By Erwin Ong
CINCINNATI -- 2011 French Open Champion Li Na will begin her title defense at the Western & Southern Open against American wild card (and Ohio native) Lauren Davis. This tournament marks one year that Li has been working with coach Carlos Rodriguez, who had previously coached Justine Henin. She’s "been feeling pretty good" about the partnership.
Rafael Nadal, who overwhelmed Milos Raonic in the Rogers Cup final this past Sunday to earn a record 25th Masters 1000 title, will play qualifier Benjamin Becker in his opening round match. "I am ready to compete," the Spaniard told the press yesterday. " I am happy the way that I am playing."
Both Li and Nadal will play in the evening session.
If seedings hold, Nadal will face Roger Federer in the quarterfinals. "We played all of the important matches for our careers," said Nadal about Roger. "And combination of styles makes the match interesting. One player finding one thing, another one trying to find solutions to not let him."
Wednesday’s daytime action opens with 2013 Wimbledon Champion Andy Murray playing Russia’s Mikhail Youzhny on Center Court, and 2011 U.S. Open Champion Samantha Stosur against American Jamie Hampton on Grandstand. Other Grand Slam Champions are slated to compete, including Serena Williams (vs. Eugenie Bouchard), Novak Djokovic (vs. Juan Monaco), Venus Williams (vs. Elena Vesnina), Juan Martin del Potro (vs. Nikolay Davydenko), Petra Kvitova (vs. Marina Erakovic), and Marion Bartoli (vs. Simona Halep).
Along with the Williams sisters, Davis, and Hampton, other Americans on the schedule are James Blake, who showed excellent form in upsetting 16th seed Jerzy Janowicz in his first-round match; Varvara Lepchenko; and a trio playing doubles with their respective partners: Mardy Fish, Lisa Raymond, and Vania King.
In other doubles matches, the team of Martina Hingis and Daniela Hantuchova will take on the No. 1-ranked pair, Italians Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci. Hingis, a 9-time Grand Slam doubles champion, will face Errani and Vinci for the first time in her career. Hingis returned to the tour for a second time earlier this fall. After Cincinnati, she and Hantuchova plan to compete at the U.S. Open.