Taking over the tournament license from the Connecticut Open, the inaugural Zhengzhou Open is a premier tournament making its debut on the tour as WTA continues to expand in the Asia-Pacific region. Held immediately after the US Open is completed, there were concerns regarding the availability of the top players and the quality of the field.
With six top-20 players, it is a very decent entry list for the tournament although there were many mid-tier players who did not sign up which allowed lower-ranked players to enter the main draw, with the cut-off ranking being 156. Two of the top-three players in the world are present in Zhengzhou, with both Karolina Pliskova and Elina Svitolina set to be in action this week.
First Quarter: Pliskova looks to start on a roll
Karolina Pliskova’s US Open campaign surprisingly ended in the fourth round in the hands of an inspired Konta, and she will look to overcome the disappointment of that loss with a deep run this week in Zhengzhou. As the top seed, the Czech receives a bye into the second round where she will possibly face the big-hitting Polona Hercog in her first match.
Sixth seed Sofia Kenin has been on a good run recently but will face the dangerous Chloe Paquet in the opening round. The pair faced off in Strasbourg earlier this year with the Frenchwoman claiming the upset. However, the American has been extremely impressive and will be difficult to beat, though Alize Cornet could pose some challenges in the following match as well.
Pliskova and Kenin seem set for a quarterfinal match-up with the world number two leading their head-to-head record 3-0, but with this being their first tournament in Asia, nothing can be said with a guarantee.
Prediction: Pliskova d. Kenin
Second Quarter: Kerber dealt with a tough draw
After a shocking first-round exit in Flushing Meadows, Angelique Kerber took a late wildcard into the tournament hoping to gain some match play and confidence. Lady luck was not shining on her when the draw was made as she drew the toughest first-round opponent possible, having to go against the in-form Alison Riske in a blockbuster opener. Home favourite Zheng Saisai could await in the following round for the winner of this match and will look to cause the upset against either player.
Third seed Kiki Bertens finds herself out of the top-eight of the Porsche Race to Shenzhen leaderboard after the US Open and will be desperate to get herself back into the elite batch with a deep run here. Receiving a bye into the second round which means a later start to the tournament, Bertens could face Ajla Tomljanovic in a repeat of their Korea Open final last year. This could finally be the time when the Dutch capitalizes on a favourable draw and makes it deep into the draw.
Prediction: Bertens d. Zheng
Third Quarter: Can Sabalenka survive the tricky draw?
Fourth seed Aryna Sabalenka is currently still in New York vying for the doubles throne, and she will be extremely grateful to be the fourth seed which meant that she will receive a bye and get a late start. Her first opponent will not be easy, though, with Jelena Ostapenko potentially barging her way through. Ostapenko is a former Major champion and top-five player hence she can never be underestimated although her form has been worrying.
Petra Martic, who put up a respectable fight against Serena Williams in the fourth round in New York, faces Jasmine Paolini in a winnable opening-round clash. The talented Frenchwoman Fiona Ferro could await next, but the Croatian should have the ability to move into the quarterfinals where she will most likely take on Sabalenka. With a bulk of points to defend in Asia, Sabalenka will make full use of her chances to gain any valuable ranking points.
Prediction: Sabalenka d. Martic
Fourth Quarter: Svitolina returns into action
US Open semifinalist Elina Svitolina has surprisingly not withdrawn from the tournament as she looks to continue her good run of form. A standout performer at the Majors this year, Svitolina is the second seed and has a Wednesday or Thursday start, as she continues to battle a lingering knee injury which is still bothering her according to the Ukrainian herself. She will face the winner of Yulia Putintseva and Tamara Zidansek, a repeat of the Nuremberg Cup final earlier this year, in her first match.
Caroline Garcia and compatriot Kristina Mladenovic are set for a second-round showdown, although both Frenchwomen would have to battle past their first-round opponents respectively. Garcia opens against Tereza Martincova, who upset her in 2017 previously, while Mladenovic faces the dangerous but out-of-form Duan Ying-ying, who also defeated her in 2017. It is notable that Garcia is on a four-match losing streak. It seems like Svitolina’s quarter to lose.