Top names line up for Beijing title
Defending China Open champions Marcos Baghdatis, of Cyprus, and Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova face a struggle to retain their titles after the line-up for the tournament was revealed yesterday.
Baghdatis, ranked 18th in the world and still reeling from his first-round exit at the US Open last week, will have to contend with the likes of Russian Nikolay Davydenko (number four in the world), Fernando Gonzalez of Chile (seven) and Spaniard Tommy Robredo (eight) when the men's tournament gets under way in Beijing this weekend. Croatian duo Ivan Ljubicic and Mario Ancic will also be vying for victory in the US$500,000 event.
The women's competition, worth US$600,000, begins a week later. Kuznetsova, seeded second, will have to beat world number one Justine Henin if she wants to retain her title. Former world number one Martina Hingis, of Switzerland, Amelie Mauresmo, of France, and another Russian, Elena Dementieva, have also been confirmed for the tournament.
Baghdatis clinched the title last year - his first success on the ATP Tour - when he saw off Ancic in the final, while Kuznetsova edged out Mauresmo for the women's crown.
To the dismay of home supporters, however, two key mainland players - Zheng Jie and Li Na - will be missing. Both are suffering from serious injuries.
Zheng underwent surgery in July on a lingering knee problem and hasn't played since. But the on-off rib infection that had dogged Li turned out to be an even bigger source of concern.
'Li has to postpone her return to competition after a recurrence of the problem,' said Gao Shenyang, deputy director of the Chinese Tennis Association.
'With the Olympics in mind, we don't dare take any chances.'
Instead, the hosts will be banking on Yan Zi and Peng Shuai, who was a semi-finalist last year.