WUHAN, China - Petra Kvitova looks to defend her title against a high-quality field that features eight of the Top 10 at the Dongfeng Motors Wuhan Open, a Premier 5 event. With the Battle for No.1 and Race to Singapore intensifying, US Open champion Sloane Stephens and runner-up Madison Keys also return to action. There's a lot on the line as the tour heads to China, and it all starts in Li Na's hometown.
Top 8 seeds: No.1 Garbiñe Muguruza, No.2 Simona Halep, No.4 Karolina Pliskova, No.6 Caroline Wozniacki, No.7 Johanna Konta, No.8 Svetlana Kuznetsova, No.9 Jelena Ostapenko, No.10 Dominika Cibulkova.
Top half: Muguruza, Pliskova, Konta, Ostapenko.
Bottom half: Halep, Wozniacki, Kuznetsova, Cibulkova
Projected quarterfinals: Muguruza-Ostapenko, Pliskova-Konta, Kuznetsova-Wozniacki, Cibulkova-Halep
Last year's final: Petra Kvitova d. Dominika Cibulkova, 6-1, 6-1.
Main draw play begins on Sunday. Subscribe to WTA TV to stream all the action.
Sloane Stephens and Madison Keys return to action
After battling it out in the US Open final two weeks ago, US Open champion Sloane Stephens and runner-up Madison Keys are back in action this week. Both women are looking to continue their exemplary summer form on hard court. Stephens has won 15 of her last 17 matches, taking losses only to Halep and Wozniacki. Keys has won 12 of her last 14 matches, taking losses only to Muguruza and Stephens.
Thanks to her maiden major title, Stephens has rocketed up the rankings to No.17 and sits at No.12 on the Porsche Race to Singapore leaderboard. With no points to defend for the rest of the season, Stephens has a great chance to finally break into the Top 10 for the first time. A good run in Wuhan could seal the deal, as well as put her in strong contention to qualify for her first BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global. Stephens opens against China's Wang Qiang.
Like Stephens, Keys' summer form has boosted her position on the Race to Singapore leaderboard to No.14, in firm contention to qualify for the WTA Elite Trophy Zhuhai. Keys will open her tournament against a qualifier.
Petra Kvitova goes for the Wuhan treble
There's just something that clicks for Petra Kvitova in Wuhan. In its three stagings, the big-hitting Czech has taken home the title twice, in its inaugural year in 2014 and last year. Her run to the title last season was one of the most impressive weeks of the season. She lost just one set en route to the title, defeating Jelena Ostapenko, Elina Svitolina, Angelique Kerber, Johanna Konta, Simona Halep, and Dominika Cibulkova. That run kicked off a strong finish to the season, which saw her make the quarterfinals at the China Open, final in Luxembourg, and win the WTA Elite Trophy to cap off her season.
Much like in 2016, Kvitova comes into Wuhan after a strong showing at the US Open, where she ousted Garbiñe Muguruza and played one of the most compelling matches of the season, narrowly losing to Venus Williams in the quarterfinals in a third-set tiebreak.
Currently ranked No.13, Kvitova is defending a big chunk of points in the fall. She needs all the points she can get to buoy her ranking for 2017. By way of reference, she is ranked down at No.37 in the Race to Singapore, meaning if the season were to end today she could be unseeded at the Australian Open in January. Nobody wants that - not Kvitova, and certainly not the field. Wuhan offers a great opportunity for the 27-year-old to make up some lost ground.
Singapore qualification still in the mix
Only No.1 Muguruza has officially secured qualification for the WTA Finals and seven spots remain open at the start of Wuhan. With 900 points on offer, look for the Singapore field to take shape this week. Four of the five women who are on the bubble need to make something happen this week:
Race to Singapore Leaderboard:
7. Johanna Konta
8. Jelena Ostapenko (could pass Konta this week depending on Seoul results)
9. Kristina Mladenovic
10. Svetlana Kuznetsova
11. CoCo Vandeweghe (not playing)
12. Sloane Stephens
First-round matches to watch
Angelique Kerber vs. Caroline Garcia, Petra Kvitova vs. Peng Shuai, Sloane Stephens vs. Wang Qiang, Agnieszka Radwanska vs. Magdalena Rybarikova, Daria Gavrilova vs. Julia Goerges, CiCi Bellis vs. Ashleigh Barty, Katerina Siniakova vs. Kristina Mladenovic.