The main draw for the 2016 China Open in Beijing starts on Saturday… Saturday! It’s nice to be able to watch more tennis at the weekend but I hate tournaments overlapping as the main draw will begin before the final for Wuhan has even started. Now onto the positives where we have another superb draw to look forward to at the fourth and final Premier Mandatory tournament of the year. Big points are up for grabs in what will be a pivotal week in the Race to Singapore. Let’s take a look at the draw with an old school preview…
Get used to seeing Angelique Kerber at the top of draws… the world number one won one match in Wuhan, losing out to Petra Kvitova in a third round thriller. First up in Beijing will be a qualifier followed by either Barbora Strycova or Laura Siegemund – both dangerous, but both you’d expect Kerber to be able to handle if she makes it to the second round. Strycova is still competing in Wuhan in the doubles (at the time of writing) and will have little time to prepare for Beijing. The first seed that Kerber could play, Elina Svitolina, will play a power hitter in the second round in either Mirjana Lucic-Baroni or Sabine Lisicki. Lisicki’s won all three previous matches against MLB but she’s been on a tragic run of form and put up little resistance in a 1-6 2-6 loss to Ekaterina Makarova in Wuhan. Helmets at the ready for that one…
This is a favourable section of the draw for the likes of Venus Williams and Timea Bacsinszky. Venus opens against Peng Shuai – the Chinese player returned from nine months out (due to a back injury) in March and has won just two matches on the main tour. Peng’s been competing well but not winning matches. I’d fancy the first rounder with Venus to be very competitive. Bacsinszky was forced to retire from her first round match in Wuhan due to a viral illness. The Swiss player has a decent draw on paper but hasn’t won back-to-back matches in her last five tournaments. Caroline Garcia, as erratic as she can be, could be one to watch from this section.
Agnieszka Radwanska and Caroline Wozniacki could play each other for the third time in as many tournaments if they both win their first two matches… those pesky draw gods! Radwanska’s suffered two tough losses in Tokyo and Wuhan having served for the match against both Caroline Wozniacki and Svetlana Kuznetsova respectively, even having a match point in the latter. The number three seed had shown some good form up till the critical moments, but season fatigue and a lack of ruthlessness have thwarted her. Radwanska plays Wang Qiang in the first round; the Chinese player reached a career high of #66 earlier this year through some excellent results on the ITF tour.
If Radwanska were to get through her first round match, she could play Ekaterina Makarova again in the second round after the pair played in Wuhan last week. Makarova would first have to overcome her doubles partner, Elena Vesnina. The Wimbledon semi-finalist, who missed Wuhan due to lower back injury, defeated Makarova in their last match-up at SW19 in one of the best matches of the tournament, 5-7 6-1 9-7. It was a noteworthy result because Makarova had won their last six matches prior to their Wimby clash.
Wozniacki was clearly fatigued in Wuhan after her triumph in Tokyo but still won two matches to reach the third round where she lost to Radwanska in straight sets. After a couple of days of much needed rest, she plays CoCo Vandeweghe in the first round of Beijing. This would seem to be an ideal opener on paper with the American on a four match losing streak. The winner of this match will play the winner of the first rounder between Roberta Vinci and Zheng Saisai. The Chinese player, like Vandeweghe, is also on a four match losing streak.
The Wuhan finalist, Dominika Cibulkova gets a performance bye into the second round where she could face a rematch with Alizé Cornet in the second round; Cibulkova beat Cornet in the first round of Wuhan, 6-2 2-6 6-3. Cibulkova is likely to be knackered so i’d like Carla Suárez Navarro, who has been very solid of late but missing the big win, to take advantage. Yaroslava Shvedova won’t be a straightforward first round match by any means but the Spaniard is doing so much better compared to this time last year. Also worthy of a mention in this section is Belinda Bencic – i’m stunned she’s even in the draw after retiring from her first round match in Wuhan against Svetlana Kuznetsova after a heavy fall, injuring her coccyx. I have no idea what to expect from BB against Annika Beck in the first round.
Urgh… why do the draw gods hate Lucie?! For the second straight week, Lucie Safarova will play Karolina Pliskova. Safarova, who recently parted ways (via Czech media) with her coach Rob Steckley, hasn’t won back-to-back matches in singles since Wimbledon. To be fair, her draws have been rough – Eugenie Bouchard, Andrea Petkovic and Dominika Cibulkova have all been first round opponents and when’s she managed to get through her first round, Simona Halep or Pliskova have been waiting in the second round. Johanna Konta, a reliable fixture on the WTA tour in 2016, is also present in this section. She faces an intriguing opener against Anastasija Sevastova, who defeated her in the fourth round of the US Open. Sevastova retired from her first round match in Wuhan due to a shoulder injury.
Halep is the highest seed in the third quarter and has been consistently one of the strongest performers in WTA tournaments in 2016. Despite reaching the semi-finals in Wuhan, Halep suffered a comprehensive loss to Petra Kvitova, 1-6 2-6. Halep was very flat but then again, what can anyone do when Peak Petra shows up? Halep is set to be reunited with Darren Cahill in Beijing which should provide a much needed boost. First up in Beijing will be either Monica Puig or Yanina Wickmayer. Also of note in this section is good friends, Zhang Shuai and Sam Stosur playing each other in the first round. Zhang, who has won at least one match at her last seven tournaments, beat Stosur at the US Open, 6-3 6-3.
Two of the Wuhan semi-finalists, Petra Kvitova and Svetlana Kuznetsova, land in the fourth quarter of the draw with a performance bye. Kvitova has looked back to her best in Wuhan and could play Madison Brengle in the second round of Beijing; the pair have already played three times in 2016 with Kvitova bagging a first win over the American in Tokyo. Kuznetsova will play Misaki Doi or a qualifier in the second round.
The top eight seeds in this section are Garbiñe Muguruza and Madison Keys. Muguruza has made it past the quarter-finals at just one of her last seven tournaments post-French Open. She plays the tricky but equally erratic, Irina-Camelia Begu in the first round. Begu won their last match in Madrid, a dramatic 5-7 7-6(4) 6-3 victory during her best spell of the year on clay. Begu retired from her second round match in Wuhan against Halep due to a rib injury having saved match points to win her opener against Elizaveta Kulichkova. Also in this section is the most joyous first round of the lot, Yulia Putintseva v Jelena Ostapenko. It’s streamed and may be worth getting up at 5.30am on a Saturday morning…
Keys will play Duan Ying-Ying in a first rounder that will see the balls take a battering. The winner plays the victor of one of the most interesting first round matches between Kristina Mladenovic and Jelena Jankovic. JJ loves WTAsia, but looked fraught with nerves at the end of her three set loss to Barbora Strycova in Wuhan. Still, the last two weeks have surpassed anything she achieved through the first eight months of 2016. Mladenovic continues to struggle in singles – she’s so talented but hasn’t managed to push on in 2016 after an encouraging 2015 season.
Seeds – Past Performance in Beijing
*Note – Records include results from Qualifying (Stats from WTA website)
There are some ropey records in Beijing – only five of the 16 seeds have ever made it past the quarter-finals. The world number one, Kerber has never won more than two matches in Beijing. In what will be her 10th appearance in Beijing, Kuznetsova has the best record of the 16 seeds with 23 wins and two titles although the last of those came all the way back in 2009. Pliskova has never made it past the first round meanwhile Konta is playing the tournament for the first time in her career.