WTA Apia International Sydney 2017: Main Draw Preview

The first weeks is in the books (barely) and we’re straight onto week two of the 2017 season with main draw action for Sydney and Hobart both starting on Sunday. This is the final week before the first Major of 2017 in Melbourne, which starts in NINE days time. Sydney has once again attracted a stellar line-up and produced some fantastic first round matches. Six of the world’s top ten are here including the world number one, Angelique Kerber. Let’s take a look at the draw… 

*Please note that this post has been updated to reflect Karolina Pliskova’s withdrawal from Sydney*

*Please note (again!) that since writing this preview, Elina Svitolina and Sloane Stephens have both pulled out of Sydney and caused yet another reshuffle of the draw. Caroline Wozniacki has taken Svitolina’s place in the draw in the third quarter as the number ten seed*

Quarter 1

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After a bye in the first round, Angelique Kerber will play either Daria Kasatkina or Timea Babos in the second round of the Apia International. It was a surprise pre-season to see the world number one commit to both Brisbane and Sydney, but after a quarter-final exit in her first tournament of the year, more matches before the Australian Open sounds ideal. Kerber lost out to Elina Svitolina in an entertaining quarter-final where her serve looked suspect at times.

Kerber is seeded to meet Johanna Konta who has flown in from Shenzhen. Konta lost out in the semi-finals to eventual champion, Katerina Siniakova. She played some tough matches and overall, looked pretty decent. This section features Dasha squared with Kasatkina opening against Timea Babos in a first-time match-up and Gavrilova taking on a yet-to-be-determined qualifier. The 22-year-old Aussie will be playing her first WTA matches of the year after starting the year in Perth at the Hopman Cup where she went 1-2 in singles.

Quarter 2

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A potential Singapore semi-final rematch is on the cards if Dominika Cibulkova and Svetlana Kuznetsova live up to their seedings and reach the quarter-finals in Sydney. Cibulkova opens against the feisty, Laura Siegemund (1-0 H2H record) and could play Zhang Shuai again in the second round; Cibulkova came from a set down to defeat Zhang in the second round of Brisbane last week, 2-6 6-4 6-4.

Kuznetsova made a solid start to the year in Brisbane where she reached the quarter-finals and arrives in Sydney as the defending champion. In her first match of the week she will play Irina-Camelia Begu in what will be their first ever encounter on hard courts.The Sydney draw is high-quality all over and there are so many even first round matches. The final match from this section features Sam Stosur and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova; separated by just six spots in the rankings and with Stosur leading the head-to-head 3-2, it’s tough to separate the pair.

Quarter 3

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The third quarter is definitely my favourite of the draw with four super first round matches set.  The new number nine seed, Roberta Vinci (after Karolina Pliskova’s withdrawal) will play Sloane Stephens in the first round. Sloane will be playing her first match since August last year (!) at the Olympics. Information has been pretty scarce but I think it has been a foot injury.

Also to look forward to in this quarter is a case of déjà vu with Elina Svitolina and Monica Puig locking heads once more having played in the first round of Brisbane; Svitolina won, 6-3 6-3 but Puig did reach the final in Sydney so obviously likes these courts. Set your videos and timers for Belinda Bencic v Yulia Putintseva which could be a delightful slice of WTA drama. Bencic started the year at the Hopman Cup where she recorded singles wins over Heather Watson and Andrea Petkovic, and suffered a three set loss to BFF, Kristina Mladenovic. The final match in the quarter will see Ekaterina Makarova take on Barbora Strycova. Once again, I quite like this draw for Makarova.

Quarter 4

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Agnieszka Radwanska and Elena Vesnina are the seeds in the fourth and final quarter, while Caroline Wozniacki is also lurking. It’s a testament to how well Vesnina played in 2016 that she’s bagged a seed here and she will be looking to score her first win of 2017 after a three set loss to eventual finalist, Alizé Cornet in Brisbane. Vesnina had been just two games from the win up 6-3 4-1 before Cornet mounted a stirring comeback. Wozniacki and Vinci will both open against qualifiers after quarter-final showings in their first tournaments of the year. Wozniacki will be looking to put a tough loss to Julia Goerges in Auckland behind her.

Records in Sydney

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The top five seeds in Sydney have all reached at least a final in the last four years. Kuznetsova will be returning for the 12th time and as the defending champion. Radwanska is also a former champion but skipped last year’s tournament due to injury, as did Cibulkova who chose to play Hobart instead. Johanna Konta will be playing the Sydney main draw for the first time in her career, while Elina Svitolina will be bidding for her first ever win at the Apia International.

W-L records include results from qualifying (Data from WTA and Tennis Abstract)

First Round Polls

Sydney Media

Didn't take me long to get back up 😎😜 #balmoralbeach #australia #nosharks

A post shared by Caroline Wozniacki (@carowozniacki) on

Final thoughts

The week before a Slam always throws up some surprises as the main focus of the players will be on the Australian Open. I’ve gone for Radwanska – she has a habit of making deep runs after disappointing results and when i’ve written her off in the past, she comes out of nowhere and wins a big title. I think she’ll want more matches playing with her new racquet.

I’m not so sure Kerber will be intent on going all the way in Sydney but rather get a few matches under her belt to fine tune her preparations for the AO – therefore, I don’t see her as a title contender in Sydney.

Final Prediction: Radwanska d. Cibulkova

Who do you think will win Sydney? Have your say in the tournament poll below and as always, comments are appreciated!

Photos in this post by mootennis.com

10 thoughts on “WTA Apia International Sydney 2017: Main Draw Preview

  1. I hope you are right James as I’d like to see Aga win this but she was disappointing in Shenzhen and looked a bit fortunate to not go out in her opening match and her performance against Riske was a poor one ( especially the final set ! ) but she does have this habit of going missing sometimes. It is probably too early for Belinda to win this after her injury problems last year and I expect Angelique Kerber to improve on her performance from last week as she did not serve well in her opening match in Brisbane but then got better. I got the impression that she was a bit rusty. She has a good draw here and I think that she can win her first title of 2017.

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    • Making predictions for these pre-Slam tournaments is difficult so I have to be honest and say that I don’t have much confidence! I know Radwanska was disappointing in Shenzhen so it’s a bit of a risk in that sense. I’ve got Bencic to R2 in my draw as I thought she might be a bit tired after the Hopman Cup. I’m hoping she’ll get a good draw for the AO since she’s not seeded!

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  2. Difficult to tell on this one. Aga or Kerber should win but it all depends on how fit and hungry they are.

    If Pavs beats Stosur and Cibulkova falters then I could totally see Kuznetsova making a good run here.

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  3. The problem with Aga vs Domi in the Sydney final would be that if it happened everyone would be wanting to mention the 2013 final, which I’m sure Domi wants to forget about;

    http://www.aljazeera.com/sport/tennis/2013/01/2013111124841955445.html

    For the heck of it though, I’ll say Aga vs. Angie or Sveta in the final, but it’d be good if Domi makes it again and wins it this time (though I suppose she redeemed her result in Sydney by beating Aga in the final in Stanford later that year).

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    • Reading Aga’s comments after winning that title are pretty hilarious (and sad) in retrospect, since she never came any closer to a Slam from that point on and seemed to think she’d suddenly be a match for women like Serena.

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      • I think she could be excused her optimism Andrew, seeing as she’d just won two finals on the trot and also reached the Wimbledon final the year before (and taken a set off Serena). I think you could argue that players need to be optimistic about their chances of winning to get the best out of themselves, with tennis now being such a mental game.

        Domi admits now that she had the opposite problem – she struggled to believe that she deserved to be competing against the top players and she had to keep on trying to convince herself that she was good enough to beat them (maybe her height disadvantage was a factor in this).

        Listening to her comments now, Aga’s a lot more subdued about her chances of winning a slam; she thinks she’s got about two years to do it in if it’s going to happen for her at all. (Some of us still hope she will, but I think she’s going to need some luck.)

        BTW, if you saw and recall the match; Aga’s had a lot of flack over the tears for her graceless handshakes etc. but this was one match where her after-match conduct was exemplary – she cut short her victory celebrations out of respect for Domi and started her winner’s speech by telling Domi she was sorry about the scoreline, which Domi didn’t deserve.

        Domi in her turn had the unenviable task of making the runners’ up speeches, thanking her coach, the spectators, her boyfriend, the sponsors etc., even though she’d just suffered a shut-out and not won a single game; it must have really taken some doing.

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      • Yeah it was one of Aga’s best displays of showmanships. I also liked Serena’s support of Cirstea at Rogers Cup that year after a similar thrashing, where Sorana cried and apologised to the audience for a poor performance on her part…

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