The US hardcourt swing kicks off at the Bank of the West Classic in Stanford with the first WTA Premier tournament after the grass season.
Formally held in Oakland, the tournament found a new home on the campus of the world-famous Stanford University in 1997 and the cozy Taube Tennis Center now hosts one of the tour’s most traditional events.
Unfortunately, 2014 champion Serena Williams won’t be able to defend her title this year due to an elbow injury, but there will still be plenty of the WTA’s big names on hand in California this week.
The two top seeds have taken wildcards into the event, as both Caroline Wozniacki & Agnieszka Radwanska made a last-minute decision to come to Stanford. They are joined by well-known players such as American Madison Keys, Karolina Pliskova and Carla Suarez Navarro.
California seems to be particularly popular with German players as well, since Sabine Lisicki, Angelique Kerber, Andrea Petkovic & Mona Barthel have all entered the event, trying to become the first-ever German Stanford champion.
Saturday saw the first day of qualifying action as 16 players started their quest to make the tournament’s main draw, among them no less than eight American players.
Qualifying wildcards allowed two of Stanford’s own players to gain some WTA-level experience, unfortunately neither of the two local favorites was able to advance. While Taylor Davidson got at least two games off fellow American Nicole Gibbs, Caroline Doyle was sent off 0-6 0-6 by Kateryna Bondarenko in just 37 minutes.
Stanford also saw the return of Kimiko Date-Krumm into WTA action. After playing a bunch of ITF tournaments, the Japanese veteran is back on the big stages again, continuing one of the most remarkable stories in the history of women’s tennis.
Forty-four years of age, Date-Krumm faced fellow Japanese Naomi Osaka on Saturday, once again proving that age is just a state of mind. Despite being 27 years older than her 17-year old opponent, Date-Krumm was able to outlast Osaka in a 2h 18 min three-setter played in the California sun.
While the qualifying matches were going on, plenty of main draw players started their preparation for a successful week in Stanford, including Andrea Petkovic, Ajla Tomljanovic, Agnieszka Radwanska & Karolina Pliskova, who were all out on the courts on Saturday.
The qualifying finals will be played tomorrow before the tournament’s main draw gets underway on Monday. Keep checking back to Women’s Tennis Blog. for all the latest action from the Bank of the West Classic all week!