LINZ, Austria - This time last year, the indoor courts of Europe were a launching pad for Julia Goerges' ascent to the Top 10 - and, returning to one of her most historically successful parts of the season as the No.1 seed at the Upper Austria Ladies Linz this week, the 29-year-old opens with a blockbuster match against compatriot Andrea Petkovic.

The all-German derby will be the fifth time the pair have squared off, with the head-to-head tied at 2-2. Though Petkovic has not been ranked higher than World No.69 this year, the 31-year-old has nonetheless been able to display some of her old Top 10 form when facing top opposition, with six seeded scalps in WTA main draws to her name in 2018 so far. As Goerges, the 2012 Linz finalist, prepares to defend her points from the three-tournament winning streak she embarked on last year, she cannot take her countrywoman lightly.

Magdalena Rybarikova, Kristina Mladenovic and Monica Puig after the draw ceremony with tournament mascot Wättchen (GEPA)

At the other end of the draw, all eyes will be on No.2 seed Kiki Bertens, the only player in the draw who still has a shot at making the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global field. The Dutchwoman will need to make at least the quarterfinals here to gain points - and has been dealt a tough draw, with either Tashkent champion Margarita Gasparyan or Wuhan quarterfinalist Monica Puig awaiting in the second round and the lightning power of No.5 seed Camila Giorgi projected in the last eight.

The past three Linz titlists all grace this year's draw, with defending champion Barbora Strycova resuming an old rivalry with Kirsten Flipkens to kick off her campaign in what's sure to be a variety-filled encounter. The pair first played as far back as 2006, and the Belgian leads the head-to-head 3-2. 

Meanwhile, 2015 winner Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and 2016 victor Dominika Cibulkova are slated to collide in the quarterfinals of the second section as the No.6 and No.4 seeds respectively - though Pavlyuchenkova finds herself surrounded by youthful landmines, with fresh 20-year-old faces Viktoria Kuzmova and Vera Lapko standing between the Russian and her allotted last-eight place. Also lurking is a more familiar name in Belinda Bencic. Although the Swiss player has been a Tour mainstay for nearly five years, she is still just one year older than Kuzmova and Lapko - and her opener against the latter is one of the draw's most intriguing first-round ties.

Bencic, who has not won a match since New Haven, is one of a few players in Austria hoping that a change of surface and continent will help to snap a losing streak. Two of them clash off the bat as last year's runner-up, No.7 seed Magdalena Rybarikova, seeks to end a run of four defeats stretching back to New Haven against Alison Van Uytvanck, who has lost seven straight since Montréal. If Rybarikova can navigate that hurdle and then Wuhan and Beijing quarterfinalist Katerina Siniakova, a rematch of last year's final against Strycova could be the Slovak's reward in the last eight.


[1] Julia Goerges (GER) vs. [WC] Andrea Petkovic (GER)
Qualifier vs. Tatjana Maria (GER)
Kristina Mladenovic (FRA) vs. [WC] Harriet Dart (GBR)
Timea Babos (HUN) vs. [8] Donna Vekic (CRO)
[4] Dominika Cibulkova (SVK) vs. Qualifier
Johanna Larsson (SWE) vs. Stefanie Voegele (SUI)
Vera Lapko (BLR) vs. Belinda Bencic (SUI)
Viktoria Kuzmova (SVK) vs. [6] Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (RUS)
[7] Magdalena Rybarikova vs. Alison Van Uytvanck (BEL)
Katerina Siniakova (CZE) vs. Qualifier
Qualifier vs. Qualifier
Kirsten Flipkens (BEL) vs. [3] Barbora Strycova (CZE)
[5] Camila Giorgi (ITA) vs. Pauline Parmentier (FRA)
Sorana Cirstea (ROU) vs. Qualifier
Margarita Gasparyan (RUS) vs. Monica Puig (PUR)
[WC] Barbara Haas (AUT) vs. [2] Kiki Bertens (NED)