The Western and Southern Open has announced the wildcards for the women’s singles events, with former champions Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova, America’s Sloane Stephens, and rising star Marketa Vondrousova all being handed a place in the main draw.
Sharapova, the 2011 champion, is continuing her return from a 15-month suspension, as well as the injury which ruled her out the grass court season, whilst 2013 champion Azarenka has received a wildcard as she continues her return following giving birth in December.
Meanwhile, Stephens is also continuing her return to tour following a foot injury which ruled her out for almost a year, whilst Vondrousova has received a wildcard after a breakthrough season, which has seen win her first WTA title and rise into the top 100 after starting the season outside the top 350.
Notable names all handed a place into the draw
The tournament has undoubtedly used its wildcard places to help attract interest in the tournament, with Sharapova and Azarenka being two of the biggest stars on tour, and with Stephens and Vondrousova seen by many as being future Grand Slam winners.
It will be the first time that Sharapova, who beat Jelena Jankovic to take the title in 2011, has played at the tournament since 2014, after missing it last year due to suspension and withdrawing in 2015 due to injury. Azarenka, who beat Serena Williams in the 2013 final, also missed the tournament last year, due to her pregnancy, and will be looking to improve on her third round loss two years ago; both women will be aiming for their first title of the year.
Like Azarenka and Sharapova, Stephens is also returning after a long absence, and will be looking to build up some confidence and have a good run on her own soil. Meanwhile, Vondrousova is the only one of the wildcards to have won a WTA title this year, winning in Biel in what was just her second WTA tournament. The Czech started the year at 376th in the rankings, but is now ranked 74th and will be looking to continue her progression on her Cincinnati debut.