Tokyo: The world number-three Agnieszka Radwanska prepared to start her campaign to defend the Pan Pacific Open Sunday, as 19 of the top 20 players gathered in Tokyo for the $2.17 million tournament.
Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova, the world number one and two, also proclaimed their resolve to lift the trophy after the final, slated for Saturday.
Third-seed Radwanska, whose first match will feature former world number-one Jelena Jankovic, said her victory in Tokyo last year served as a springboard to make 2012 her best season, having reached the final at Wimbledon.
"For sure, I have great memories from here. It started here (and) I won a couple of big titles," said Radwanska. "I think I (have been) hitting good on court since I won here."
Sharapova, winner here in 2009 and 2005, promised strong performance to continue her "tremendous" successes in the current season, including achieving a career Grand Slam by winning the French Open, as well as receiving the silver medal at the London Olympics.
"I am really proud of what I have achieved. But yet, the year keeps going, and we are here again," Sharapova said. "The goal is to try to play your best and win this tournament."
The only player missing in the field among the top 20 women is Serena Williams, whose electrifying performance this season has mesmerized fans and left rivals in awe.
In this year alone, the 30-year-old American won Wimbledon by beating Radwanska in the final. She beat Sharapova to collect the gold medal at the Olympics. Williams also overwhelmed Azarenka to take the US Open.
Strong performance among top players this year has made the women's tennis more fun for fans and players alike, Azarenka said.
"Obviously she (Williams) is different because I have not beat her yet, but I have beat everybody else before," said Azarenka, who was left in tears after the loss in New York, despite her firm grip on the world number-one ranking.
"As far as this year, a lot of top players have been pretty consistent," Azarenka added.
"I feel like it's really, really competitive right now, which makes it more interesting not only for the crowd but also for players as well to be more motivated... and to improve and to be always looking forward to getting better," she said.
Among major actions on court Sunday, 12th-seed Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia beat Anabel Medina Garrigues of Spain 6-3, 7-6(7/3).
Roberta Vinci, Italian 14th seed, managed a 6-4, 4-6, 7-5 win against Barbora Zahlavova Strycova of the Czech Republic.
Story first published on: Sunday, 23 September 2012 17:26 IST