HP Japan Women's Open—Osaka
The women of the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour will end their Asian swing this week, in Osaka, Japan. The 32 draw event will feature French Open finalist, Sam Stosur, competing against a workable field, that will include Marion Bartoli, Shahar Peer, Maria Kirilenko, and Kimiko Date Krumm.
Hometown supporters will be excited to cheer on eight main-draw Japanese contenders. Led by Date Krumm, fans will be able to support the likes of Junri Namigata, Aiko Nakamura, and Kurumi Nara.
While Stosur has locked up her place in the Tour finale in Doha, Bartoli will remain in contention with a strong showing this week. The Frenchwoman currently stands at No. 19 in the race.
The winner of the week-long event will take home $37,000 in prize money, and 280 Tour points.
Let's now take a look at the top and bottom halves of the draw.
With the draw gods on her side, top seeded Stosur will face Sachie Ishizu in the first-round, and either a qualifier or Namigata in the second-round. An interesting encounter against Date Krumm could be on deck in the quarterfinals, but Stosur's all-court game should be enough to cast aside the 40-year-old. Date Krumm will be coming into her homeland event with some confidence, after defeating Maria Sharapova in Tokyo. Date Krumm possesses a tricky placement over power game, but I'll stay with Stosur to reach the semifinals.
No. 3 seed Peer will likely put up a good fight against Stosur, considering that the Israeli has won two of five career meetings against the Australian.
Another threat in this section could be Iveta Benesova. The silky Czech prefers clay-courts, but she did advance to the round-of-16 in Montreal, while defeating Jelena Jankovic along the way.
Overall, Stosur remains the hands down favorite, in this section, barring a significant upset.
Advancing to the quarterfinals or better in five hard-court events this year, No. 2 seed, Bartoli, will have to defeat an eager cast of players, in order to capture her first title of 2010.
Facing countrywoman Julie Coin in the opening round, Bartoli could face either Aussie Sophie Ferguson, or Stefanie Voegele, in the second-round.
Ferguson has been making her living on the ITF circuit, while 20-year-old Voegele continues to rise up the rankings.
Young American Coco Vandewege, is another future name to watch our for in this half, but Kirilenko will remain the player that could prevent a finals appearance by Bartoli.
Kirilenko, a quarterfinalist at the Australian Open earlier this year, holds a formidable hard-court game, and a great two-handed backhand. The Russian hasn't won a Tour event since 2008, and could be due for a title run.
The 23-year-old, who turned pro in 2001, trails Bartoli 4-1 in career head-to-head meetings.
Keep an eye out for wily veteran Tamarine Tanasugran in this half, but when it's all said and done, look for Bartoli to challenge for her first title of the year.