Published July 12, 2009 03:04
PRAGUE, Czech Republic - Back in the Top 30 after a fine run to the quarters at Wimbledon, feisty Italian Francesca Schiavone heads the field at the ECM Prague Open this week. But much of the focus at the $220,000 International series event will fall on a strong local contingent, with three Czechs among the eight seeded players. Then there's former world No.7 Nicole Vaidisova, unseeded but looking to rebuild her career with a strong showing at home.
As she proved at Wimbledon, top-seeded Schiavone can apply her crafty all-court style to any surface, but the world No.28 grew up on clay and in light of her recent form must rate her chances of capturing her first title since Bad Gastein two years ago. However, she opens against Shahar Peer, who won the Prague title in 2006 and has beaten her both times they've played. The 29-year-old will need to hit the ground running against the Israeli.
Hoping to improve on an early loss at Budapest last week, Austrian lefty Sybille Bammer is the No.2 seed, with Bulgaria's Tsvetana Pironkova her dangerous first round opponent. The third seed is Czech No.1 Iveta Benesova, who opens against 17-year-old Czech wildcard Karolina Pliskova, while fourth-seeded Carla Suárez Navarro faces an intriguing first round encounter against Alexandra Dulgheru, the 20-year-old Romanian who won the Warsaw Open seemingly out of nowhere in May.
Alona Bondarenko, who reached the semis in Budapest last week, is the No.5 seed but won't relish seeing the name of a certain Kateryna Bondarenko, her sister and doubles partner, right next to hers in the first round match-ups. Currently the Ukrainian sisters' head-to-head stands at 3-3, so whoever wins this match will move ahead in the sibling rivalry.
Slovakia's Magdalena Rybarikova, who won her first Tour title at Birmingham but fell in the first round at Wimbledon, returns to action here as the No.6 seed. Two Czechs round out the seedings, with Strasbourg runner-up Lucie Hradecka at No.7 and Hobart champion Petra Kvitova at No.8.
Twenty-year-old Vaidisova, who hasn't won a main draw match since Barcelona in April and slumped to No.143 after failing to defend quarterfinal points at Wimbledon, faces Alla Kudryavtseva of Russia first up.
Benesova and compatriot Barbora Zahlavova Strycova are the top seeds in the doubles.