Home top seed Vera Zvonareva and Poland’s Agnieszka Radwanska lead a strong women’s field in this week’s Kremlin Cup, the final WTA Premier event before the season-ending championships in Istanbul next week.
The world No. 8 Radwanska is in red-hot form after collecting titles in Beijing and Tokyo, and only needs to win her opening second-round match to cement the final qualifying place in Turkey.
Third-seeded Marion Bartoli, champion in Osaka last week, is the only woman who can deprive her of the place, but needs to win the tournament and hope Radwanksa falters.
Zvonareva, the world No. 5, has already qualified and can use the tournament to warm up for the Fed Cup final next month against the Czech Republic, which will be played on the same hard courts. The Russian is gunning for her third title of the year after wins in Doha and Baku.
Compatriot Svetlana Kuznetsova has the same goal; the two-time Grand Slam champion is seeded sixth.
Former Kremlin Cup champions Francesca Schiavone and Jelena Jankovic, seeded fourth and fifth, have also made the trip.
Prize money for this, the 18th Kremlin Cup, is set at $721,000.
The men’s ATP tour event is a lower-tier competition but still features world No. 13 Janko Tipsarevic and defending champion Viktor Troicki, the world No. 16, both of Serbia.
Tipsarevic has an outside shot at reaching the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals in London on November 20.
Fourth seed Nikolai Davydenko, who won the Kremlin Cup in 2004, 2006 and 2007, is the top Russian among a seven-strong contingent that also includes Dmitry Tursunov, the sixth seed, and Igor Kunitsyn at 11.
The Russians will be looking to continue domination of the event, founded in 1990, that has seen them take 14 of the 21 titles.