on is Timea Babos. The 18-year-old Hungarian won her first career title earlier this year in Monterrey and at No.66, is the youngest player in the Top 100.