Caro's Back to the Beach

World No.2 Caroline Wozniacki returns to defend her title on the green clay of Ponte Vedra Beach.

Published April 04, 2010 12:00

Caro's Back to the Beach
Caroline Wozniacki

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, FL, USA - Defending champion Caroline Wozniacki leads the field at the MPS Group Championships this week, and expectations on the 19-year-old are high at the $220,000 International event.

Last year Wozniacki was the No.2 seed and ranked twelfth; she returns as the No.2 player in the world, and heavily favored to pocket a seventh Sony Ericsson WTA Tour singles title - which would be her first since New Haven last summer. The young Dane can expect a tough workout from the get-go, however: her first round opponent is wily veteran Patty Schnyder, who is trying to rebuild her season after missing Australia due to tendonitis in her left foot.

Alona Bondarenko, ranked No.24, is seeded second. The Ukrainian started the year with a bang, winning the title at Hobart and reaching the last 16 at the Australian Open, but has stalled since then.

One of just two Tour events played on green clay, the Ponte Vedra Beach tournament has inherited the honor roll of Amelia Island's decommissioned Bausch & Lomb Championships and Dominika Cibulkova, runner-up to Maria Sharapova there in 2008, is the No.3 seed. The 20-year-old Slovak is currently the highest-ranked player yet to win a Tour singles title (No.28), a motivating factor she shares with fourth seed Elena Vesnina. Another Russian, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, got that particular monkey off her back when she defeated Daniela Hantuchova in the final at Monterrey a month ago, and should be a confident No.5 seed here.

Canada's Aleksandra Wozniak, runner-up to Wozniacki last year, is back as the No.6 seed. She is also in the opposite half of the draw to the top seed - meaning the umpires could be faced with another tongue-twisting final.

Rounding out the seeds are Frenchwoman Virginie Razzano at No.7 and America's sweetheart, Melanie Oudin, at No.8. Oudin is also still hunting her first Tour title, and there could hardly be a better place for the southern belle to seal it.

Wildcards have been awarded to Carly Gullickson and 17-year-old Sloane Stephens of the US, as well as Ayumi Morita of Japan. The other Americans in the draw are Vania King, who opens against Angelique Kerber of Germany, and veteran Jill Craybas, who plays Alla Kudryavtseva.

Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Yan Zi are the top seeds in the doubles.

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