Even after the anticipated withdrawal of world No. 2 Serena Williams (No. 2, doesn’t that sound weird?), the unfortunately-titled Dongfeng Motor Wuhan Open beginning next week will feature eight of the WTA Top 10, and 16 of the Top 18.
Serena’s announcement that she will skip all tournaments until the year-end WTA Finals almost mathematically cements No. 1 Angie Kerber’s status as the year-end No. 1. But that’s not saying she’ll have it easy, or take it easy, in Wuhan.
The Top 8 seeds receive opening-round byes in Wuhan, so Kerber will start against either American CoCo Vandeweghe or France’s Kristina Mladenovic. From there her difficult path will likely see No. 14 and Slam winner Petra Kvitova, then No. 7 Carla Suarez Navarro or No. 11 Johanna Konta, then likely No. 4 Simona Halep or No. 8 Madison Keys in the semifinals. In the final awaits defending champ Venus Williams, No. 2 seed Garbine Muguruza, or US Open runner-up Karolina Pliskova.
Piece of cake.
Tough starts for players in the top half are (11) Konta vs. German riser Annika Beck, the kinda-shaky (4) Halep vs. Irina-Camelia Begu who has had a breakout year, and (13) Roberta Vinci vs. hot-handed Rio Olympics winner Monica Puig.
Top seeds in the bottom half are the aforementioned Venus, Muguruza and Pliskova, in addition to No. 3 seed Aggie Radwanska.
Lower seeds or un-seeds floating around in the bottom half are former world No. 2 and No. 9 seed Svetlana Kuznetsova, No. 16 Sam Stosur, unseeded former No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki, the free-swinging Ekaterina Makarova, Belinda Bencic, Lucie Safarova, No. 10 Dominika Cibulkova, former No. 1 Jelena Jankovic, and rising Aussie Daria Gavrilova.
Tough starts in the bottom half are (9) Kuzy vs. Bencic, (16) Stosur vs. Woz, (3) Radwanska vs. the winner of Makarova and (WC) Lisicki, (5) Pliskova vs. Safarova, and (2) Muguruza vs. the winner of Jankovic and Gavrilova.
Both former champs are in the field of the tournament that started in 2014 — Venus Williams (2015) and Kvitova (2014). Martina Hingis has won the doubles title the first two years of the event with different partners.
Kerber has something to prove in her march toward the year-end No. 1, and Pliskova has something to prove to show that her US Open title was no fluke.
“I’m feeling much more comfortable in my skin, how I am, and how to work,” Kerber said. “It’s because of the experience; I now know how to deal with the pressure, with things I have to do off-court. It took a little while to get [the confidence], but it was great work getting there.
“My motivation is still really high, especially after this title in New York. I will still try to improve my game because I know I could still improve my serve and a few other things in my game. It’s what I plan to do in the next few weeks and in my pre-season for next year. There are still a few things where I know I can be better, and that gives me confidence too, to know I can still play better, more aggressively, or move better.”
Look for a repeat of the US Open final in Wuhan.
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Halep, Wozniacki Lead Loaded Wuhan Field; Kerber v Keys, Svitolina v Sabalenka Tues.