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Schiavone Headlines In KL

Three of the Top 20 line up in Kuala Lumpur for this week's BMW Malaysian Open: Francesca Schiavone, Marion Bartoli and defending champion Alisa Kleybanova.

Published February 27, 2011 12:15

Schiavone Headlines In KL
Francesca Schiavone
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia - Twelve months ago Alisa Kleybanova overcame tropical storms and a formidable finals opponent in the now-retired Elena Dementieva to win her first WTA title at the BMW Malaysian Open. This week the Russian returns to defend at Bukit Kiara Equestrian & Country Resort as the No.3 seed - and with her work cut out in a field that includes Top 20 colleagues in Francesca Schiavone and Marion Bartoli.

Riding high at No.5 in the world rankings, Schiavone is, of course, top seed at the $220,000 International event. And while the French Open champion will probably be glad Svetlana Kuznetsova isn't around this week - the Russian got three-set revenge on the Italian in Dubai, after a Schiavone's epic win at the Australian Open - the 30-year-old can't relax knowing resurgent Jelena Dokic is her enigmatic first round threat.

Ever-dangerous Marion Bartoli, seeded No.2 in Kuala Lumpur on a ranking of No.18, made a great unseeded run to the semis in Doha last week. The Frenchwoman's victims there included, in the first round, Kleybanova - but if there is to be a rematch in KL, it can only be in the final, as Kleybanova is placed in Schiavone's half of the draw.

Indeed, sould the seedings pan out, Bartoli will face in-form Jarmila Groth in the semis. The Slovak-born Aussie is, with Schiavone and Urszula Radwanska, one of three wildcards in the field and seeded No.4. Groth won her second WTA title at Hobart in January, and scored her career-best win over Schiavone at Fed Cup earlier this month. Another strong showing seems likely - and could result in the 23-year-old's Top 30 debut.

Rounding out the seedings at the $220,000 International hardcourt event are Czech lefty Lucie Safarova at No.5, Japanese duo Ayumi Morita and Kimiko Date-Krumm at No.6 and No.7, and rising Serb teen Bojana Jovanovski at No.8.

Morita - who was beaten in the semis here last year by Kleybanova - and Date-Krumm are, unusually, just two of five players from Japan with direct entry into the main draw; they are joined by Misaki Doi, Junri Namigata and Kurumi Nara. In fact, the Japanese contingent matches Russia, with former world No.1 Dinara Safina among the powerhouse's representatives.

Other Asia-Pacific hopes rest with Thailand's Noppawan Lertcheewakarn and Tamarine Tanasugarn, China's Han Xinyun and Zhang Shuai, Indian star Sania Mirza, Taiwanese youngster Chang Kai-Chen and 17-year-old Kazakh Zarina Diyas, who is the youngest player in the draw.

The European pair of Michaella Krajicek and Tatjana Malek are the top seeds in the doubles.


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