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Clijsters and Osaka among Western & Southern Open wildcards

hannahwilks in WTA Cincinnati Open 31 Jul 2020
Kim Clijsters received a wildcard into the Western & Southern Open (Credit Image: © Yorick Jansens/Belga via ZUMA Press)

Former US Open champions Kim Clijsters and Naomi Osaka are among players granted wildcards for the Western & Southern Open.

Naomi Osaka will be playing the US Open, her team have confirmed, after the Japanese-Haitian player was listed among the five players receiving wildcards for the warm-up event.

It’s not clear why Osaka didn’t simply enter the Western & Southern Open by the entry deadline, but after her absence from the player entry list raised eyebrows, the 2018 US Open champion’s management team confirmed she’ll be playing both events.

World no. 10 Osaka is the sixth top-10 player in the field, joining Karolina Pliskova, Sofia Kenin, Kiki Bertens, Belinda Bencic and Serena Williams.

World no. 1 Ashleigh Barty announced on Thursday that she won’t be playing the Western & Southern Open or the US Open, citing the ‘significant risks’ involved in travelling from Australia to the USA at this time.

A notable absence is that of defending US Open champion Bianca Andreescu, who has not played since last October due to injury. If Andreescu is not playing the Western & Southern Open, relocated from Cincinnati to New York in 2020 to form a two-tournament bubble with the US Open, it is unlikely that she will be defending her title.

Naomi Osaka will be competing at the Western & Southern Open (Photo by Corinne Dubreuil/ABACAPRESS.COM)

The other Western & Southern Open wildcards have been awarded to Kim Clijsters, Sloane Stephens, Venus Williams and Caty McNally.
Clijsters, a three-time US Open champion, announced her intention to un-retire in 2020 after last competing in 2012, but only got the opportunity play two WTA Tour matches in Dubai and Monterrey – losing both, to Johanna Konta and Garbine Muguruza respectively – before the season was shut down. Clijsters said the global pandemic would not affect her plans to return to competition and has put the suspension time to good use, playing for the New York Empire in World Team Tennis in the USA. World Team Tennis uses an abbreviated format, but Clijsters still leads the league in women’s singles wins, and has beaten Sofia Kenin, Stephens, Danielle Collins and Monica Puig.

The Belgian will also be one of the seven former Western & Southern Open champions in the women’s field, having triumphed in 2010 during her first successful unretirement when she beat Maria Sharapova in the final. The others are defending champion Madison Keys, Kiki Bertens (2018), Garbine Muguruza (2017), Karolina Pliskova (2016), Serena Williams (2014-15) and Victoria Azarenka (2013).

Alongside Osaka and Clijsters, two more US Open champions have received Western & Southern Open wildcards: Venus Williams, who won back-to-back US Opens in 2000-1, and 2017 champion Sloane Stephens.

The fifth Western & Southern Open wildcard has gone to Caty McNally, an 18-year-old currently ranked world no. 38. McNally reached the second round at the US Open last year where she won the first set against Serena Williams before succumbing in three. She is a native of Ohio, the state where the Western & Southern Open is usually played in the Cincinnati suburb of Mason; the tournament has been relocated to New York for one year only to form a two-tournament bubble with the US Open.