J&T Banka Ostrava Open: preview and predictions
Victoria Azarenka is the fourth seed in Ostrava (Image: Clive Brunskill)

The main draw at inaugural J&T Banka Ostrava Open will start this Monday, with a stellar line-up set to compete in Ostrava.

Amidst COVID-19 the tournament was hastily arranged so WTA players had at least one more opportunity to play in 2020, with several tournaments cancelled throughout the season due to the pandemic.

The arena being used to hold the tournament has held many Billie Jean King Cup ties for the Czech Republic ties in recent years. It is an indoor hard court.

Heading into the tournament there has been several withdrawals with Grand Slam champions Petra Kvitova, Garbine Muguruza, Angelique Kerber and Sofia Kenin all pulling out, though the draw is still stacked with notable names.

Svitolina is the top seed at the tournament (Image: TPN)
Svitolina is the top seed at the tournament (Image: TPN)

Elina Svitolina is seeded first whilst home favorite Karolina Pliskova is the second seed, with Aryna Sabalenka seeded third and recent US Open runner-up Victoria Azarenka seeded fourth.

Petra Martic, Elena Rybakina, Elise Mertens and Anett Kontaveit are the remaining seeds in the draw, though there are several unseeded players who are capable of making an impact over the coming week.

Svitolina, Pliskova, Sabalenka and Azarenka all receive first round byes and will start their campaigns in the second round. 

First Quarter

Projected Q/F: (1st) Elina Svitolina vs (5th) Petra Martic

After a missed opportunity to take a maiden Grand Slam title at the French Open, Svitolina will need to navigate through a tricky top quarter if she wants to win a 16th WTA title.

Jabeur has been in good form this year (Image: TF Images)
Jabeur has been in good form this year (Image: TF Images)

The top seed has the benefit of a first round bye but will likely face the tricky Maria Sakkari in the second round, and there are more dangers lurking in the last eight.

Wildcard Jelena Ostapenko should provide a stern test for Martic in their opening round clash, whilst the rapidly-improving Ons Jabeur will fancy her chances against Barbora Strycova in the opening round.

Prediction: Jabeur def Svitolina

Second Quarter

Projected Q/F: (4th) Victoria Azarenka vs (7th) Elise Mertens

Azarenka lost early at Roland Garros but should be much more at home on her beloved hard courts and has a favorable draw early on, with the Belarusian guaranteed to face a qualifier to start with.

The same cannot be said for Mertens who is chucked in right at the deep end with an opening round clash against Amanda Anisimova, who has had struggles at times recently but could threaten the Belgian if playing well.

Mertens is the seventh seed in Ostrava (Image: TPN Images)
Mertens is the seventh seed in Ostrava (Image: TPN Images)

Talented Czech star Karolina Muchova could play Mertens in the second round and both could face a US Open rematch against Azarenka, with the fourth seed having beaten both women on her way to the final in New York.

Prediction: Azarenka def Mertens

Third Quarter

Projected Q/F: (8th) Anett Kontaveit vs (3rd) Aryna Sabalenka

Indoor hard courts are likely to favor strong ball strikers and that makes this section particularly interesting, with a lot of aggressive players pitted against each other.

In the limited amount of action in 2020 Sabalenka has not looked at her best and a potential second round against wildcard Katerina Siniakova is not necessarily the easiest match on paper, though the Belarusian should be able to prevail.

Kontaveit will be looking to rebound after disappointment at the French Open (Image: Shaun Botterill)
Kontaveit will be looking to rebound after disappointment at the French Open (Image: Shaun Botterill)

It was a disappointing French Open for Kontaveit who had been in encouraging form before and after the suspension and she has a tricky opening against Ekaterina Alexandrova and potentially Magda Linette afterwards, though conditions may help the Estonian.

Prediction: Kontaveit def Sabalenka

Fourth Quarter

Projected Q/F: (6th) Elena Rybakina vs (2nd) Karolina Pliskova

Seeded sixth here, Rybakina has struggled at slams in 2020 but her tour-leading five finals show she is a force to be reckoned with.

The Kazakh should prevail against a qualifier to begin with though could face Dayana Yastremska in the second round, and the presence of Pliskova is obviously another significant factor.

Rybakina will be hoping to reach a sixth final of 2020 (Image: Francois Nel)
Rybakina will be hoping to reach a sixth final of 2020 (Image: Francois Nel)

Playing on home soil may help the second seed after more disappointment at slams this year though she could face a tricky second round match versus Donna Vekic, and then potentially Rybakina afterwards.

Prediction: Rybakina def Pliskova

Semifinals

Azarenka def Jabeur

Kontaveit def Rybakina

Final

Azarenka def Kontaveit

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