Serena Williams is back in action after her US Open triumph, while Simona Halep looks to shake off her upset loss at Flushing Meadows. Ravi Ubha gives us his expert predictions for Wuhan...
WTA Staff

WUHAN, China - The show, as they say, must go on, even if Li Na's retirement on Friday leaves Wuhan without its biggest attraction on its debut.

The field, however, is still exceptionally strong, highlighted by Serena Williams, Simona Halep, Petra Kvitova, Maria Sharapova and Agnieszka Radwanska - the Top 5 in the rankings, fittingly, feature at the Premier 5 event.

Some guy (well, me) thought Williams wouldn't get to the quarterfinals at the US Open, and we know how that turned out.

But the draw analysis continues, and so here goes for Wuhan.

With significant points on offer here and in Beijing, the composition of the elite eight in Singapore - Williams, Halep and Sharapova are already in - could become a lot clearer in two weeks.

First quarter: Three in a row for Cornet?
It couldn't happen three times in succession, could it? I'm referring to Alizé Cornet possibly beating Williams again after taking out the World No. 1 at Dubai and Wimbledon.

They could meet in the second round in Wuhan, but you'd think that Williams would have a little extra motivation. And of course, she's in great form, crushing her opponents on the way to collecting an 18th Grand Slam title earlier this month in New York.

After Wimbledon, Eugenie Bouchard's spot at the WTA Finals was almost guaranteed. But a poor summer, by her standards, and some inspired play by the chasing pack meant she slipped to seventh and owned less than a 500-point lead over Caroline Wozniacki heading into Tokyo.

Alas, with Li out of contention, Wozniacki now occupies the final berth and Bouchard has a little breathing space.

Bouchard's opener following a bye figures to be against Peng Shuai, the Chinese No. 1 in Li's absence. Not easy.

Prediction: Williams (def. Bouchard)

Second quarter: Rematch of the US Open classic?
Sharapova featured in two of the most memorable matches this year, outlasting Halep in a thrilling French Open final but falling short in three sets to Wozniacki at the US Open.

The latter match was intense with a capital 'I,' neither baseliner wanting to flinch. Ultimately, the Dane prevailed to continue her resurgence.

The seedings say they'll battle in the quarterfinals in Wuhan - though there's ample work to be done before that stage.

In a potential third round tussle with Singapore implications, Wozniacki might encounter Ana Ivanovic, whose prospects have also improved thanks to Li's absence. It would be their second duel in a matter of days, too, given that they also are squaring off in Sunday's Tokyo final.

Ekaterina Makarova's semifinal appearance at the US Open brought the Russian into the Singapore reckoning and if the left-hander wants to make up further ground, she'll probably have to overcome Sharapova in the third round.

Prediction: Sharapova (def. Wozniacki)

Third quarter: Radwanska, Kvitova seek form
A strong start to 2014 is what's keeping Radwanska near the top of the Road to Singapore leaderboard at No.4. But if the Pole doesn't arrest her slump soon, she could find herself missing the WTA Finals for only the second time since the start of 2008.

Radwanska was the heavy favorite and defending champion in Seoul this week but lost to Varvara Lepchenko - her ouster in Stanford - in the quarterfinals. Worryingly for Radwanska, six of her last seven defeats have come against players who were outside the Top 20.

A bye gets Radwanska into the second round before a likely showdown with Venus Williams; Radwanska topped Venus Williams in the Rogers Cup final in August for respite.

If that wasn't hard enough, wildcard Victoria Azarenka could be waiting in the third round.

Like Radwanska, Kvitova lies in a favorable position in the Road to Singapore standings but needs victories to keep her rivals at bay.

Prediction: Azarenka (def. Kvitova)

Fourth quarter: Can 'Domi' rally?
It was all so different in January. There Li was, landing her second Grand Slam title at the Australian Open, and the rest of 2014 seemed full of promise.

Similarly, Dominika Cibulkova thrived in Melbourne, and when she reached the final in Kuala Lumpur in April, no one could have forecast that come September she'd be on the outside looking in for a place in Singapore.

Cibulkova, though, has time on her side, and the Asian swing began well - a quarterfinal result in Tokyo stopped a four-match losing streak. (Then again, Angelique Kerber routed Cibulkova 6-3, 6-0.)

Cibulkova passed Makarova and moved into 11th in the Road to Singapore, but unfortunately for the Slovak, Kerber, Wozniacki and Ivanovic all had longer stays in Tokyo.

Kerber and Cibulkova could tangle in the third round in Wuhan.

Halep must be well rested and eager to recover from her upset loss to Mirjana Lucic-Baroni at the US Open.

Prediction: Halep (def. Kerber)

Final: Williams (def. Halep)

~ Ravi Ubha (@raviubha) has written for,, the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, and is also a tennis broadcaster. He is based in London.