We’re well into the hard court season en route to the US Open, which starts on August 28, and 2 of the most interesting hard court tournaments start today. The Bank of the West Classic in Stanford boasts the presence of recent Wimbledon winner, Garbine Muguruza, along with Madison Keys, Maria Sharapova, Petra Kvitova and CoCo Vandewheghe. World number 2, Simona Halep, leads the table of the Citi Open, which takes place in Washington DC. Kristina Mladenovic, Julia Goerges and Eugenie Bouchard are among the most notable participants of the tournament. So let’s see what the action from Stanford and Washington D.C. will look like.
Bank of the West Classic – What you need to know
The Stanford Classic is a women-only event and part of the US Open series that leads up to the final Grand Slam of the season. Since 1997, the matches have been hosted at the Taube Family tennis Stadium, on Stanford University Campus. Here are a few key facts to know about the tournament:
- It is the oldest women-only tournament, having started out in 1971, as the British Motor Cars Invitation.
- Martina Navratilova holds the record of most wins in singles, boasting 5 titles in Stanford.
- Monica Seles, Billie Jean King, Chris Evert, Martina Hingis, Lindsay Davenport and Serena Williams are a few of the most notable former winners.
- The singles’ draw consists of 28 players, featuring the usual best-out-of-three set matches.
- Johanna Konta is the defending Champion of the 2016 event, although she will not actually have a chance to defend her title this year.
- The prize money allocated to the 2017 Bank of the West Classic event is $710,900.
- The 2017 Bank of the West Classic will run from July 31st to August 6th
2017 Bank of the west Classic Contenders
Following her recent triumph in Wimbledon, Garbine Muguruza is the bookmakers’ favorite to win the Bank of the West Classic this year. The Spaniard has since said that she is approaching tournaments with a completely different mindset, particularly when dealing with the pressure and high expectations that follow her. The turning point seemed to have been a very emotional moment after her loss to Kristina Mladenovic at the 2017 Roland Garros. Coached by Conchita Martinez during Wimbledon she has managed to come back stronger. It now remains to be seen whether that mental toughness and champion’s attitude stays with her for the rest of the year, next to her full-time coach Sam Sumyk.
Is it too early for Maria Sharapova to be considered as a favorite to win premier titles? Apparently not. Sharapova herself has tried to tone down the expectations, saying that with the ban and her recent injury she feels as if she’s had a 2-year break. The truth is we haven’t seen Maria playing since her injury in Rome, but no one can deny that if fit, she is always a contender. Her serve is one of the key improvements she has made while away.
Petra Kvitova continues her incredible comeback, following the knife attack and serious injury she suffered at the end of last year. Favorite or not, Petra is an undeniable inspiration for the sport and she will look to make the most of her wild card in her first visit to Stanford.
I have to admit I hadn’t noticed the American before my coach started singing praises and urging me to try and steal something from her game. And then I watched her Australian Open match against Angelique Kerber in January. CoCo Vandeweghe is not just talented and incredibly strong. She is fearless. Her game is fearless. She is not moving extremely well on the court, but it is only a matter of time before she makes a solid breakthrough. Can the Stanford Classic be the beginning of that? I believe yes.
August 7 UPDATE: CoCo Vandeweghe did have an incredible run, as I had predicted, finishing as runner up in singles and winning the title in doubles. I hadn’t foreseen Madison Keys’ success due to her recent injuries. Her final against Vandeweghe was incredible to watch.
The Citi Open in Washington D.C.
Although the ATP Citi Open has been around since 1969, the WTA International tournament was only introduced in 2011.
32 players are competing for a total prize money of $226,750. 2016 champion Yanina Wickmayer is not participating this year. But let’s see who is:
Currently ranked as World number 2, after an incredible Clay court season, Simona Halep seems to have raised her game to a new level. Mostly thanks to her fitness levels and an improved on court attitude, Halep is the favorite to win the Citi Open this year. If she performs equally well on hard courts that is and if she manages to steer clear of her on court negativity.
Mladenovic was a joy to watch on the clay courts this season. Not a fan favorite -due to her somewhat controversial on court behavior- but no one can deny she was one of the most interesting players to watch during the first half of the year. She hasn’t had as much success on grass courts so far and she needs to further improve on her movement. But she is one to keep an eye on.
Aside from the top 2 seeds, I expect Julia Goerges and Ekaterina Makarova to have a good run, while Eugenie Bouchard is still too unpredictable to read.
But let’s enjoy some tennis action, before all the top players start heading to Toronto, Cincinnati and New Haven, before the major event in New York.
August 7 UPDATE: None of the two top seeds, Halep and Mladenovic had a good run in Washington. Both Julia Goerges and Ekaterina Makarova were in the final though 🙂 . The title went to Makarova eventually.
Featured image by Brianhama – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0