2019 Open BLS De Limoges preview: Can Alexandrova make it three out of four?
WHILE most of the WTA Tour is enjoying a break before the 2020 season, a number of keen players are descending on France for the final official tournament of the year. The Open BLS De Limoges takes place on hard court in the west-central city of Limoges. Whilst the tournament is only a 125K event – it still attracts a number of top 100 players keen to add in an extra hit before the season begins. It is unsurprisingly popular for French players who are already preparing for Christmas and New Year celebrations in their home nation.
World number 42, Ekaterina Alexandrova has had a fairly strong hold on the title, having won in both 2016 and 2018. She is the only dual winner with the Open BLS De Limoges first held in 2014. A 25-year old Russian, Alexandrova’s only singles titles were those two successes. In 2009, Alexandrova reached three semi-finals throughout the year, but only made the third round once in a Grand Slam – Roland Garros.
Caroline Garcia will be buoyed by her recent success at the Fed Cup, and whilst she was blown away by Ash Barty in the singles, helped win the deciding tie in the doubles for a French success. Currently ranked 46th in the world, Garcia won on grass at Nottingham this year, and finished runners-up at Strasbourg. The 26-year old Frenchwoman showed she can win at Limoges, taking out the title in 2015.
The likely third seed at the tournament is Chinese 48th ranked, Yafan Wang. While Wang has not had a lot of success in her career, she reached a career high of 47th overall in October and claimed her maiden WTA Tour title in Acapulco this year. In that tournament, she knocked off top 35 players, Donna Vekic and Sofia Kenin – the latter whom she lost to the very next week at Indian Wells. Her most recent tournament was an ITF 100 in China where she reached the semi-finals.
In career best form, United States’ Jennifer Brady will compete at Limoges as she hopes to build on what she was able to do in 2019. Sporting a 38-24 win-loss record in 2019, she is yet to win a WTA Tour title, but made the final of the 125/Indian Wells. Coming into the year, Brady was ranked 116th, so has increased her ranking by 50 spots, and in a strange quirk has played Garcia four times this year – winning three of them which would give her confidence here. While she has lost her past two matches, her last win came against 15th ranked Madison Keys in Bejing back in October.
Anna Blinkova is a young up-and-coming Russian who at 21-years-old has a promising career ahead of her. She might not have the plaudits that others in her age bracket have because she still has areas such as her serve consistency to work on, but she rose from 98th to 59th this year, and in her final tournament of the year at Luxembourg, smashed future wonderkid Coco Gauff, 6-4 6-0 on her way to a semi-final. She also took then world number one and reigning title holder, Naomi Osaka to three sets at the US Open, with her greatest run coming at Roland Garros where she made the Round of 32 before going down to Keys in three tight sets. She too knocked off Garcia there, and has every right to be considered one of the potential challengers for the Limoges title.