Monday, February 11, 2008

Gisela Dulko - Cachantun Cup - Tour Stars Look For Championship Run in Chile

Gisela Dulko After winning her first title in 2007
Tour Stars Look For Championship Run in Chile

Although Roland Garros is still more than three months away, the 2008 clay court season starts in earnest this week at the inaugural Cachantun Cup. Several of the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour's finest exponents of clay court tennis, including Flavia Pennetta and Gisela Dulko, have assembled on the Pacific coast in what promises to be an intriguing seven days of tennis at the $200,000, Tier III event.

The top seed in Chile is Italy's Pennetta who, with three career clay court titles already to her name, certainly has the pedigree to go all the way this week. After missing much of 2006 with a left wrist injury, the former Top 20 star struggled for consistency during the first half of last season, but a promising Asian swing - highlighted by a title run in Bangkok - signaled a welcome return to form. Pennetta has enjoyed a solid, if unspectacular, start to the new campaign and she will hope to add further momentum to it when she kicks off her title challenge against Hungary's Greta Arn.

Gisela Dulko, the No.2 seed in Viña del Mar, is another player who knows what it takes to triumph on a clay court. The 22-year-old Argentine won her first career Tour title on the Hungarian clay of Budapest last April and despite a poor start to the year - losing in the first round of Hobart and the Australian Open - she will be confident of getting her season back on track at the Centro de Tenis Las Salinas. Dulko gets her tournament underway with a potentially tricky clash against Chilean wildcard entrant Camila Silva in Day 1's final match on Court Central.

Another player who will certainly be in the running for the title is France's Emilie Loit. The world No.49 has already captured three clay court titles in her career - including last year's Acapulco crown - and will be eager to add to the tally in Chile. Like Dulko, Loit is yet to win a match since the turn of the year and she will be desperate to alter this statistic when she opens up her campaign against Petra Cetkovska on Monday afternoon.

The remaining seeds at the Cachantun Cup are comprised of the ever-improving Frenchwoman Pauline Parmentier (No.4), Germany's Martina Müller (No.5), the talented young Italian Sara Errani (No.6), Estonia's Kaia Kanepi (No.7) and the Czech Republic's Klara Zakopalova (No.8). The winner of this year's title will not only have the honor of becoming the first ever Viña del Mar champion, but they will also take home a cheque for $30,500; the runner-up receives $16,400.

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