Top 8 In Stuttgart, Petkovic Returns Too
Published April 21, 2012 12:00
STUTTGART, Germany - The Porsche Tennis Grand Prix is the only WTA stop in Germany, and it's also the only indoor clay court tournament on the calendar. Even more special? The entire Top 8 has made the trip this year.
Leading the field is World No.1 Victoria Azarenka, who is playing for the first time since falling in the quarterfinals of Miami, which put an end to her 26-0 start to the season. Azarenka will be going for her biggest clay court title at this Premier tournament, her only other clay title coming at the International stop in Marbella last year (her other 11 career titles have come on hardcourts).
After a first round bye, the No.1-seeded Azarenka will open against one of two Germans, either Andrea Petkovic - who is playing her first WTA event since January after a back injury lay-off - or veteran wildcard Kristina Barrois.
At the other end of the draw is World No.2 Maria Sharapova, who is playing for the first time since falling in the final of Miami, and who is actually playing a WTA event in Germany for the first time since 2005 (and her first ever on indoor clay courts). Like Azarenka, Sharapova has won just a fraction of her career titles on clay: three of 24 (Amelia Island in 2008, Strasbourg in 2010 and Rome in 2011); she has 18 titles on hardcourts and three titles on grass.
Also after a first round bye, the No.2-seeded Sharapova will open against either Flavia Pennetta, who has won their last two meetings, or a qualifier.
Petra Kvitova and Agnieszka Radwanska are the No.3 and No.4 seeds. Kvitova begins against Francesca Schiavone or Monica Niculescu, while Radwanska, playing for the first time since winning Miami, has a qualifier.
There are 17 Top 20 players here - in addition to the Top 8 and Petkovic, Schiavone and Jankovic, there is also Angelique Kerber, Ana Ivanovic, Julia Goerges, Dominika Cibulkova, Roberta Vinci and Daniela Hantuchova.
Last year, Goerges became Germany's second home champion in Stuttgart, beating then-No.1 Wozniacki in the final for her biggest title yet (Anke Huber was the other, winning here in 1991 and 1994). This tournament has been going since 1978 - it is Europe's oldest indoor tournament on the WTA.
While she may not be one of Germany's four players currently in the Top 20, 21-year-old Mona Barthel seems headed there - she's in the Top 20 in the race to the WTA Championships. And she got a wildcard into this year's draw. Barrois, who reached the quarterfinals here last year, is also a wildcard this week.
"Mona has improved enormously and has been playing very well recently. She could also spring a surprise at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix," said Huber, the Operating Tournament Director. "Kristina Barrois has been injured for quite a while. Last year she justified our faith in her and took advantage of the wildcard to get to the quarterfinals. She deserves it this time too."