The second edition of the WTA 125K tournament Mumbai Open is set to have a more competitive field with four top 100 players and five former WTA titlists in the fray for season-ending tournament starting from October 27.
The L&T Mumbai Open, organised by the Maharashtra State Lawn Tennis Association at the Cricket Club of India courts, will be headlined by top seed Zheng Saisai of China, who is ranked 47th this week. The Top-50 player won the Kunming Open on May this year and has five finals to her name. World No 15 Aryna Sabalenka, who was crowned Newcomer of the Year by WTA, will not return to defend her title.
World no 195 Ankita Raina will lead the Indian challenge after getting a direct entry into the main draw by virtue of her improved ranking. A wild card last year, she was the only Indian to win a singles match and had reached the quarter-finals. India’s women’s singles No 1 singled the Mumbai Open 2017 as a turning point for her as she went on to play Grand Slam qualifiers and win an Asian Games medal this season.
The qualifiers would be held on October 27 and 28 while the main draw matches will commence on October 29. However, the start of the main tournament clashes with the India vs West Indies men’s One Day International match will be played at the CCI’s Brabourne Stadium as well.
MSLTA Secretary Sunder Iyer, who is also one of the Tournament Directors, said that the organisers have factored in the clash and spoken to the Women’s Tennis Association about a change in match schedule.
Monday’s matches will be reduced and played mostly in the morning session to avoid a clash with the cricket, which will begin in the afternoon. The bulk of the first round matches have been shifted to Tuesday and Wednesday as a result.
The main draw will have a field of 32 players, from 19 countries, from which 22 players get a direct entry, with four players emerging from the qualifying rounds and four players being awarded wild cards. The wildcards are yet to be announced but will most likely go to the best-ranked Indian players on tour. Karman Kaur Thandi and Pranjalla Yadlapalli, the other highest ranked Indians at 215 and 280 respectively, and Maharashtra’s No 1 Rutuja Bhosale will be in line for wild cards.
There are several prominent WTA circuit names in the main draw as well, the biggest being former Wimbledon runners-up Vera Zvonareva of Russia and Sabine Lisicki.
2017 runner up Dalila Jakupovic, who was unseeded last year, will be the second seed this year after rising to world No 76. The other top-100 players in the fray will be USA’s world no 95 Sachia Vickery and Serbia’s world No 99 Olga Danilovic.
Danilovic, 17, is seen as a rising star on the WTA circuit after her first WTA singles title in September this year, where she beat fellow 17-year-old Anastasia Potapova for the Moscow River Cup title. She is also a former French, US Open and Wimbledon junior doubles champion.
Iyer said she could go on to do what 2017 champion Aryna Sabalenka did this season, climbing up the charts with a breakthrough year.
The other notable names in the main draw are fifth seed Luksika Khumkhum of Thailand, who reached the third round and second round of the 2108 Australian Open and Wimbledon, Former Top 30 player, Russia’s Margarita Gasparyan, winner of the Tashkent Open WTA singles event, who is returning after a long layoff, Japan’s MisakiDoi, a former World No. 30 and Hibino Nao, winner of one WTA title and a former top 30 player
Russia’s Zvonareva is best known for reaching the finals of both Wimbledon and US Open in 2010. She has also won four Majors in women’s and mixed doubles and an Olympics bronze at the 2008 Beijing Games. After returning to the circuit last year after a maternity break, she was to play in the event in 2017 but had to withdarw due to injury.
The winner of the event will get US$ 20,000 and 160 WTA points, the finalist will get US$ 11,000 and 95 points, the semi-finalists will get US$ 6,000 and 57 points and the quarter-finalists US$ 4,000 and 29 points. Round of 16 entrants will get US$ 2,000 and 15 points, while the main draw entry into the event will fetch US$ 1,050 and 1 point.
“Being the last tournament of the year on the WTA calendar, the tournament will witness tough contests, with players vying for maximum WTA points, which will help them gain entry into the first Grand Slam of the year, the Australian Open,” Pallavi Darade, Secretary of the Organizing Committee said.
All the matches of the tournament will be streamed live on WTA Television and the WTA website. Entry for the tournament will be free of cost, with passes available on registration on the official website.