Québec Breakthrough For Canadian No.1?

Daniela Hantuchova heads the Bell Challenge field but her rivals include Canadian No.1 Rebecca Marino, the No.4 seed.

Published September 11, 2011 03:46

Québec Breakthrough For Canadian No.1?
Rebecca Marino

QUÉBEC CITY, Canada - Two former champions and two former runners-up bring a sense of warm familiarity to this week's Bell Challenge, a $220,000 International event played on carpet at PEPS Laval University Campus. However, with popular Slovak Daniela Hantuchova installed as top seed, and a certain up-and-coming Canadian threatening, the competition will be fierce.

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Although currently ranked just outside the Top 20, former world No.5 Hantuchova has enjoyed one of her best seasons. In February she collected her fourth singles title at Pattaya City; at the French Open she posted a win over world No.1 Caroline Wozniacki; she was runner-up at Birmingham; and at Eastbourne she defeated Venus Williams for the first time in 11 outings.

Having reached two quarterfinals on the North American hardcourt swing, the 28-year-old suffered a hand injury that seemed to contribute to a first round loss to Pauline Parmentier at Flushing Meadows. But she recovered to reach the semis of the doubles with Agnieszka Radwanska, and no doubt will be back to her focused best this week.

Czech lefty Lucie Safarova, who was runner-up here to Hungarian lefty Melinda Czink in 2009, is the No.2 seed this year; she plays 37-year-old Jill Craybas in the first round. Czink is back too, and opens her campaign for a second title against Germany's Kathrin Woerle.

Austrian power packet Tamira Paszek, who beat Bethanie Mattek-Sands in last year's final, returns as the No.3 seed. The 20-year-old reached the quarterfinals at Wimbledon and the semis at College Park, so she should be primed for a strong defense. From outside the Top 100 at the start of the season, Vancouver-based Rebecca Marino has tasted life in the Top 40 this season, and is seeded fourth. It's worth noting that along the way the big-serving 20-year-old reached her first WTA final at another indoor event, the Cellular South Cup, in Memphis.

Rounding out the seeds are 2005 runner-up Sofia Arvidsson at No.5; Czech Barbora Zahlavova Strycova at No.6; rising US player Irina Falconi at No.7 and Georgia's Anna Tatishvili at No.8.

Interest doesn't stop there: Hot off her mixed doubles triumph with Jack Sock at the US Open, Melanie Oudin has drawn Andrea Hlavackova in the first round. After an equally busy time in New York, France's Caroline Garcia, who was runner-up in the girls' singles, plays Marina Erakovic.

Wildcards have been awarded to Canadians Marie-Ève Pelletier, Aleksandra Wozniak and Eugénie Bouchard, who at 17 is the youngest player in the draw. Raquel Kops-Jones and Abigail Spears are the doubles top seeds.

The Bell Challenge is being staged for the 19th time. Former champions include Lindsay Davenport, Maria Sharapova and Jennifer Capriati.

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