Top seed, Kiki Bertens begins her campaign at the Upper Austria Ladies Linz on Wednesday when she plays Japanese qualifier, Misaki Doi in the first round.
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Bertens is still looking to qualify for the season-ending WTA Finals, and with her main rivals for the final two spots not able to gain any more points this week, she has got a great opportunity to strengthen her position in this penultimate week of the WTA regular season.
Six players have already qualified for the season-ending finals, leaving Bertens, Elina Svitolina, Serena Williams and Belinda Bencic to battle for the two remaining qualifying positions for the finals, reserved for the top eight players in the WTA Race to Shenzhen.
Svitolina and Williams, in seventh and eighth respectively on the Race, are not playing this week, while Bencic, ranked 10th, suffered an early exit in Linz.
Ninth-placed Bertens will also be buoyed by a strong semi-final run at the China Open last week, as the 27-year-old snapped out of a poor run of form to beat Donna Vekic, Dayana Yastremska, Polona Hercog and Svitolina before falling in three tight sets to Ashleigh Barty, having held a match point against the world No. 1.
It was a timely return to form for Bertens, who had won just one of four matches before Beijing, and hadn’t made a quarter final in the six tournaments preceding the China Open.
She had done plenty of good work before that though, the highlight of which was a sensational title run at the Premier Mandatory meet in Madrid, where she took out fellow top-ten players, Petra Kvitova, Sloane Stephens and Simona Halep in the consecutive rounds to complete an outstanding title run without dropping a set. She had earlier won the St. Petersburg title, while she made finals in s-Hertogenbosch and Palermo.
Bertens is now the heavy favourite to go all the way in Linz, and she opens her campaign against Misaki Doi on Wednesday.
Doi has been playing well on the Asian swing, reaching the final in Hiroshima, where she lost to Nao Hibino, and backing it up with a quarter final run in Tokyo- defeating Kristina Mladenovic and Donna Vekic before falling to Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the last eight.
The Japanese left-hander fell in the qualifying rounds in Beijing, but she has scaled that hurdle in Linz, taking out Melanie Klaffner and Jasmine Paolini to reach the main draw.
Up until Hiroshima, Doi had been very quiet on the WTA Tour, managing just two wins, one each at Indian Wells and Miami, in 10 previous main draw appearances. She made first round exits at the Australian Open, Acapulco, Monterrey, Nurnberg, Roland Garros, San Jose, Toronto and the US Open. She also struggled to make any impact on the lower-tier events until she launched a title-winning run at the WTA 125K tournament in Bastad in July- a triumph that came almost out of the blue given what she had done in the preceding months.
A couple of months later, she made her third WTA final in Hiroshima, and her first since February 2016.
Doi has certainly got plenty of ability, as shown in her career-high ranking of 30th, attained in 2016- the year she made the fourth round at Wimbledon- but she has struggled in recent seasons. She managed just one tour-level main draw win last year, and was out of the top-300 at a point, but she has returned to the top 100 this year by virtue of her recent performances, specifically Bastad, Hiroshima and Beijing, and heads into Linz at No. 74 in the world.
Doi has a top-ten win to her name, against Madison Keys in Madrid 2017, while she also has a win against Bertens- in the qualifying rounds for Sydney in 2013.
However, Bertens has won their two matches since then- a Fed Cup tie in 2014, and in Nurnberg in 2017, although Doi did retire from the latter while trailing 6-2 1-0. Bertens has a poor record in Linz, as she has won just two matches in her last six visits, but opportunity beckons on the Dutchwoman to do well this week and put herself in an even stronger position to qualify for Shenzhen. Will she make the most of it?
Kiki Bertens vs Misaki Doi is live from Linz on Wednesday, 9 October from 6:30pm local time/ 5:30pm BST