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WTA Wuhan Open 2019 draw preview and predictions: Barty, Pliskova, Halep and Svitolina lead field at the last Premier-5 of the year

Hannah Wilks in WTA Tour 20 Sep 2019
  • Ashleigh Barty, Karolina Pliskova and Simona Halep lead the field at the Wuhan Open in 2019
  • The 2019 Dongfeng Motor Wuhan Open is live from Wuhan from 22-28 September
Aryna Sabalenka returns to defend her Wuhan Open title when the 2019 edition takes place 22-28 September (PA Sports)

All four previous Wuhan Open champions are in the field for the 2019 edition – but the Premier-5 event still looks likely to crown a new winner.

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The WTA Tour’s top players gather for the final Premier-5 event of the season at the Dongfeng Motor Wuhan Open, with Ashleigh Barty, Karolina Pliskova and Elina Svitolina leading the field.

All four former winners of the Wuhan Open, including Venus Williams, two-time winner Petra Kvitova and defending champion Aryna Sabalenka, are also in the packed field, as are Shenzhen hopefuls Simona Halep, Kiki Bertens and Belinda Bencic.

We break down the draw and predict the semifinalists.

Top quarter

Projected quarterfinal: Ashleigh Barty (1) vs Belinda Bencic (7) (0-0)

Ashleigh Barty (PA Sports)
World no. 1 Ashleigh Barty has been given a tricky draw as she returns to action for the first time since the US Open, hoping to repeat her 2017 run to the final of the Wuhan Open.

The French Open champion could face a rematch of that 2017 Wuhan final as early as the second round, with Caroline Garcia or Daria Kasatkina her potential first opponent. Sofia Kenin, who beat Barty in Toronto, is her projected third-round opponent and that is a match-up Barty does not relish at the best of times, so the Australian will be hoping that Kenin can be upset by Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (who, however, may well be coming from an Osaka campaign that required her to play two matches on Saturday). The unseeded Elise Mertens, a quarterfinalist at the US Open, also lurks in this section.

US Open semifinalist Belinda Bencic has lost her last three matches in Wuhan, but has every incentive to do better this year, as she currently sits in eighth place on the Road to Shenzhen – and every opportunity to do better: She will open against a qualifier or Ekaterina Alexandrova, with Madison Keys, who just had to retire in Osaka with a foot injury, her projected third-round opponent. Petra Martic, having an excellent season, will be a bigger threat.

Semifinalist: Bencic

Second quarter

Projected quarterfinal: Simona Halep (4) vs Kiki Bertens (6) (3-3)

Simona Halep (PA Sports)
A Wuhan semifinalist in 2016, Halep is returning to action for the first time since suffering a shock second-round defeat at the US Open, having pulled out of Zhengzhou with an ankle injury.

The Wimbledon champion has been quite fortunate with her draw through the first couple of rounds, however. She is likely to open against Wimbledon semifinalist Barbora Strycova – not as intimidating an opponent on hard courts as she is on grass – and could meet Donna Vekic, a US Open quarterfinalist, in the third round, although Vekic must contend with Victoria Azarenka in the first round. That should enable Halep to get her feet under her.

Kiki Bertens, who like Halep is battling for a Shenzhen spot but is in a much less enviable position down in ninth place, opens against a qualifier, but comes into Wuhan on a three-match losing streak. The Dutch player is flailing for confidence and would face the winner of a packed mini-section in the third round – defending champion Aryna Sabalenka (in little form herself), Sabalenka’s first-round opponent Aliaksandra Sasnovich, 2015 Wuhan champion Venus Williams, who beat Bertens in Cincinnati, or Australian Open semifinalist Danielle Collins.

Semifinalist: Halep

Third quarter

Projected quarterfinal: Wang Qiang (8) vs Elina Svitolina (3) (1-3)

Elina Svitolina (PA Sports)
A semifinalist in Wuhan in 2014, Svitolina retired from Guangzhou last week due to right knee pain, so it’s a bit surprising to see her in the draw for the Premier-5 event – but the Ukrainian is currently in tenth place on the Road to Shenzhen, and needs to make a push if she is to qualify for the event and give herself a chance to defend her title.

If Svitolina can weather early rounds, and she’s fit, she’s got a decent draw, but she could have to contend with Garbine Muguruza or Peng Shuai in her opening match and Caroline Wozniacki, Wozniacki’s first-round opponent Su-Wei Hsieh or Yulia Putintseva in the last 16.

Wang Qiang made a brilliant run to the Wuhan semifinals last year, as she put together an incredible late-season run of results on Asian hard courts. But the Chinese player has struggled so far in 2019, with the exception of a surprise US Open quarterfinal, and she will be under major pressure in Wuhan, where she opens against Rogers Cup semifinalist Marie Bouzkova or Wimbledon quarterfinalist Karolina Muchova. Angelique Kerber, who was a Wuhan semifinalist in 2015 and recently snapped her losing streak with a run to the Osaka semifinals (and perhaps beyond), is likely to await in the last 16.

Semifinalist: Kerber

Fourth quarter

Projected quarterfinal: Petra Kvitova (6) vs Karolina Pliskova (2) (3-1)

Karolina Pliskova (PA Sports)
The only woman to have won multiple titles at the Wuhan Open, Kvitova is trying to salvage a season that started brilliantly and has been subsequently decimated by a left forearm injury with a strong Asian swing – and has a real chance of qualifying for the WTA Finals if she can get some wins over the next couple of weeks, currently in sixth place.

Kvitova is playing for the first time since her second-round defeat to Andrea Petkovic at the US Open, and will open against Washington, D.C. champion Jessica Pegula or, more likely, Polona Hercog, who is having a pretty good season. Sloane Stephens may await in the last 16, although Zhang Shuai is a more likely opponent – and a tricky one – for the Czech.

Karolina Pliskova, who has already qualified for Shenzhen, has won more WTA Tour matches than anybody else in 2019 and more titles to boot. Pliskova looked excellent in Zhengzhou, where she won her fourth title of the year, but has never really shone in Wuhan. She opens against Amanda Anisimova, playing for the first time since San Jose and the tragic death of her father, or Samantha Stosur who is into the Guangzhou final this week. Anastasija Sevastova, who has finalist points to defend next week in Beijing, is her projected third-round opponent but the Latvian has been struggling for wins lately and Ajla Tomljanovic, who has been on some decent form of late, or the dangerous Dayana Yastremska migh come through instead.

Semifinalist: Pliskova


Semifinals: Bencic d. Halep
Pliskova d. Kerber

Final: Bencic d. Pliskova

Wuhan Open tennis is live from Wuhan from 22-28 September 2019

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WTA Wuhan Open 2019 draw preview and predictions: Barty, Pliskova, Halep and Svitolina lead field at the last Premier-5 of the year

WTA Wuhan 2019 draw preview, predictions and tips: Ashleigh Barty and Simona Halep are among those returning to action for the first time since the US Open in Wuhan, which looks likely to crown a new champion once more

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