Sam Returns To Scene Of First Title Win

Two years ago, Samantha Stosur won her first WTA singles title at Osaka's HP Open. This week Marion Bartoli will be among her foes.

Published October 09, 2011 01:42

Sam Returns To Scene Of First Title Win
Samantha Stosur

OSAKA, Japan - Heading into the HP Japan Open two years ago, Samantha Stosur was a doubles Grand Slam champion and former world No.1 - but yet to win a singles title on the WTA. That all changed when, ranked No.15, she defeated Francesca Schiavone in the Japanese final - a milestone in what has been a stunning mid-career surge in the individual game.

Now she returns as the reigning US Open champion and top seed at the $220,000 hardcourt event. The 27-year-old world No.7 has already booked her place in the season-ending TEB BNP Paribas WTA Championships, so she at least won't have that pressure on her shoulders. But last year the Australian's title defense ended with a quarterfinal loss to Kimiko Date-Krumm, and she'll be keen to find momentum again after back-to-back losses to Maria Kirilenko in Tokyo and Beijing.

Stosur won't expect an easy run to a second Osaka title, though - not with players such as current No.10 Marion Bartoli, who has taken a wildcard, in the field. Still in with a shot at qualification for Istanbul, at least as one of the two alternates, she'll need to do extremely well this week: to stay in contention for the eighth and final spot the Frenchwoman needs to lift the trophy - and do it again in Moscow next week. And hope that Agnieszka Radwanska doesn't reach the final in the Russian capital.

The rest of the seeds have had fine season's too: Germany's Angelique Kerber, Osaka's No.3 and the world No.30, made a breakthrough run to the semis at Flushing Meadows, where she fell to Stosur but was propelled up the rankings as a result. Petra Cetkovska, who upset Radwanska and Ana Ivanovic to reach the last 16 at Wimbledon and went on a tear to reach her first WTA final at New Haven, is seeded No.4.

Jarmila Gajdosova, who won her second WTA title at Hobart, is seeded fifth, ahead of Japanese No.1 Ayumi Morita at No.6. South Africa's Chanelle Scheepers, who won her first WTA title at Guangzhou last month, is the No.7 seed and fast-rising Christina McHale is seeded eighth. The young American opens against defending champion Tamarine Tanasugarn, while Tanasugarn's victim in the oldest-ever final, Kimiko Date-Krumm, bumps straight into Cetkovska.

As well as Bartoli, wildcards have been awarded to Japanese players Aiko Nakamura, who plays Gajdosova first up; and Kurumi Nara, who faces Kerber.

Vania King and Yaroslava Shvedova top the doubles field. The stakes are high for the two-time Grand Slam champions, who can secure a berth in the four-team Istanbul line-up by winning the title this week.

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