WTA Bad Gastien Preview: No 31 Schiavone Top Seeded

Posted on July 23, 2007

BAD GASTEIN, Austria -- After three months of intense competition, the European clay-court season finally draws to an end and four of the world's Top 50 players will head to the Austrian Alps this week to do battle for the inaugural Gastein Ladies. Francesca Schiavone is the leading seed at the $175,000, Tier III event and she will view it as the perfect opportunity to capture her maiden Sony Ericsson WTA Tour title.

Schiavone, the world No.31, has struggled for form this season and after reaching just one quarterfinal in 2007 she will be looking to get her season back on track in Bad Gastein. Last year Schiavone achieved runner-up finishes in three tournaments, in addition to helping Italy win its first Fed Cup, but this year has seen her win just 11 matches on Tour. The 27-year-old faces a qualifier in the opening round and she will hope to reproduce the form which saw her win three rubbers - including a victory over former world No.1 Amelie Mauresmo -- during Italy's Fed Cup semifinal triumph over France last weekend.

The No.2 seed in Austria this week, Emilie Loit, has been one of 2007's most consistent performers on clay -- capturing her third career title in Acapulco as well as quarterfinal appearances at four other Tour stop-offs -- and she will be eager to continue this form when she takes on home favorite Yvonne Meusburger in the first round. The 28-year-old Frenchwoman currently sits at No.37 in the rankings and with her clay-court pedigree she is certainly among the favorites to lift the title on Sunday.

Another player who will be in the running for the title is Schiavone's compatriot, Roberta Vinci. The world No.44 has already captured one clay court title this year in Bogota and will be eager to add to the tally in Austria. However, since her triumph in Colombia the 24-year-old has struggled for consistency, winning just three matches on Tour and will be desperate to add to this number when she kicks off her challenge against Germany's Anna-Lena Groenefeld.

Hungarian prodigy, Agnes Szavay, has been one of the surprise packages of the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour this year, compiling an enviable 36-10 win-loss record and soaring more than 150 places up the rankings. The 18-year-old first came to prominence at the start of the European clay-court season when she reached the semifinals of her hometown event in Budapest and she has been improving ever since, culminating in her maiden title in Palermo on Sunday. Szavay is seeded No.6 in Bad Gastein and will open up her campaign against Austrian wildcard entrant Tina Schiechtl.

The remaining seeds this week are comprised of Estonia's Kaia Kanepi (No.4), gifted Frenchwoman Aravane Rezai (No.5), ever-improving Italian Karin Knapp (No.7) and experienced Spaniard Lourdes Dom�uez Lino (No.8). There are also several dangerous unseeded players lurking in the draw, including three-time clay court tournament winner Flavia Pennetta and former Top 30 star Virginia Ruano Pascual.

The doubles competition at the Gastein Ladies this week also promises to be highly competitive and the Austrian crowds are sure to be treated to some thrilling matches. Top seeds Szavay and Vladimira Uhlirova have already triumphed once this year, taking home the doubles crown in Budapest, but they face a tricky opening-round encounter against Polish duo Marta Domachowska and Alicja Rosolska. The other seeds in the draw are Dom�uez Lino and Pennetta (No.2), Lucie Hradecka and Renata Voracova (No.3) and Iveta Benesova and Jelena Kostanic Tosic (No.4).
-- Courtesy WTA Tour