The penultimate week of regulation WTA tournaments will start tomorrow with three International events in Linz, Tianjin and Hong Kong. All three tournaments have respectable line-ups with many players still seeking to confirm a place at the WTA Finals in Singapore. Linz is headlined by the returning, Lucie Safarova (yay!) and Caroline Wozniacki, Hong Kong has Venus Williams and Angelique Kerber, while Tianjin has Flavia Pennetta and Agnieszka Radwanska. This week’s focus on Moo’s Tennis Blog will be Linz as it’s in my timezone but i’ll be keeping an eye on the other tournaments. Here are some thoughts about each draw.
I’m chuffed to see Lucie Safarova back in action after she skipped the Asian Swing due to an ab tear and then a bacterial infection which forced her to spend time in hospital. There’s plenty to play for for Lucie as she’s still in the top eight for Singapore, but she’s lost her lead! I think it’s going to be hard for her in Linz and I wonder where her stamina levels will be. First up is Andreea Mitu. Caroline Wozniacki bookends the draw and has a tricky opener against Mirjana Lucic-Baroni, particularly on a fast indoor court. Perhaps it’s end-of-season fumes i’m breathing in but I like Lucic-Baroni’s chances in that one with the Dane seemingly struggling for form and confidence right now. I’m not sure that I quite have the nerve to call it though!
Safarova’s half features last year’s finalist, Camila Giorgi, Andrea Petkovic and Anna Karolina Schmiedlova. Giorgi loves a fast indoor court and she has a helmets-at-the-ready first rounder against another former finalist, Julia Goerges in the first round. Schmiedlova plays Annika Beck in the first round; the German player has quietly risen to 42 in the world rankings after recently winning Quebec City so that should be an intriguing opener. Wozniacki’s half has Roberta Vinci, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Barbora Strycova as the seeds but also watch out for Denisa Allertova (Guangzhou finalist a few weeks ago) and Mona Barthel (former champion at Paris Indoors) who could both make movements in this draw and on this surface.
Final Prediction: Pavlyuchenkova d. Schmiedlova
WTA Hong Kong
Venus Williams lost ground in the Race to Singapore after an early loss in Beijing, but it was always going to be a tough ask to back up her title in Wuhan. The American will need a strong result in Hong Kong and her draw looks decent; first up is the lucky loser, Yuliya Beygelzmier. Venus is seeded to meet Alizé Cornet in the quarter-finals (watch out for the qualifer, Kateryna Kozlova, who has been posting some solid results in the last month) and Jelena Jankovic in the semi-finals. Jankovic has a dreamy draw to at least the quarters where she is seeded to meet Daria Gavrilova. Dasha could meet Irina Falconi, the player she lost to in Wuhan, in the second round.
Angelique Kerber and Sam Stosur hold up the bottom quarter and i’d be genuinely surprised if they don’t make the semi-finals. Stosur’s quarter features Heather Watson and Monica Puig, while Kerber has a tougher section, opening against Francesca Schiavone who inflicted a crushing 6-1 6-1 loss on the German player when they last played in Antwerp earlier this year. Caroline Garcia, hit or miss, is also lurking and takes on Lauren Davis in the first round which will be a 50/50 match.
Final Prediction: Kerber d. V.Williams
Who knows whether Flavia Pennetta will be playing at the start of 2016 but what is apparent now is that she’s eager to make Singapore as she has taken a wildcard into Tianjin. Her first rounder will be against a qualifier and second rounder could be a qualifier, or Ying-Ying Duan. Pennetta is seeded to play Teliana Pereira in the quarters who she defeated in three sets in Beijing. Pereira opens against the Tashkent champion, Nao Hibino. I quite like Kateryna Bondarenko though to come through this whole quarter, who plays Danka Kovinic in the first round. Elina Svitolina and Kristina Mladenovic are the two seeds in the second quarter.
The bottom half features Agnieszka Radwanska and Karolina Pliskova. While both have looked fatigued of late, the quality of competiton is far weaker comapred to their recent tournaments so i’d expect both to reach the semi-finals and particularly Radwanska, who is looking to shore up her spot in the top eight for Singapore. The defending champion, Alison Riske is in the draw, as is Yulia Putintseva who always makes life interesting.
Final Prediction: Radwanska d. Mladenovic