The WTA's European red clay court swing continues this week with International-level events in Estoril and Budapest.
Last year, Anabel Medina Garrigues did not drop a set en route to becoming Spain's first Estoril Open champion since Magui Serna in 2003. In so doing, she tied Venus Williams for most clay court titles among active players.
"I had a great week here. I won the tournament and got a beautiful watch," Medina Garrigues said after her triumph. "I don't think I could have wished for anything more here in Estoril."
Medina Garrigues eventually surpassed Williams with her 10th career clay court title in Palermo last July. Seeded third this year, she is coming off her best showing of the season - a quarterfinal appearance last week in Fès.
Other past champions in the draw are second-seeded Maria Kirilenko and fifth-seeded Zheng Jie. Kirilenko is looking for her first title since the year she won Estoril - 2008. Zheng, who was part of the first all-Chinese final in WTA history when she beat Li Na in the 2006 Estoril final, has a tough opener against 2009 Estoril runner-up Ekaterina Makarova. The top seed is Roberta Vinci, who has won four of her six career titles on clay.
Seeded first in doubles are Kirilenko and Nadia Petrova. They are playing for the first time since capturing the title in Miami, but they have a challenging opener against 2009 Estoril champs Raquel Kops-Jones and Abigail Spears. No.2 seeds Sania Mirza and Anastasia Rodionova were victorious in their only previous outing together - at Pattaya City earlier this year.
Sara Errani, in the midst of a career-best year, is the top seed at the Budapest Grand Prix. Three of her four career titles, including Acapulco and Barcelona this season, have come on red clay. She also had her deepest run at a major in getting to the quarterfinals of the Australian Open in January.
Although no former champions are in the field this year, 2011 Budapest runner-up Irina-Camelia Begu is back as the eighth seed. Her confidence level should be high after a quarterfinal showing last week in Fès that included an upset of former World No.2 Svetlana Kuznetsova.
Others to keep an eye on include No.7 seed Shahar Peer and Timea Babos. Peer has the most titles in the field with five. Babos gives local fans hope for another Hungarian champion after Agnes Szavay, who won Budapest in 2009 and 2010. Babos captured her first career title earlier this year in Monterrey.
Last year's runners-up, Natalie Grandin and Vladimira Uhlirova are the No.1 seeds in doubles. No.2 seeds Marina Erakovic and Elena Vesnina were victorious in their only previous outing together - at Linz last year.