CARSON, CA – Unseeded Maria Sharapova will open against Slovakia’s Jarmila Groth in a first-round match as the draw for the $700,000 2009 LA Women’s Tennis Championships presented by Herbalife was unveiled Saturday night at UCLA, site of the ATP Tour’s LA Tennis Open. World No. 1 and defending champion Diana Safina will face the winner of the Sabine Lisicki-Daniela Hantuchova match. Lisicki made it all the way to the quarterfinals at last month’s Wimbledon, where she lost to Safina in the three sets, and Hantuchova was a runner-up at the LA Women’s Championships in 2005.
The top eight seeded players received byes into the 56-player draw. Sharapova is coming off a 6-2, 6-2 defeat to Venus Williams at the Stanford Bank of the West Classic in the quarterfinals on Friday. Sharapova and Slovakia’s Groth, who currently resides in Australia, have never played.
In other first-round, main-draw matches announced on Saturday, Long Beach resident and wild card Vania King will play Sybille Bammer of Austria, with the winner set to face No. 6 seeded Ana Ivanovic, the winner of the 2007 LA Women’s Tennis Championships. Wild card CoCo Vandeweghe, from Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., will play Tathiana Garbin of Italy in the first round. Vandeweghe won the 2008 U.S. Open Junior singles championship. She is the niece of former UCLA and NBA standout Kiki Vandeweghe and grand daughter of Ernie Vandeweghe, who played for the New York Knicks in the 1950s.
Meanwhile, the top four seeds in Saturday’s first round of qualifying for the LA Women’s Tennis Championships – top-seeded Jill Craybas, 17-year-old Melanie Oudin, No. 3 seed Varvara Lepchenko and Newport Beach, Calif. native and No. 4 seed Alexa Glatch – recorded straight-set victories at the Home Depot Center.
Craybas downed 16-year-old Manhattan Beach resident Nicole Gibbs, 6-1, 6-0, and moves on to face fellow American Shenay Perry on Sunday with one of eight main draw qualifying spots on the line Sunday. Second-seeded Oudin, the Georgian teenager who reached the round of 16 at Wimbledon as a qualifier last month, dispatched Russia’s Alina Jidkova, 6-4, 6-1.
Lepchenko narrowly defeated fellow American Abigail Spears, 7-5, 7-6 (7-5), and Glatch overpowered Japan’s Ryoko Fuda, 6-2, 6-4, to set up a final-round qualifying matchup with Michaella Krajicek, the sister of 1996 Wimbledon champion Richard Krajicek, who edged Manhattan Beach’s Alexandra Stevenson, 7-5, 6-4.
Orange, Calif. native and wild card Lindsey Nelson recorded the upset of Saturday’s qualifying as the two-time NCAA Division I singles runner-up from USC rallied to knock off fifth-seeded Elena Baltacha, 4-6, 6-4, 7-5. American junior Sloane Stephens, 16, handily beat No. 10 Lenka Wienerova, 6-1, 6-2.
Japan’s Kimiko Date Krumm, turning 39 in September and ranked No. 4 in the world in 1995 before retiring from the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour for 11 years, continued her competitive comeback with a 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 win over American wild card Alison Riske.