By Joshua Rey, special to USTA.com
MIDLAND, Mich. – The “Best Tennis Town” in America will welcome its best tournament field ever when main-draw matches begin Tuesday at the 22nd Dow Corning Tennis Classic. Tennis-mad Midland was named the country’s most passionate tennis community at the 2009 US Open and has since been awarded the only $100,000 tournament on the women's USTA Pro Circuit.
Pros from 16 countries will compete in the 32-woman singles draw, vying for the champion’s prize of $15,200 and 140 ranking points on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour. Among this week’s participants are nine former top-50 players and eight women who represented their nations last week in Fed Cup competition.
Two-time singles champion Laura Granville, No. 2 seed Vania King, 17-year-old wild card Heather Watson and former world No. 7 Nicole Vaidisova ushered in the event by meeting with media and fans Monday at the Great Hall Banquet Center.
Granville’s return to Midland is two years in the making after the 28-year-old American experienced the highs and lows of tennis here in 2008 – both in the same match. Playing Ashley Harkleroad in the singles final, Granville injured her left wrist before winning the title, 6-1, 6-1. She went on to miss the next 13 months on tour, including a chance to defend her Dow Corning title.
The Chicago-native is happy to continue her comeback in the Midwest.
“It’s one of my favorite tournaments of the year,” said Granville, who is 21-5 lifetime in Midland. “I’ve stayed with the same family every year, so it’s great coming back. I just love that everyone involved in the tournament and the volunteers are so supportive. I feel like the town comes out and enjoys the tennis. I’m glad that it’s a $100,000 [event] this year because this tournament deserves it.”
First-round play begins Tuesday with four doubles and five singles matches, highlighted by 2009 runner-up Eleni Daniilidou taking on No. 7 seed Monica Niculescu at 7 p.m. on Stadium Court. Following that match, Americans Christina Fusano and Courtney Nagle will team up against the unique pairing of Granville and Lucie Hradecka of the Czech Republic.
Seeded first in doubles, Granville and Hradecka have won the last two Midland singles championships. Hradecka arrives in Midland after making an impressive Fed Cup debut Sunday, leading the Czechs into the semifinals by defeating Germany in both singles and doubles.
Admission to the Dow Corning Tennis Classic is free until the 7 p.m. feature session. General admission tickets to see Daniilidou vs. Niculescu and Granville/Hradecka vs. Fusano/Nagle cost $12 for adults and $8 for children.