WTA All-Clay After Wimbledon, 2 of Top 20 at Budapest

Posted on July 7, 2008

BUDAPEST, Hungary -- Two of the world's newest Top 20 players headline the field in Budapest this week as the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour transitions back to red clay for the Gaz de France Grand Prix, a $175,000, Tier III event in the Hungarian capital.

Hungary's own Agnes Szavay, who cracked the Top 20 last fall, is the No.1 seed. Szavay had a difficult start to the 2008 season, going 5-8 (notching four of those wins at Paris [Indoors]), but she began hitting her stride in April, going 14-6 since hitting the clay courts of Amelia Island and just last week making it to the fourth round of Wimbledon. Last year at this event she made it all the way to the semifinals as a No.158-ranked wildcard, and this year hopes to go one or two steps further as the tournament favorite.

France's Alize Cornet, who broke into the Top 20 just before Roland Garros after a sensational clay court season, is the No.2 seed. Cornet reached semifinals at Amelia Island and Charleston and then her first Tier I final at Rome. The series of breakout results came to an end at Roland Garros, where she fell in the third round; and now, after falling early in both of her grass court ventures, she hopes to make another run deep into a draw, and on clay, arguably her best surface.

Two players who also had strong clay court seasons, Tsvetana Pironkova and Iveta Benesova, are the No.3 and No.4 seeds. Pironkova, who beat Ana Ivanovic en route to her first Tier I quarterfinal at Rome, is on Szavay's half of the draw; Benesova, who reached her first Tour final since 2006 at Estoril, is on Cornet's.

Rounding out the eight seeds are Lucie Safarova, Pauline Parmentier, Klara Zakopalova and Sorana Cirstea, who reached her first Tour final here last year. Notable unseeded players are former Top 20 stars Karolina Sprem and Anna-Lena Groenefeld, both very dangerous on clay.

This is the 14th year that Budapest has been a stop on the Tour. It was first held in 1993 as a Tier III event, then spent 11 years from 1996 through 2006 as either a Tier IV or V. In 2007 it returned to a Tier III and retains that status this year.
-- Courtesy Sony Ericsson WTA Tour