The slow rise of the fall continues this week. The men join the women at two small tournaments in Asia, while the WTA raises the stakes with a rich Premier 5, Tokyo’s Toray Pan Pacific Open, one the tour’s mainstay events. Here’s a look ahead at all three draws.
Toray Pan Pacific Open
$2,300,000; Premier 5
Draw is here
This is the 30th edition of the Toray Pan Pacific, and the fifth year since it became an outdoor event. Indoors or out, it has always drawn a crowd; $2.3 million in prize money tends to do that. Yet there are three notables missing in 2013: Serena Williams (fatigue; doesn’t need the money), Maria Sharapova (shoulder bursitis; doesn’t need the money), and Li Na (doesn’t need the money).
One notable who is playing is Victoria Azarenka; she'll make her post-U.S. Open debut against Venus Williams. They haven’t faced each other in three years, and Venus has a 2-0 career record over Vika. I’m guessing her perfect run will end tomorrow. But Azarenka has a tough section overall, with Jankovic, Stephens, Halep, and Petkovic in the vicinity. We’ll see if Vika can make it past them, as well as herself. Last year in Tokyo she withdrew before her quarterfinal match with what she described as “tiredness.”
Petra Kvitova: She won her opener over 16-year-old wild card Belinda Bencic of Switzerland.
Lucie Safarova: She upset No. 8 seed Roberta Vinci.
Flavia Pennetta: The U.S. Open semifinalist continued her winning ways by beating Daniela Hantuchova in the first round. She plays Caroline Wozniacki next.
Madison Keys: The American teen registered a nice win over Carla Suarez Navarro to start.
Eugenie Bouchard: She beat Monica Puig 0 and 4, and will face Sloane Stephens in an interesting cross-border duel of the ingenues.
Already out: Laura Robson, in straight sets, to Ayumi Morita
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
$875,500; 250 ranking points
Draw is here
Twelve months can seem like a long time in tennis. Last year in the Kuala Lumpur final, Juan Monaco beat Julien Benneteau. This time, the slumping and injured Monaco is not entered, while Benneteau comes here as the No. 5 seed, having struggled most of the season to get out of the second round.
The No. 1 seed in 2013 is the man who Benneteau upset in the semis last year, David Ferrer. No. 2 is Stan Wawrinka, who will make his first tour appearance since his great semifinal run at the U.S. Open. Can Stan put some consistency behind that result? He’ll start against the winner of Baghdatis and Berlocq.
Vasek Pospisil, who opens against Victor Hanescu.
Dmitry Tursunov, 30-year-old Russian on the re-rise.
Ryan Harrison, who plays Joao Sousa to start.
And the man who should be happiest to leave the summer behind, Nicolas Almagro. The Spaniard, who is down to No. 17 in the rankings, lost in the first round in Montreal, Cincy, and New York.
$567,530; 250 ranking points
Draw is here
The Thailand Open has traditionally coaxed at least one of the Big 4 to Bangkok, but this time Andy Murray pulled out to have back surgery. That means the top seeds in 2013 are No. 6 Tomas Berdych, followed by No. 9 Richard Gasquet, followed by No. 11 Milos Raonic. All three are players who have periodically looked ready to climb—or fly, in the case of the self-styled Birdman—higher in the past year. Gasquet, after his semifinal run at the U.S. Open, is the man of the moment. He’s also the defending champion in Bangkok.
Gilles Simon, winner last week in Metz and runner-up in Thailand last year.
Bernard Tomic, who has the pleasure of starting against Ivo Karlovic.
Roberto Bautista Agut, the man who last week was called a talentless “little princess” by Ernests Gulbis. The Spaniard could take those talents, or lack thereof, up against Berdych in the second round.
Three Lukas(z)s: Rosol, Kubot, and Lacko. Rosol and Kubot play each other in the first round.
And Thai wild card Wishaya Trongcharoenchaikul. As someone who has to type tennis-player names on a daily basis, I'm rooting against him.