David Ferrer is the top-ranked player at the Malaysian Open in Kuala Lumpur. (Cynthia Lum/Icon SMI)
The Watch List spotlights the must-know storylines for the upcoming week in tennis. The Asian swing kicks off in earnest this week, as the top women head to Japan and the men hit Southeast Asia.
Toray Pan Pacific Open
Cursed by distance and timing, the Pan Pacific Open is always hit by big-name withdrawals and this year is no different. Both Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova withdrew from the tournament last week, and understandably so, with Serena citing fatigue and Sharapova still dealing with a shoulder injury. Their withdrawal may affect the star power of the Premier-level field but not the competitiveness. No. 2 Victoria Azarenka is the top seed, followed by Seoul champion Agniezska Radwanska, Sara Errani and Caroline Wozniacki.
Sloane Stephens’ quest to break into the top 10 and boost her chances of qualifying for the year-end WTA Championships in Istanbul begins in Tokyo. Currently ranked No. 13, the 20-year old American is just 200 points behind No. 10 Jelena Jankovic and already No. 11 in the Race to Istanbul. The top eight women qualify for the year-end championships, and with Marion Bartoli’s retirement (she’s still on the rankings at No. 8) and Sharapova questionable due to injury, a strong fall swing could see Stephens squeeze into that final spot. Drawn into Azarenka’s quarter, she already opened her Tokyo campaign with a 6-3, 6-2 win over Stefanie Voegele on Sunday and could face the woman she’s trying to chase down, Jankovic, in the third round.