Serena heads tough field
SYDNEY: World number one Serena Williams headlines a crack women’s field featuring nine of the world’s top 10 at the Sydney International, which starts here tomorrow.
With the addition of Belgian wildcard Justine Henin, there will be four one-time world number ones in the women’s draw in the last major lead-up tour nament to this month’s Australian Open.
The men’s draw will play second fiddle to the strong women’s competition with French showman and world No 13 Gael Monfils the top seed ahead of Czech Tomas Berdych, Swiss Stanislas Wawrinka and Australia’s Lleyton Hewitt.
Williams was named the 2009 International Tennis Federation women’s world champion after a year in which she captured two grand slam titles and went on to win the seasonending WTA Championships in Doha, sealing the No 1 ranking in the last event of the year. But she also courted controversy when she was hit with a record fine and two years of probation for an outburst over a foot fault call in last September’s US Open semi-final in New York.
Williams, who will be seeking her 12th major title at the January 18-31 Australian Open in Melbourne, was beaten by eventual winner Elena Dementieva in the semi-finals of last year’s Sydney event.
This time the American will be up against Russian world number two, Dinara Safina, Svetlana Kuznetsova (3), Caroline Wozniacki (4), Dementieva (5), Victoria Azarenka (7), Jelena Jankovic (8), Vera Zvonareva (9) and Agnieszka Radwanska (10).
Safina, Jankovic and Henin are all former world number ones, while Williams, Kuznetsova and Henin are grand slam champions.
This year’s tournament will be given added spice by the retur n of seven-time grand slam champion Henin.
“The women’s draw is very impressive and it will be great to get some tough, competitive matches at the Sydney International before heading to Melbourne,” said Henin.
Frenchman Monfils played in the Brisbane International with his right shoulder heavily strapped, while two-time grand slam champion Hewitt suffered back spasms while playing in this week’s Hopman Cup in Perth.
Hewitt, a four-time champion of the Sydney International, has been troubled by injury over the past two years and his ranking has slipped to 22.
Also in the men’s draw will be 2006 Australian Open finalist Marcos Baghdatis, Feliciano Lopez, a member of the champion Spanish Davis Cup team, and Frenchman Richard Gasquet. The Sydney Inter national, formerly the NSW Open, is one of the oldest tennis events in the world and celebrates its 125th anniversary this year. – Sapa-AFP