WTA St. Petersburg Ladies Trophy Preview

Belinda Bencic, Roberta Vinci, Caroline Wozniacki and Ana Ivanovic headline a star-studded field at the inaugural St. Petersburg Ladies Trophy, a Premier-level stop on the WTA calendar this season.

First Quarter

Photo: Dennis Grombkowski/Bongarts

The first quarter is headlined by top seed and world number 11 Belinda Bencic, who gets a bye into the second round along with all three of her fellow top four seeds. The Swiss number one is fresh off of a breakthrough 2015 season that saw her win the Aegon International and the Rogers Cup, two of the biggest stops on the WTA calendar outside of the four Grand Slams. After narrowly missing out on a spot in the quarter finals of the Australian Open, Bencic looked back to her clinical best as she defeated Andrea Petkovic and newly crowned Grand Slam champion Angelique Kerber in Fed Cup action. Bencic will head straight to St. Petersburg once the tie has concluded, and is one of the clear favourites to take home the title next weekend.

Joining her in the same section is Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. The Russian number three is looking to rebound after a disappointing first round loss to American Lauren Davis in Melbourne. Despite her disappointing setback, Pavlyuchenkova's form has really picked up in recent months and some of her best results have come indoors; she won the 2015 Generali Ladies Linz Open shortly after the Asian swing and followed that up with a runner-up showing at the Kremlin Cup in Moscow.

Other players in this section include Germans Annika Beck and Carina Witthoeft, and big-hitting Czech Lucie Hradecka. The remaining three spots in this section will be filled by qualifiers, who will play their final round of qualification matches on Monday.

Quarter final prediction: [1] Bencic d. [7] Pavlyuchenkova

Second Quarter

Photo: Michael Dodge/Getty Images AsiaPac
Photo: Michael Dodge/Getty Images AsiaPac

The second quarter will be headlined by third seed Caroline Wozniacki, who accepted a late wildcard into the event. The Dane is coming off of a disappointing first round loss to Yulia Putintseva in Melbourne, where she just seemed to look out of sorts in the latter stages of the encounter. Now with renewed focus and determination, the Dane is looking to rebound from her disappointments in emphatic style this week.

The other seed in this section is seventh seed Kristina Mladenovic, who has struggled with her consistency after making her first Grand Slam quarter final at the U.S. Open a little over five months ago. However, the Frenchwoman has always been a dangerous prospect for any opponent, and her emphatic win over Sara Errani in Fed Cup play solidifies her dark horse status in this event.

Other players in this section include Dominika Cibulkova, Evgeniya Rodina, Kirsten Flipkens and Daria Kasatkina, all dangerous opponents for different reasons.

Quarter final prediction: [7] Mladenovic d. [3] Wozniacki

Third Quarter

Photo: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images AsiaPac
Photo: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images AsiaPac

The third quarter is headlined by fourth seed Ana Ivanovic and eighth seed Alizé Cornet. Both women had to fight through an incredibly rough 2015 season, where they failed to live up to expectations after a resurgent 2014 season. After both being eliminated before the second week of the Australian Open, Ivanovic and Cornet will both be looking to make their mark in St. Petersburg, a city more than seven hours away from the Russian capital of Moscow by train.

Other players in this secton include Margarita Gasparyan, Bojana Jovanovski, Elena Vesnina and the tactically astute Barbora Strycova and Monica Niculescu - who will face one another in their opening round match. Strycova plays with a lot of variety, where as others play with a lot of power; she could definitely pose a threat in this section of the draw.

NOTE: Niculescu has been moved to the fourth quarter of the draw and will be the ninth seed after a last minute withdrawal.

Quarter final prediction: [4] Ivanovic d. Strycova

Fourth and Final Quarter

Photo: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images AsiaPac
Photo: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images AsiaPac

Last but not least, second seed Roberta Vinci headlines one of the most open quarters of the draw, along with ninth seed Monica Niculescu who replaces seventh seed Anna Karolina Schmiedlova, who pulled out due to an ankle sprain. Vinci, who is best known for ending Serena Williams' bid for a Calendar Grand Slam at the U.S. Open last year, has not exactly lived up to expectations after what she called "the best day of my life". The Italian, who was upset by Anna-Lena Friedsam in Melbourne, is looking to regain some confidence in what she says could be her final year on tour. Niculescu, on the other hand, has failed to maintain much consistency at WTA events in the last twelve months, which has seen her ranking drop outside the top 35. Like Vinci, the Romanian will be looking to regain some confidence after an early exit in Melbourne and a heartbreaking loss to the Czech Republic over the weekend, despite beating Petra Kvitova in the second rubber.

Other players in this section include talented Russian junior Natalia Vikhlyantseva, Timea Babos, Jelena Ostapenko and Yanina Wickmayer. As you can see, there is no clear favourite to come out of this section on top, which makes this quarter one of the most open quarters of this 32-player draw.

Quarter final prediction: [2] Vinci d. [6] Schmiedlova

Semi Final and Final Predictions

Semi final predictions: [1] Bencic d. [7] Mladenovic; [2] Vinci d. [4] Ivanovic

Final prediction: [1] Bencic d. [2] Vinci

What are your predictions for the inaugural St. Petersburg Ladies Trophy? Leave your predictions in the comments below or tweet them to us on Twitter at @VAVELUSATennis!

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