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WTA Zhengzhou Open 2019 draw preview and predictions: Pliskova, Svitolina lead new Premier draw

Hannah Wilks in WTA Tour 8 Sep 2019
  • Six of the WTA's top 20 lead the field at the new Premier-level Zhengzhou Open
  • WTA Zhengzhou tennis is live from 9-15 September 2019
Karolina Pliskova leads the field at the 2019 Zhengzhou Open

Karolina Pliskova and Elina Svitolina lead six of the WTA Tour’s top 20 at the inaugural Premier-level Zhengzhou Open.

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The WTA Tour’s autumn Asian swing begins at the new Premier-level ICBC Credit Card Zhengzhou Open with six top-20 players leading the draw and eager to begin the final phase of the season with a bang.

Wimbledon and US Open semifinalist Elina Svitolina and three-time Grand Slam champion Angelique Kerber are both looking for their first titles of 2019 while Karolina Pliskova targets the seventh Premier-level title of her career. But the top seeds are likely to face stern opposition from a field packed with unseeded but dangerous players like Alison Riske, Jelena Ostapenko, Yulia Putintseva and China’s own Zheng Saisai.

We break down the draw and predict the semifinalists.

Top quarter

Projected quarterfinal: Karolina Pliskova (1) vs Sofia Kenin (6) (3-0)

Sofia Kenin (PA Sports)
Karolina Pliskova has become a bit of a specialist at winning Premier-level titles, and after another season has now gone by without her reaching another Grand Slam final, the former world no. 1 will be even more keen to snap up more WTA Tour titles and make a strong finish to 2019, starting in Zhengzhou.

Pliskova looks likely to start against Polona Hercog, the Lugano champion who is having a strong season, but her biggest challenge should be Sofia Kenin in the quarterfinals. The 20-year-old American has had a breakthrough 2019 and is looking for her third and biggest title of the season in Zhengzhou, where she shouldn’t have too much trouble with a pair of Frenchwomen in the first two rounds, Chloe Paquet and Alize Cornet. Pliskova has been incredibly consistent in 2019 at WTA level and if she can stay unbeaten vs Kenin, she would be a strong favourite for the title.

Semifinalist: Pliskova

Second quarter

Projected quarterfinal: Kiki Bertens (3) vs Angelique Kerber (5) (3-2)

Both seeds in this quarter are in need of a strong result, with Bertens struggling for good results ever since getting unluckily ill at the French Open (and now having separated, perhaps temporarily, with coach Raemon Sluiter) and Kerber still looking for her first title of 2019, although she has reached finals at Indian Wells and Eastbourne.

Bertens has the better draw, likely to meet powerful but error-prone Ajla Tomljanovic in the second round, while Kerber must open against Wimbledon quarterfinalist Alison Riske, who is having a great season and has had a lot of success playing on Chinese hard courts, making the Shenzhen final three times and the Tianjin final twice.

The flailing Kerber could well lose to the flat-hitting Riske despite a 3-1 head-to-head, and San Jose champion Zheng Saisai likely awaits in the second round. With Bertens flailing, I could see Zheng taking advantage in this quarter.

Semifinalist: Zheng

Third quarter

Projected quarterfinal: Petra Martic (7) vs Aryna Sabalenka (4) (0-1)

Sabalenka is another player who comes into the Asian swing floundering, as the Belarusian has struggled to back up last year’s stellar breakthrough season – and she has a title to defend in Wuhan shortly.

There is also the fact that Sabalenka may or may not have split with coach Dimitry Tursunov, with whom she seems to enjoy a rather tempestuous relationship, and has to make a very quick transition to Zhengzhou from New York, where she is playing in Sunday’s women’s doubles final.

Under the circumstances it would not be surprising to see Sabalenka go out early, especially as she faces the also-slumping but still dangerous Jelena Ostapenko in the second round. 

Seventh seed Petra Martic, a quarterfinalist at the French Open, is quietly having a great season but can be erratic – still, she has a good draw to make the semifinals here, opening against Jasmine Paolini with Fiona Ferro likely to await in the second round.

Semifinalist: Martic

Fourth quarter

Elina Svitolina (PA Sports)
Projected quarterfinal: Caroline Garcia (8) vs Elina Svitolina (2) (3-1)

Wimbledon and US Open semifinalist Elina Svitolina is still looking for her first title of 2019, but that has a lot to do with the knee injury that kept her off court for a couple of months earlier in the season and contributed to a poor clay-court season.

The defending WTA Finals Singapore champion needs to secure her place at the season-ending championships once more, but has to make quite a quick transition from New York and has a potentially tricky opening opponent in Yulia Putintseva.

The slumping Caroline Garcia, a Wuhan and Beijing champion in 2017, has a winning record vs Svitolina but looks unlikely to be the Ukrainian’s quarterfinal opponent – she has a tricky draw with Tereza Martincova in the first round and either former doubles partner Kristina Mladenovic or hard-hitting Duan Ying-Ying in the second.  

Semifinalist: Svitolina

Semifinals: Pliskova d. Zheng
Svitolina d. Martic

Final: Svitolina d. Pliskova

WTA ICBC Credit Card Zhengzhou Open tennis is live from Zhengzhou from 9-15 September 2019

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WTA Zhengzhou Open 2019 draw preview and predictions: Pliskova, Svitolina lead new Premier draw

WTA Zhengzhou Open 2019 draw preview, predictions and tips: Six of the WTA Tour’s top 20 lead the field at the new Premier-level ICBC Credit Card Zhengzhou Open with Svitolina, Kerber hunting for first titles of 2019

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