The final Premier Mandatory event of the season does not offer first-round byes to top seeds, but only to the four players in the draw who reached the semifinals or better of the Wuhan Open the previous week, to aid with the transition from the Premier-5 tournament with the Saturday final to the China Open with the Saturday start.
Barty, who for the third year in a row made the semifinals of the Wuhan Open, has once again benefited from this policy and will play her first match in Beijing on Tuesday – by which time several of the top seeds, including second seed Karolina Pliskova and sixth seed Simona Halep, have already gone out, although not Barty’s projected third-round opponent Sloane Stephens or potential quarterfinal opponents Petra Kvitova and Belinda Bencic (at the time of writing).
French Open champion Barty had a good week in Wuhan last week, having taken a break to go home to Australia and unwind after a surprise fourth-round defeat to Wang Qiang at the US Open. Returning somewhat refreshed, Barty’s Wuhan campaign was bracketed with rematches against players who have beaten her at that tournament before: A first-round rematch with Caroline Garcia, who defeated her in the 2017 final in Wuhan, and a semifinal clash with Aryna Sabalenka, who eliminated her at the same stage in 2018. Barty won the first and lost the second to the eventual champion, and in between scored solid wins over the in-form Sofia Kenin and Petra Martic, so it was a very solid week’s work for the Australian (who also succeeded in keeping her world no. 1 ranking out of Pliskova’s hands).
This will be just Barty’s second appearance at the China Open after having lost her opening match to Elina Svitolina in 2017, and she will be hoping to make a more protracted stay in the Chinese capital this time, but to do so she will have to get past a determined opponent in Yulia Putintseva.
Putintseva opened her China Open campaign in ominous fashion, dropping just one game in a 6-0, 6-1 drubbing of Anna Blinkova, who may be in the tournament (or rather, was in the tournament) as a qualifier but who has been on very good form lately.
This is the fifth time the Kazakh has played the China Open, and just the second time she has won a main-draw match after doing so in 2016 when she beat Jelena Ostapenko before losing to Garbine Muguruza.
Putintseva comes into the China Open ranked world no. 38, despite having failed to defend her runner-up points in Guangzhou from last year a few weeks ago (she played the Toray Pan-Pacific Open in Osaka instead, and it proved to be a smart decision as she beat a qualifier and lucky loser to reach the quarterfinals before going down to eventual champion Naomi Osaka in straight sets). The 24-year-old Kazakh has had a strong season, winning her maiden title in Nurnberg in May, making the fourth round of the Miami Open and quarterfinals in Sydney and Birmingham as well as the third round of the US Open.
She has also effectively made quite a nuisance of herself against top players, going 3-10 vs players ranked in the top 10 in 2019 and beating a reigning world no. 1, Osaka, in June in Birmingham (she also beat Osaka at Wimbledon, but by that time Osaka had ceded the top spot to Barty herself). She has also scored wins over the likes of Belinda Bencic, Anastasija Sevastova and, most recently, Aryna Sabalenka at the US Open.
This will be just the second meeting between Barty and Putintseva. The first was at the Mutua Madrid Open in May, when Barty dropped a tight first set but came back to win 4-6, 6-1, 6-2. Barty was on a ten-match winning streak at the time, but if she could beat two-time French Open quarterfinalist Putinsteva on clay, it bodes extremely well for her chances on hard courts against the Kazakh.
Putintseva’s level did drop dramatically after the first set in that match and she did rather allow Barty back into the match after an effective first set, with the Australian winning 12 of the first 15 games as Putintseva’s attempts to ramp up the aggression only led to unforced errors. Which is to say that the Kazakh can be extremely effective against the Australian, if she stays aggressive but in a disciplined way. I think she’s going to make Barty work hard for this win in Beijing – but I do think Barty will get it in the end.
Barty vs Putintseva China Open tennis is live from Beijing on Tuesday at 1pm local/6am BST
Barty vs Putintseva tennis live streaming, preview and predictions – Barty looks for her first match win at the China Open
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