Palo Alto Weekly

Sports - July 6, 2012

Plenty going on at Bank of West before Serena Williams takes court

Qualifying begins Saturday; main draw ceremony at Stanford Shopping Center

by Rick Eymer

Even before Serena Williams takes the court at Stanford's Taube Family Tennis Center next week, there will be a lot of interesting tennis being played at the Bank of the West Classic.

The tournament's main draw begins Monday with first-round matches divided between the 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. sessions. The qualifying tournament will be interesting and it's open, free of charge, to the public beginning Saturday at 11 a.m.

Stanford junior Nicole Gibbs, who won both the NCAA singles and doubles titles in the spring,was given a wild card into the main draw. Her doubles partner, Cardinal senior Mallory Burdette, is entered in the qualifying tournament along with Kirstie Ahn, who is recovering from injury and  missed most of Stanford's season.

Incoming Stanford freshman Krista Hardebeck is also in the qualifying draw. Hardebeck, who will turn 18 in September, has a WTA ranking of 361 and was in Denver this week playing in the $50,000 Colorado Classic. She took a 17-7 record this year into her July 4 match against Venezuela's Gabriela Paz, but dropped her opener, 6-3, 5-7, 7-6 (10-8).

Gibbs is also playing in Denver and posted a 7-6 (7-4), 6-0 victory over Canada's Sarah Fichman, the tournament's No. 5 seed, in her first-round match. Gibbs won three matches, including a victory over former Bank of the West participant Alexandra Stevenson, during qualifying to reach the main draw.

Gibbs, who is expected to play doubles with Burdette at the Bank of the West, is playing with Florida's Lauren Embree in doubles competition in Denver.

Gibbs beat Burdette in three sets to win the national singles title. Embree reached the Round of 16 before falling to the No. 2 seed.

The qualifying tournament, with a field of 16, will be held in the stadium. Matches continue Sunday at 11 a.m.

The official draw ceremony will be held at the Center Pavilion at the Stanford Shopping Center on Saturday at 1 p.m. The ceremony, which is free to the public, also will feature an appearance and autograph signing by a top-ranked WTA player.

The main draw features first-round sessions at 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. Monday and Tuesday. The second round gets underway Wednesday at 11 a.m. and 8 p.m., with an exhibition match featuring Pete Sampras and Michael Chang, who is married to Stanford grad Amber Liu.

Thursday's second-round matches are also at 11 a.m. and 8 p.m., with Sampras and Jim Courier playing an exhibition at 7 p.m.

Quarterfinals on July 13 are at noon and 7 p.m., with the evening session featuring Courier and Chang.

Semifinal matches on July 14 are Saturday at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m., with the finals slated for 1 p.m. Sunday, July 15.

Williams, the Bank of the West defending champion, reached the finals at Wimbledon on Thursday with a 6-3, 7-6 (8-6) victory over No. 2 seed Victoria Azarenka. Williams will face No. 3 seed Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland in the championship match Saturday. Williams will be seeking her fifth Wimbledon title.

Other Bank of the West entrants winning this week at Wimbledon included Sabine Lisicki, Angelique Kerber and Tamira Paszek. Kerber advanced into the semifinals before falling to Radwanka on Thursday.

In addition, the Bank of the West Classic will be one of the final appearances for 16 players heading to the Olympics, including Kerber, Lisicki, Williams, fellow Americans Christina McHale and Varvara Lepchenko, world No. 16 Dominika Cibulkova from the Slovak Republic, former world No. 1 Jelena Jankovic from Serbia, Russia's Nadia Petrova, Romanians Monica Niculescu, Simona Halep and Sorana Cirstea, Marina Erakovic from New Zealand, Croatia's Petra Martic, China's Peng Shuai, and Belgian Yanina Wickmayer.

Tickets can be purchased by calling the box office at 866-WTA-TIXS (866-982-8497) or by logging on to www.BankoftheWestClassic.com. Individual session tickets to the tournament's opening round start at $26.

The Bank of the West Classic, a premier WTA event, is now in its 42nd year and features a 28-player singles draw as well as a 16-team doubles draw. The event is owned and operated by IMG and serves as the opening women's event of the Emirates Airline US Open Series.

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