Watch List: Azarenka's knee and Hingis' return highlight the week
The Watch List spotlights the must-know storylines for the upcoming week in tennis. This week, Martina Hingis begins her doubles comeback, while Juan Martin del Potro, Victoria Azarenka and Sloane Stephens headline the draws as the U.S. Open Series continues in Washington, D.C., and Carlsbad, Calif.
Southern California Open
Azarenka's health and Hingis' comeback are the two big stories heading into the the WTA Premier-level tournament in Carlsbad. Azarenka withdrew from Wimbledon after taking a nasty fall in her first-round match and injuring her right knee. She's the top seed this week in a strong draw that features three top-10 players, including Stanford runner-up Agnieszka Radwanska and Petra Kvitova. Azarenka, who has a first-round bye, will open against either Flavia Pennetta or Francesca Schiavone. Other key names in the draw are defending champion Dominika Cibulkova, who won Stanford last week for her first title of the year, Sam Stosur, Jelena Jankovic and Laura Robson.
As for Hingis, it's been almost six years since she played a competitive doubles match. She will end that drought this week when she teams with Daniela Hantuchova, who happens to have been her partner during her final doubles match, at the 2007 U.S. Open. Now 32, the recent Hall of Fame inductee has also accepted a doubles wild card for the Rogers Cup in Toronto and the New Haven Open, and it's likely she'll give it a go at the U.S. Open as well.
The question weighing on everyone's mind is whether this brief foray into doubles is a prelude for a return to the singles tour down the road. Hingis insists that she isn't thinking about singles, but you never know with her fickle personality. Regardless of whether this turns into a full-blown comeback, it will be very interesting to see her handle the pace and power of today's game, even in a doubles match.
The joint ATP/WTA event features a strong draw, thanks to Juan Martin del Potro's decision to take a wild card after losing in the semifinals of Wimbledon. Del Potro, Kei Nishikori, Tommy Haas and Milos Raonic are the top four seeds of the event, which includes John Isner, Mardy Fish, Lleyton Hewitt, Bernard Tomic and Grigor Dimitrov. The highlight of the first round features two players who are coming off a semifinal run in Atlanta, Ryan Harrison and Hewitt. The winner will face Del Potro in the second round.
On the women's side, Sloane Stephens plays for the first time since making the quarterfinals of Wimbledon. She's the second seed, behind No. 9 Angelique Kerber. Madison Keys, who is looking to rebound from a disappointing performance in Stanford, has been drawn into Kerber's half, along with Ekaterina Makarova, Genie Bouchard and 17-year-old Taylor Townsend, who received a wild card. If Townsend can get past Monica Niculescu in the first round, she could face Keys, who opens against Maria Sharapova's Wimbledon vanquisher, Michelle Larcher de Brito.
Some potentially dangerous names lurk in Stephens' half of the draw. Sorana Cirstea and Alize Cornet have shown some spotty but strong form as of late, while Andrea Petkovic, who took a wild card, will look to find her game on hard courts. Despite her strong results at the Slams, Stephens has yet to make a WTA final in her career.