WTA Stuttgart: Former champions Kerber and Sharapova return alongside five top-10 players

It is another impressive line-up at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix as five top-10 players, including the top two players in the world Simona Halep and Garbine Muguruza, are slated to return to Stuttgart yet again.

WTA Stuttgart: Former champions Kerber and Sharapova return alongside five top-10 players
Porsche ambassadors Sharapova and Kerber are the main attraction to the tournaments, along with Halep and Muguruza | Photo: Getty Images, Graphics: Don Han

The Porsche Tennis Grand Prix has always been one of the most popular tournaments around the world, having been reigned as the “Premier Tournament of the Year” on nine different occasions in the past 11 years. Located in Stuttgart, fans could witness a Grand Slam quality field being played out, with at least five top-10 players participating in each of the last 11 editions of the tournament. Furthermore, in 2012, all top-eight players were part of the field.

2018 is not an exception as well, judging by the popularity of the tournament. Before the new season even began, there are already five top-10 players who were early-birds to sign-up for the Premier event. Furthermore, three of 2017’s Grand Slam champions are also slated to compete in Stuttgart while two former world number ones are also the headliners of the tournament.

Laura Siegemund triumphed in Stuttgart this year as a wildcard entry, defeating three top-10 players in the process | Photo: Matthias Hangst/Bongarts
Laura Siegemund triumphed in Stuttgart this year as a wildcard entry, defeating three top-10 players in the process | Photo: Matthias Hangst/Bongarts

Top-10 players headline the list

World number one Simona Halep will make her fourth consecutive appearance here in Stuttgart, having reached the semifinals twice. The Romanian would look to go one step further, hoisting the trophy which she hadn’t lifted before. However, she will face some tough opposition, most particularly from local favorite Laura Siegemund.

The German, who won the tournament this year as a wildcard, is almost certain of a wildcard yet again after recovering from a serious ACL tear which saw her end her season in May. Siegemund has reached the final twice in Stuttgart, winning it on her second attempt this year while claiming six top-10 victories on the same grounds, with Stuttgart looking like her lucky tournament. She has also beaten Halep twice in this event, both times in straight sets.

Simona Halep reached the semifinals in Stuttgart this year, falling to eventual champion Laura Siegemund | Photo: Adam Pretty/Bongarts
Simona Halep reached the semifinals in Stuttgart this year, falling to eventual champion Laura Siegemund | Photo: Adam Pretty/Bongarts

Although Garbine Muguruza hasn’t experienced much success here in Stuttgart, she opted to return to the tournament for a fourth straight time, akin to the world number one. The former Roland Garros champion fell in the opening round this year to Anett Kontaveit, missing out on a golden opportunity to set up a meeting with five-time Grand Slam champion Maria Sharapova.

Sharapova and Kerber leads the rest of the field

Maria Sharapova, who was reigned the champion thrice, and consecutively, from 2012 to 2014, owns an excellent 16-2 win-loss record at this tournament. The Russian, being an ambassador the Porsche, the tournament sponsor, will almost certainly be gifted a wildcard if her ranking does not meet the cut-off for the main draw. She also made her return to professional tennis from an anti-doping violation in Stuttgart this year, reaching the semifinals where she fell to Kristina Mladenovic in a thriller.

Maria Sharapova celebrates her comeback victory against Roberta Vinci on April 26, 2017 | Photo: Adam Pretty/Bongarts
Maria Sharapova celebrates her comeback victory against Roberta Vinci on April 26, 2017 | Photo: Adam Pretty/Bongarts

Kristina Mladenovic made just two appearances in Stuttgart but produced an impressive run to the final this year having beaten three consecutive top-30 players. The French had her chances in the championship match but failed to convert, and just fell short in a final-set tiebreak. Nonetheless, she will be back looking to go a step further, claiming the trophy this time.

One of the players Mladenovic defeated en route to the final was home favorite, Angelique Kerber. The German is a former world number one and two-time Major champion and is a huge crowd favorite here in Stuttgart especially after being the ambassador of Porsche as well, alongside Sharapova. Stunningly, Kerber reached the semifinals on three different occasions while hoisting back-to-back titles in 2015 and 2016. Though the German was shocked in the second round by Mladenovic this year, Kerber will be back hungry for the title once more. However, she will most likely be unseeded for the tournament.

Angelique Kerber had a disappointing outing in Stuttgart this year, being conquered by Mladenovic in straight sets | Photo: Adam Pretty/Bongarts
Angelique Kerber had a disappointing outing in Stuttgart this year, being conquered by Mladenovic in straight sets | Photo: Adam Pretty/Bongarts

Making her debut in this tournament would be the US Open champion Sloane Stephens, who would play her first full season on tour in a couple of years having been troubled by multiple injury issues. Stephens would be joined by a fellow Major champion, Jelena Ostapenko, who is making her second appearance after falling in the first round this year, despite coming through the qualifying draws. How much of a difference could a year make? In 2018, Ostapenko could jolly well be seeded.

Rounding off the list of early birds are Karolina Pliskova and Caroline Garcia, who both have not broke grounds in Stuttgart in the past. Garcia last participated in 2016 when she was conquered in the opening round, but reached the quarterfinals a year earlier. The Czech was able to reach the last eight during both her appearances, but still, could not put in convincing clay-court performances. Both Garcia and Pliskova will most-likely be seeded, and they will look to provide the Stuttgart fans with some enjoyable tennis to watch.

Karolina Pliskova reached the quarterfinals on both her appearances in Stuttgart | Photo: Adam Pretty/Bongarts
Karolina Pliskova reached the quarterfinals on both her appearances in Stuttgart | Photo: Adam Pretty/Bongarts