The Korea Open signals the start of the “Asian Swing” – the final leg of the WTA Tour 2013 – and has been a popular stop for many years now. Since the inaugural event in 2004, Maria Sharapova, Venus Williams and Caroline Wozniacki have triumphed in Seoul; this year, the star performer is word number four Agnieszka Radwanska (Player Profile).
You can view the full draw HERE: WTA Korea Open Draw
The Pole is undoubtedly one of the busiest members of the top ten. After playing four hard court tournaments leading up to the US Open, she has taken just one week’s break before travelling to the Korea Open, an International event with a total prize money pot of $500,000. There is the distinct possibility that Radwanska may be getting more than that in appearance fees, but that won’t diminish her desire to scoop a 13th career title and first since January.
Radwanska will play Alexandra Cadantu in the opening round, and although she has never faced the Romanian before, she will likely be far too steady for the world number 71, who has spent much of the season in ITF events and the qualifying rounds of International tournaments. In round two, Radwanska will take on Mandy Minella or Estrella Cabeza Candela. Again, she hasn’t played either of those women before, but both are ranked outside the top 100 and have yet to make a big impact on the circuit. A quarter-final showdown between Radwanska and eighth seed Annika Beck could be more interesting. The 19-year-old German is one of the highest-ranked youngsters on tour and is viewed as a future top 20 player by many pundits.
Klara Zakopalova (Player Profile) is the fourth seed in Seoul and has a great chance to live up to her seeding. The veteran Czech had a good summer – she made the semi-finals in Palermo, Bastad and New Haven – and won’t face any intimidating players in the first two rounds at the Korea Open. She may be tested in the last eight, however, if she runs into 19-year-old Elina Svitolina. Svitolina is yet another hotly tipped young gun, and she proved her talent and potential by winning a maiden WTA title in Baku two months ago.
Lest we forget, Julia Goerges is still grinding away on the WTA Tour. The player who burst into the big league with a win over then world number one Caroline Wozniacki in Stuttgart in 2011 has shown flashes of brilliance since then, but generally failed to cement a place in the upper echelons of the sport, despite being blessed with an explosive game. The German is seeded sixth in Seoul, but she hasn’t won consecutive matches since April and it wouldn’t be shocking if she fell to 90th-ranked Misaki Doi in the opening round.
A player in slightly higher ranked but similar territory to Goerges is third seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (Player Profile). Tall and powerful, the Russian reached two Grand Slam quarter-finals in 2011 and climbed into the top 15, but she has been very inconsistent in 2013. Final appearances in Brisbane, Monterey and Oeiras have come alongside 10 first round losses, a disappointing record for a player who, on her day, can challenge the very best. That said, if Pavlyuchenkova can overcome the wily and experienced Anabel Medina Garrigues in round one, she has a great shot at making another semi-final.
The Korea Open draw is one of the most uneven in months, and the final section features more notable players than the other three quarters combined. Maria Kirilenko (Player Profile) is the second seed and will take on a qualifier in the opening round, after which she’ll play either Kimiko Date-Krumm or Heather Watson. Watson is under pressure to produce a good result in Asia. Glandular fever halted her ascent of the rankings during the spring and summer, and if she fails to defend the title she won in Osaka last year, she could plummet into triple figures. The 21-year-old certainly has enough game to dispatch Date-Krumm, but she will struggle to emulate her compatriot Laura Robson, who upset Kirilenko in the first round of Wimbledon.
Elsewhere, seventh seed Andrea Petkovic will take on former French Open champion Francesca Schiavone in the pick of the first round matches. Injuries and bad fortune have befallen Petkovic since she made her top ten debut at the end of 2011, but she is slowly getting her groove back and will fancy her chances against Schiavone, who still entertains but is much less assured on court these days. Should she get past the Italian and then overcome either Lourdes Dominguez Lino or Virginie Razzano in round two, Petkovic won’t fear a quarter-final encounter with Kirilenko, who she has beaten three times in three meetings.
Agnieszka Radwanska is a strong favourite on paper to win her first Korea Open, but her recent results have shown that, for all her talent, she is never entirely in control of a match. In losses to the likes of Dominika Cibulkova and Ekaterina Makarova this summer, the ultra-gifted Pole has been outhit from the baseline. No player in the Korea Open draw can match her for consistency or composure, yet if Kirilenko, Pavlyuchenkova or Petkovic hit top form, she will struggle to counter their superior power, especially if late-season fatigue becomes a factor.