2016 Tournament Preview: Bank of the West Classic

February 1, 2016 08:00 AM

Where: Stanford University, Stanford, CA

When: July 18-24, 2016

Defending Champions: Angelique Kerber (singles); Zheng Saisai and Xu Yi-Fan (doubles)

Tournament Website: BankoftheWestClassic.com

History: Set in the heart of Silicon Valley with the Stanford University campus as its backdrop, the Bank of the West Classic is the longest-running women’s-only professional tennis tournament in the world. The first stop of the 2016 Emirates Airline US Open Series, the event was first held in 1971 and today it features a 28-player singles draw and a 16-team doubles draw with a total prize pot of $731,000. Former champions include Martina Navratilova, who holds the record with five singles titles, inaugural champion Billie Jean King, four-time titlist Kim Clijsters and three-time winner Chris Evert.

The Williams sisters have combined to win the singles title five times – Venus in 2000 and 2002 and Serena in 2011, 2012 and 2014. Lindsay Davenport (three), Martina Hingis, Monica Seles, Zina Garrison, and Andrea Jaeger (twice each) have all won the event multiple times. The 46th annual competition marks the 25th year Bank of the West has held the title sponsorship of the event.

2015 Recap: The world No. 13 and fifth-ranked Angelique Kerber dropped just one set en route to the final, defeating Russia’s Daria Gavrilova and Croatian teen Ana Konjuh in the opening two rounds before rallying from a set down to edge No. 2 seed Agnieszka Radwanska in the quarterfinals. Kerber toppled eighth-seeded Elina Svitolina of the Ukraine in the semifinals, and she capped her week with a 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 victory over No. 4 seed and eventual 2015 Series champion Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic in the final.

With her victory, Kerber became the ninth different player, and the third in as many years, to win the Bank of the West Classic since it became part of the Emirates Airline US Open Series in 2004. The triumph was her first at a Series event, her fourth singles title of 2015 and the seventh of her career. In lifting the trophy, Kerber, the first left-handed Stanford winner since Martina Navratilova in 1993, became the first German woman, and the first German player since Tommy Haas (Los Angeles 2006), to win a Series tournament.

In the doubles event, Chinese duo of Zheng Saisai and Xu Yi-Fan won their second title of 2015. After being pushed the distance in each of their first two matches, Zheng and Xu defeated Kateryna Bondarenko and Tatjana Maria in the semifinals before beating No. 2 seeds Anabel Medina Garrigues and Arantxa Parra Santonja of Spain, 6-1, 6-3, in the final. No doubles team has repeated as champion since 1987.

2016 Preview: The Bank of the West Classic is the first of four North American hard-court tournaments preceding the US Open, and many of the game’s top players use the event as a good gauge of form coming into New York (and, in 2016, for the Summer Olympic Games in Brazil).

Last year, Top 10 players Caroline Wozniacki, Agnieszka Radwanska and Carla Suarez Navarro all played Stanford, with all eight seeds coming from the Top 20-ranked players in the world. For players looking to earn double points by competing in at least three of the four Series events, Stanford becomes a critical piece of the puzzle with the Rogers Cup and Western & Southern Open attracting a greater number of the highest-ranked players searching for points.

Editor's Note (July 15): For the full 2016 Stanford field, including Venus Williams and CoCo Vandeweghe, click here.

Fun Fact: Angelique Kerber is the seventh different woman to win the Bank of the West Classic a year after losing in the final. She joins Marion Bartoli (2009), Kim Clijsters (2003), Venus Williams (2000),Martina  Navratilova (1991 and 1993), Monica Seles (1992) and Chris Evert (1975 and 1986) as players who have gone from runner-up to Stanford champion 12 months later.

- Ashley Marshall