Photo Finish Set For Moscow

Russian No.2 Vera Zvonareva is top seed at this week's Kremlin Cup, but the stakes are highest for Marion Bartoli and Aga Radwanska.

Published October 16, 2011 03:25

Photo Finish Set For Moscow
Vera Zvonareva

MOSCOW, Russia - Staging a tournament in the final week of a grueling season may bring certain challenges, but also upsides. At the very least the organizers can hope to attract players wanting to hone their games before the upcoming calendar finale. At best, the race for coveted berths is still very much alive - which is the case at this week's Kremlin Cup.

The protagonists in the main storyline are Agnieszka Radwanska, the No.2 seed in Moscow, and Marion Bartoli, seeded third. By virtue of her superb double-whammy sweep through Asia, where she won the Toray Pan Pacific Open and the China Open back-to-back, 22-year-old Radwanska made herself the player most likely to lock down the eighth and final spot at the impending TEB BNP Paribas WTA Championships in Istanbul.

Heading into last week, the only player who could pip the Pole at the post was Bartoli, who needed to lift the trophies in both Osaka and Moscow - and rely upon Radwanska losing her second round opener in the Russian capital. Defeating Sam Stosur in the Japanese final on Sunday kept the 27-year-old Frenchwoman's chances alive, albeit as a long shot.

Bartoli will face either Ksenia Pervak or Jarmila Gajdosova in the round of 16 of this Premier-level event, while Radwanska plays Lucie Safarova or a qualifier. But they cannot meet before the final (by which point Radwanska would have won the race) and they're not the only players in the field.

Vera Zvonareva, her booking for Istanbul confirmed, will be gunning for her third title of the year as top seed; as well as preparing for the SEC she'll be looking to acclimatize to the Olympic Stadium, which will host the Fed Cup final next month. And 2010 French Open champion Francesca Schiavone, who won this title two years ago and was runner-up in 2005, is in the draw too. Having accepted a wildcard, the 31-year-old is seeded fourth. 

The second tier of seeds harbors plenty of class as well, with former world No.1 Jelena Jankovic, champion here in 2008 and a semifinalist at Linz last week, seeded fifth and two-time Grand Slam champion Svetlana Kuznetsova seeded sixth. Italy's Roberta Vinci - who won Luxembourg in this weekly slot last year and has won three more titles in 2011 - is seeded No.7, while Dominika Cibulkova, runner-up at Linz, will continue her quest for a maiden title as the No.8 seed.

In addition to Schiavone, wildcards have been awarded to Russians Alla Kudryavtseva and Evgeniya Rodina. Meantime, Kveta Peschke and Katarina Srebotnik headline the doubles field.

With prize money of $721,000, the Kremlin Cup is being held for the 18th time. Magdalena Maleeva won the title a record three times; other names on the star-studded honor roll include Elena Dementieva, Anastasia Myskina, Mary Pierce and Martina Hingis.

Day One Wrap: Dushevina Ousts Vinci, Schiavone's All-Access

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