The next WTA Premier event on the calendar is on Paris as the first indoor stop of the year rolls around after the Australian Open.
First held in 1993, the indoor hard court tournament has attracted some of the biggest names in women’s tennis over the last two decades. At the inaugural event, the legendary Martina Navratilova edged Monica Seles in a third set tie-break to win the 163rd singles trophy of her career, and her last ever title came the following year when she successfully defended her Paris crown.
Other notable past champions include Martina Hingis, Kim Clijsters, Venus and Serena Williams and Mary Pierce. Amelie Mauresmo, who is now co-director of the event, holds the record for most titles, winning in 2001, 2006 and 2009.
Despite Top 10 stars such as Maria Sharapova, Petra Kvitova and Sara Errani gracing the field, all eyes will be on Dominika Cibulkova who has made a tremendous breakthrough in reaching her first Grand Slam final at the Australian Open. She claimed plenty of scalps on her journey (including Sharapova) and she will surely be seen as a real contender now.
Defending champion Mona Barthel also returns and she too had a reputation of claiming a Top 10 scalp in her day, as she also took out Marion Bartoli last year on her way to the title, as well as Errani in the final.
There is something of a legend behind this tournament with 16 former winners have all gone on to be ranked Top 7 or higher in their careers making it a real springboard for the future.
Sadly there is no Ana Ivanovic whose hip strain sustained at the Australian Open has ruled her out of the field, and Lucie Safarova (with a right shoulder injury). A disappointed Ivanovic said:
“I am really disappointed that I have to pull out of the Open GDF Suez in Paris. This has been my best start to a season for a long time. My confidence is high and I was excited to go there and try to challenge for the title.
“Unfortunately I’ve had some issues with both my hips this past month and I strained my left hip during the Australian Open. I’m going to have to rest for a short time, in order to get healthy again.”
Sharapova will look to continue her tour comeback having taken time out from the tour to recover from her shoulder injury. She had looked in great form over the start of the Australian Open before being knocked out I the fourth round to Dominika Cubulkova who will now go on to contest for her maiden Slam at the Australian Open.
Petra Kvitova will also be keen to put aside her shock second round exit from 2013 with Sara Errani continuing to try and find some confidence in her singles after a troubling time since hitting the Top 10.
The Open GDF Suez Paris runs from 27 January to 2 February 2014.