The Wuhan draw is pretty great. Replacing Tokyo as a Premier 5 event, all the top players are here for this new event on the calendar. Some of the stadiums look pretty insane and it is always exciting when there’s a new event on tour, particularly one of this stature. The one big casualty is Li Na, who retired from tennis on Thursday. It will be interesting to see the crowds over the coming week. Note the top eight seeds all have byes into the second round.
FIRST QUARTER: S.Williams (1) v E.Bouchard (6)
After winning the US Open just two weeks ago, Serena Williams returns, fully committed once again to the Asian swing. The biggest talking point from Serena’s draw is that she could meet Alize Cornet in the second round. Alize has beaten Serena twice this year; first in the semi-finals of Dubai (6-4 6-4) and more significantly in the third round at Wimbledon (1-6 6-3 6-4). Before Serena-Alize part three takes place, Alize has to get past Romina Oprandi in the first round and that could be an issue. Cornet reached the single and doubles finals in Guangzhou, losing both. Through much of the week, Cornet struggled with the heat and in her semi-final match against Timea Bacsinszky, looked like she was at death’s door. I doubt she will have much left in the tank for Wuhan and even then, Oprandi has two wins over Cornet so it would be a tough match.
Eugenie Bouchard is projected to meet Serena in the quarters. Bouchard competed well at the US Open, but was unable to match her semi-final performances at the first three Grand Slams, falling in a tight two setter under sweaty circumstances to Ekaterina Makarova in the fourth round. Bouchard could meet another of the stars from this year’s US Open in the second round, Peng Shuai. Carrying the full weight of home expectations, Peng opens against Mona Barthel. The first seed that Bouchard could meet is Sara Errani. Peng could be a tricky customer for Bouchard but all in all, it’s a reasonable draw for the Canadian.
1st Round Predictions: Oprandi d. Cornet in 2 sets (or ret.), Schiavone d. Flipkens in 3 sets, Pennetta d. Gajdosova in 3 sets, Errani d. Watson in 2 tight sets and Peng d. Barthel in 3 sets
Quarter-Final Prediction: S.Williams v Bouchard
SECOND QUARTER: M.Sharapova (4) v C.Wozniacki (8)
Maria Sharapova‘s first match in Wuhan will come from a rematch of the Washington final earlier this summer. This demonstrates the strength of this draw that Svetlana Kuznetsova and Kurumi Nara will meet in the first round. Kuznetsova won on that occasion, but has lost her last three matches on tour including a comprehensive defeat to Belinda Bencic in Tokyo, 6-3 6-0. Sharapova’s eighth of the draw also features Ekaterina Makarova, who has been in brilliant form stretching all the way back to Wimbledon. Makarova, who wiill play Timea Bacsinszky or Stefanie Voegele in the first round, has never beaten Sharapova in five previous matches.
Sharapova could be gunning for revenge in the quarters with Caroline Wozniacki and Ana Ivanovic both looming. Caro and Ana are seeded to meet in the third round and are already on the billing for Sunday’s final in Tokyo. Ivanovic plays Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the first round. This looks like a great match-up on paper, but looking closer and it is likely to be a foregone conclusion with Ivanovic owning a 6-0 H2H lead over Pavs. Wozniacki could face a Tokyo rematch with Carla Suarez Navarro in the second round. Exploits in Tokyo could rip this section up, but I think Caro and Ana should be OK to compete.
1st Round Predictions: Kuznetsova d. Nara in 3 sets, Bacsinszky d. Voegele in 3 sets, Makarova d. Jovanovski in 2 sets, Ivanovic d. Pavlyuchenkova in 2 sets, Dellacqua d. Vinci in 3 sets and Suarez Navarro d. Zhang in 2 sets
Quarter-Final Prediction: Sharapova v Ivanovic
THIRD QUARTER: A.Radwanska (5) v P.Kvitova (3)
The section that most people are talking about is an eighth that hosts Agnieszka Radwanska, Venus Williams, Victoria Azarenka and Jelena Jankovic. I normally write out my picks and have tippexed over tippex trying to make a decision about my picks. Radwanska’s first match will be against Venus Williams or Caroline Garcia. Radwanska defeated Venus in the final of Montreal and has won their last three matches in straight sets. Radwanska has not been in good form at all. She lost to Varvara Lepchenko in the quarter-finals of Seoul for the second time of this year. However, be aware that the last time Radwanska lost to Lepchenko, she rebounded by winning Montreal. Jankovic and Azarenka could meet in the second round if JJ beats Christina McHale and Vika gets past Coco Vandeweghe… both are not givens. This section is well up for grabs.
Petra Kvitova is the other top eight seed in this section. Since Wimbledon, it’s been business as usual for Petra. She suffered early losses at Montreal, Cincy and the US Open, but won a title in New Haven, performing to a pretty high level. That is never going to change with Petra so as always, expect the unexpected. In Wuhan, Kvitova will open against Karin Knapp or Marina Erakovic and could meet Andrea Petkovic in the third round. Petko’s section features an intriguing first rounder between Sam Stosur and Karolina Pliskova. Sam had another one of “those” losses last week, going out of Guangzhou to the world number 251, Yafan Wang. Pliskova has played a lot of tennis lately so this could be a good chance for Sam to get back on track.
1st Round Predictions: V.Williams d. Garcia in 3 sets, Azarenka d. Vandeweghe in 3 sets, Jankovic d. McHale in 2 sets, Petkovic d. Vekic in 2 tight sets, Stosur d. Ka. Pliskova in 2 sets and Erakovic d. Knapp in 3 sets
Quarter-Final Prediction: Radwanska v Kvitova
FOURTH QUARTER: A.Kerber (7) v S.Halep (2)
Simona Halep returns in Wuhan after a disappointing summer hard court season, compared to the lofty standards she has set herself in 2014. Her first match of the week will be against Tokyo semi-finalist, Garbine Muguruza or Maria-Teresa Torro-Flor. Halep’s projected third round opponent is Lucie Safarova. The Czech player has a tough opener against the champion in Hong Kong, Sabine Lisicki. It was Lisicki who won their last match in Brisbane at the start of the 2013 season… I’d expect a topsy turvy match.
Halep is seeded to meet Angelique Kerber in the quarter-finals, who has landed in one of the more favourable draws for a top eight seed. Kerber will play Klara Koukalova or Zarina Diyas in the first round. Another interesting first rounder, of which there are many, features Dominika Cibulkova up against Madison Keys. Cibulkova won two matches in Tokyo, but was disappointing in her quarter-final with Angelique Kerber, which she lost, 6-3 6-0. Keys has also been struggling for form since winning her first WTA title at Eastbourne. I’d take Keys to the third round.
1st Round Predictions: Diyas d. Koukalova in 2 sets, Zahlavova Strycova d. Hantuchova in 3 sets, Keys d. Cibulkova in 3 sets, Safarova d. Lisicki in 3 sets, Svitolina d. Giorgi in 2 sets and Muguruza d. Torro-Flor in 3 sets
Quarter-Final Prediction: Kerber v Halep
I’ve gone pretty standard with a lot of my picks this week. I’m not going against Serena right now, particularly with her draw and the confidence you’d expect her to have after the US Open. I’m back to work next week… I’ll be blogging, but won’t get to watch much of the tennis.
Final Prediction: S.Williams d. Halep
Thoughts? Agree? Disagree?