Photo: Hirotaka Fujii$50,000 Gifu 2013 trophy
This week has seen the first of three consecutive $50,000 tournaments in Japan get underway. These tournaments, taking place in Gifu, Fukuoka and Kurume, are being staged in consecutive weeks at this prize money level for the sixth year running.
The first of these trio of tournaments has seen the ever young Kimiko Date-Krumm return to make a defence of her 2012 title but unfortunately the hugely popular Japanese player’s ambitions to retain the title ended in the second round where she had to retire from her match whilst trailing 63 4-0 to Belgian qualifier An-Sophie Mestach.
Now at the semifinal stage, Japanese interest remains strong with Sachie Ishizu and Yurika Sema both through as local hopes remain high of seeing a home-grown champion for the third straight year. The two players are in opposite halves of the draw so an all-Japanese final is still a possibility.
2011 champion Sachie Ishizu will be first to take to the Centre Court on Saturday morning when she will face the last remaining seeded player, China’s Qiang Wang. Following the conclusion of this match Yurika Sema will be looking to go one better than her sister Erika, who reached the 2012 semifinals, and make it into her second final on the ITF Pro Circuit this year. Sema’s semifinal opponent will be Date-Krumm’s conqueror, Mestach, who, like Sema, is aiming for a second 2013 final appearance.
The doubles finals will also be contested on Saturday after the singles semifinals.
After Gifu, the action moves onto Fukuoka where a new singles champion is assured following the unfortunate withdrawal of the Australian 2012 champion Casey Dellacqua. Fellow Aussie Monique Adamczak heads the list of Australian entrants looking to succeed Dellacqua.
Completing this mini-series of $50,000 tournaments will be the event in Kurume. 2012 winner Saisai Zheng of China leads the list of those entered and will be looking to make a successful title defence when the event kicks-off in mid-May.
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Did you know…?
This is the sixth year running these three tournaments have formed a mini-series held over a three week period
Gifu has hosted an ITF Pro Circuit tournament offering $50,000 in prize money each year since 1997
In 2004, a 16-year old Ana Ivanovic triumphed in Gifu and Fukuoka as a qualifier
$50,000 tournaments have been held in Fukuoka since 2001
Junri Namigata was the last Japanese player to triumph in the singles final in Fukuoka, winning the title in 2010, and she’ll be looking to repeat that success in 2013
Kurume has been staging $50,000 tournaments since 2008, prior to that $25,000 tournaments took place between 2005 and 2007
The 2010 singles final in Kurume proved an all-family affair as twin sisters Kristyna and Karolina Pliskova battled it out for the title. Unseeded Kristyna came from behind to defeat her second seeded sister 57 62 60
2011 champion in Kurume, Rika Fujiwara, remains the only Japanese singles title winner since the tournament upgraded the prize money to $50,000