The Watch List spotlights the must-know storylines for the upcoming week in tennis. This week, a few big names to take early U.S. Open exits return to action.
KDP Korea Open, Seoul: It feels like it’s been a while since we’ve seen Caroline Wozniacki on the tennis court after a forgettable first-round loss at the U.S. Open, but she’s back in action this week after what was effectively a three-week break from competition. The world No. 11 leads the field in Seoul, the biggest WTA tournament going on this week, and with her surprising title drought going on 13 months now, any win would do her confidence wonders. Whether her form and health have recovered with the layoff — she struggled with a knee injury in New Haven and at the U.S. Open — is an open question. The thing about being a former No. 1 on a losing streak is everyone is dying to beat you. Just ask Ana Ivanovic, Dinara Safina and Jelena Jankovic. There are some talented Russians in the draw who could derail her, including No. 14 Maria Kirilenko (to whom she retired in New Haven) and Nadia Petrova, who had Maria Sharapova on the ropes at the U.S. Open. Also notable: Kaia Kanepi, who has been sidelined since the French Open with a foot injury, makes her return in Seoul.
Notable early matches: Caroline Wozniacki vs. Arantxa Rus, Vania King vs. Kiki Bertens, Varvara Lepchenko vs. Camila Giorgi, Tamira Paszek vs. Carla Suarez Navarro.
Moselle Open, Metz, France: You can’t say top-seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga is coming into this tournament with acute fatigue. He lost early at the U.S. Open and he didn’t have any Davis Cup duties over the weekend. He’ll be going for his first title since the season’s opening tournament in Doha, where he beat Gael Monfils.
Speaking of Monsieur Monfils, I’m happy to report that he’ll make his return to the tour here in Metz. Monfils, who struggled with knee injuries since February, has not played since Nice in May. According to his Twitter, he’s been watching a lot of Homeland and is very excited to be back on tour. Shall we take an over/under on how many games he’ll play before he winds up pulling off a move so utterly athletic that we’re immediately reminded as to why he’s been injured most of this year? I’m setting the line at four games.
Philipp Kohlschreiber, who skipped Davis Cup due to a falling out with Germany’s captain, is the No. 2 seed. Benoit Paire, Xavier Malisse, Nicolas Mahut, Florian Mayer, James Blake, and Marcel Granollers are also in action.
GRC Bank Guangzhou International Women’s Open, Guangzhou, China: Yeah, it’s a mouthful, and it may be the lesser of the two WTA tournaments this week but it actually features the highest ranked woman in action in No. 10 Marion Bartoli. The Frenchwoman has played the most tournaments this year of any top 10 player, a staggering 28 so far, and she’s coming off a strong quarterfinal run at the U.S. Open, where she beat Petra Kvitova and pushed Maria Sharapova to three sets. Anchoring the draw is China’s Zheng Jie — who opens up against Taiwan’s Chan Yung-Jan, a finalist in Carlsbad this summer. Keep an eye on a few other talented youngsters in Sorana Cirstea, Urszula Radwanska and Laura Robson floating in the draw as well.
St. Petersburg Open, St. Petersburg, Russia: The ATP retooled its schedule this year, pushing up the World Tour Finals in London to the beginning of November and thus allowing the season to end two weeks earlier. In order to accommodate the change, a number of tournaments had to be shifted around, including the St. Petersburg Open, which was played at the end of October last year. Its new spot in the schedule (the week after Davis Cup) and its reduced prize money (from $663,750 to $410,850) yields a weaker draw this year. With all respect, when Estonia’s finest, Jurgen Zopp, is a top eight seed, it’s going to be a tough sell.
Mikhail Youzhny, now ranked No. 29, is the top seed; Denis Istomin, Martin Klizan and Fabio Fognini round out the top four seeds. I’m interested to see what Klizan does at this tournament. He was the revelation on the men’s side at the U.S. Open, beating Tsonga and Jeremy Chardy on his way to the fourth round.