2018 Western and Southern Open: Women's singles preview and predictions
Garbine Muguruza beat Simona Halep in the final last year (Image courtesy of Noel Alberto)

2018 Western and Southern Open: Women's singles preview and predictions

With only a handful of weeks to go until the US Open, several of the top players on the WTA Tour will be in action in Cincinnati at the Western and Southern Open, which is the last big tournament before the action at Flushing Meadows.

oliver-dickson-jefford
Oliver Dickson Jefford

After an exciting week of action at the Rogers Cup in Montreal, which saw Simona Halep beat Sloane Stephens to take the title, the elite of the WTA Tour now head into Cincinnati for the Western and Southern Open, the last big tournament before the US Open in two weeks time.

Both Halep and Stephens will be in action, as will many of the top players on the WTA. Defending champion Garbine Muguruza, the current world number seven, returns to attempt to regain the title, whilst the likes of Angelique Kerber and Caroline Wozniacki, both slam champions this year, will also be in action.

Two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, the winner of five titles this year, is the final top eighth seed, with Caroline Garcia and the ever-dangerous Elina Svitolina also seeded in the top eight. Aside from them, Serena Williams will be back in action for the first time since her heavy loss in San Jose, whilst former world number one Karolina Pliskova and 2017 French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko amongst the rest of the field present.

First Quarter

Projected Q/F: (1st) Simona Halep vs (7th) Garbine Muguruza

Despite having contested the final last year, with the Spaniard dropping just one game in a resounding victory last summer, Halep and Muguruza could meet as early as the last eight this year, with Muguruza having struggled with inconsistency and injury issues throughout the season.

Muguruza in action at Wimbledon (Getty/Clive Mason)
Muguruza in action at Wimbledon (Getty/Clive Mason)

Muguruza withdrew from the Rogers Cup last week, and may not have a nice return to the tour here, with potential first round opponents Lesia Tsurenko and Danielle Collins both capable of upsets if the two-time slam champion is off her game. 11th seed Ostapenko may also prove a danger in the third round, if she can find some form, whilst no one will fancy meeting Halep at the moment. After a great week in Montreal, the Romanian should have no issues early on in the draw here, with another meeting against Ashleigh Barty (who could face her in the third round after meeting in the last four in Montreal) potentially her biggest problem on her way to the quarterfinals.

Prediction: Halep def Muguruza

Second Quarter

Projected Q/F: (4th) Angelique Kerber vs (7th) Caroline Garcia

With the WTA having been so open throughout the past couple of seasons, the fact that opening round matches in this section include Karolina Pliskova versus Agnieszka Radwanska and Carla Suarez Navarro versus Victoria Azarenka means this may be an incredibly intriguing section to follow over the coming few days.

Kerber will be looking to improve on the tennis she played in Montreal (Getty/Minas Panagiotakis)
Kerber will be looking to improve on the tennis she played in Montreal (Getty/Minas Panagiotakis)

The latter of those two matches decides who Garcia will face in her first match, with the Frenchwoman having another consistent season, even if she is lacking in big results. Though she may come through that, potential dangers could await in the form of Pliskova or Johanna Konta, who is starting to pick up some form once again, whilst it will be interesting to see how Kerber fares this week. The newly crowned Wimbledon champion fell tamely in Montreal last week and could have a tough opener against the likes of Aleksandra Krunic or Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova; however, her consistency suggests she will bounce back, though a third round clash against Madison Keys may prove tricky.

Prediction: Kerber def Garcia

Third Quarter

Projected Q/F: (8th) Petra Kvitova vs (3rd) Sloane Stephens

After a solid week in Montreal, which followed a slight dip in form, Stephens will be confident as she steps back onto home soil, though she is stuck in quarter with Kvitova, who has proven to be one of the most dangerous women on tour this year- and she is not the only notable name present here.

Stephens will be hoping for another strong tournament as she builds up to her US Open title defence (Getty/Minas Panagiotakis)
Stephens will be hoping for another strong tournament as she builds up to her US Open title defence (Getty/Minas Panagiotakis)

Kvitova has a bye to begin with, as do all of the top eight seeds, though could face Serena Williams in the second round; it could be a tight match,, especially if Serena demonstrates some of the form she produced at Wimbledon. However, Julia Goerges is a dangerous third round opponent for whoever comes through there, whilst Stephens has a slightly easier start against a qualifier in her opening match of the tournament. The American could, however, come up against Elise Mertens in the third round, with the Belgian putting together a very fine season in what has been a real breakthrough for her.

Prediction: Stephens def Kvitova

Fourth Quarter

Projected Q/F: (5th) Elina Svitolina vs (2nd) Caroline Wozniacki

Both Svitolina and Wozniacki had solid starts to the season, with Wozniacki finally capturing a Grand Slam title at the Australian Open, though both have had a slight dip in form in recent months, and will be looking for a good build-up to the US Open, where both are more than capable of taking the title.

Svitolina reached the last four in Montreal, and will be aiming for another strong result here (Getty/Minas Panagiotakis)
Svitolina reached the last four in Montreal, and will be aiming for another strong result here (Getty/Minas Panagiotakis)

Svitolina regained some form in Montreal last week, reaching the last four, though could have an opening clash against Svetlana Kuznetsova, which could prove to be a highly entertaining affair. Furthermore, Daria Kasatkina could await in the third round, whilst further down in the quarter Wozniacki has an incredibly tricky road to reach the last eight; the Dane will start against either Kiki Bertens or Coco Vandeweghe, with the likes of Naomi Osaka or Anett Kontaveit, both of whom have made big process this season, potential third round opponents for the world number two.

Prediction: Svitolina def Kontaveit

Semifinals

Halep def Kerber

Svitolina def Stephens

Final

Halep def Svitolina

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