Monday at the inaugural Carlsbad Classic saw qualifying brought to an end and main draw play kicking off. Formerly hosting WTA tournaments from 2004 to 2013 during the US Open Series, the tournament has come back in 2015 as part of the WTA 125K Series. With the new November date the tournament is no longer a lead-up towards the US Open, but an opportunity for lower-ranked players and young hopefuls to improve their rankings. In Qualifying two Canadians advance, both looking for a resurgence after a difficult year, and main draw action saw three top seeds and young American players finding success.
Canadians Francoise Abanda and Sharon Fichman come through qualifying
In an abbreviated eight player qualifying draw, Francoise Abanda and Sharon Fichman were the two players advancing to the main draw. The two Canadian players have struggled in 2015 due to injuries and are sitting at a ranking now well below their career-highs and level of talent. The 18-year-old Abanda advanced with a 6-4, 6-4 win over veteran Vania King, and will now face wildcard Zoe Gwen Scandalis in round one tomorrow. With long limbs, easy power and smooth ground strokes, Abanda has long been seen as a potential future star, but various injuries have seen the youngster drop in the rankings this season. The other qualifying match proved a tougher affair as Fichman needed three sets to advance over Tori Kinard. Formerly a top 100 player and regular Grand Slam competitor, Fichman has dropped to 356 in the world missing most of the year due to an ankle injury she suffered in 2014. Both of these Canadian talents and their fans would welcome a positive ending to 2015 after a difficult year.
Seeds and young Americans move into second round
Three seeded players in action on day one advanced, albeit in much different circumstances. The highest seed in action was third seeded Serbian Bojana Jovanovski, who needed three sets to overcome wildcard Alexandra Stevenson 7-6(3), 3-6, 6-1. Jovanovski, ranked 79 in the world, has had a difficult year on tour but has shown improved form in recent months and enters Carlsbad as one of the tournament favorites. Her match against 1999 Wimbledon semifinalist Stevenson saw a servers battle in the first two sets with the only two breaks coming from the American in the second set. Despite the scoreline, the third set was tight with Stevenson missing game points on serve in several games, ultimately failing to achieve the upset. The fourth seeded Brit Naomi Broady, having the best season of her career, and fifth seeded American Nicole Gibbs also came through their matches. Both players are gunning for the top-100 and a main draw spot at the Australian Open, as they are ranked 120 and 121 respectively. Broady advanced in straight sets over Jovana Jaksic, whlie Gibbs advanced after her opponent Alla Kudrayvtseva was defaulted in the second set, a rare occurence at this level of the sport. In the lone upset of the day, tall and big-serving Amra Sadikovic of Switzerland knocked out eight seeded Swede Rebecca Peterson 6-4, 7-5.
Three young Americans were victorious in matches involving non-seeded players, all advancing in straight sets. Eighteen year-old Katerina Stewart, known more for her clay court abilities, was able to come back from a first set deficit to win 7-5, 6-3 over Paula Cristina Goncalves. Despite her age and rise in the rankings, Stewart has avoided the spotlight, but a successful hard court run this week in Carlsbad could have more people talking about the player with heavy topspin strokes. Also advancing into the second round is recent Australian Open wild card recipient Samantha Crawford, who is no doubt confident following her Scottsdale triumph. The third youngster advancing is 20-year-old Jennifer Brady who turned pro earlier this year after leaving UCLA. Brady needs a good run this week to secure a spot in the Australian Open qualifying draw, and the powerful hitter could go deep with the draw that is in front of her.
Top seed Yanina Wickmayer and former top junior CiCi Bellis highlight Tuesday's order of play
The remaining first round matches will take place tomorrow with Centre Court seeing world number 49 and top seed Yanina Wickmayer in action against Julia Boserup. The Belgian has regained some of the form this season, which saw her once in the top 20 and reaching the semifinal of the US Open after several quiet and unremarkable seasons. Quiet is also the word which describes the year 16-year-old CiCi Bellis has had following her breakout performances in 2014, which saw her win matches in the US Open and reach the junior #1 ranking. Bellis will need to upset Israeli Julia Glushko, the sixth seed if she wants to make a run and nab at an Australian Open qualifying birth. Along with Bellis, several other players are needing victories tomorrow if they hope to head down under in two months time; Kristie Ahn, Elitsa Kostova, Dalila Jakupovic and Gabriela Ce are under pressure to perform, adding intrigue to their matches.