TORONTO, Canada - The North American hardcourt swing gets underway in earnest this week at the Rogers Cup in Toronto, a Premier 5 event that sees nine of the WTA's Top 10 back in action, including three-time champion Serena Williams, who returns to Toronto for the first time since 2015.
Top Eight Seeds: No.1 Ashleigh Barty, No.2 Naomi Osaka, No.3 Karolina Pliskova, No.4 Simona Halep, No.5 Kiki Bertens, No.6 Elina Svitolina, No.7 Sloane Stephens, No.8 Serena Williams.
Top Half: Barty, Pliskova, Bertens, Svitolina
Bottom Half: Osaka, Halep, Stephens, Serena
Projected Round of 16: Barty-Konta, Svitolina-Bencic, Pliskova-Kontaveit, Bertens-Kerber, Stephens-Sabalenka, Halep-Keys, Serena-Sevastova, Osaka-Wozniacki.
2018 Montreal Final: Simona Halep d. Sloane Stephens, 7-6, 3-6, 6-4.
2017 Toronto Final: Elina Svitolina d. Caroline Wozniacki, 6-4, 6-0.
No.1 in play between Barty, Osaka, and Pliskova
The WTA World No.1 ranking will be on the line in Toronto as No.2 Naomi Osaka and No.3 Karolina Pliskova can challenge Ashleigh Barty for the top ranking.
Osaka needs to advance one round further than Barty to have a chance at returning to No.1
Pliskova must at least reach the semifinals to have a chance of moving to No.1, however, if either Osaka or Barty reach the semifinals, then Pliskova will need to win the title to have a chance.
Of the Top 6 match-win leaders on the season, five have landed in the top half of the draw, including the Top 3 in Kiki Bertens (40), Ashleigh Barty (39), and Karolina Pliskova (38). Belinda Bencic and Johanna Konta round out the list of five.
Barty and Pliskova lead the top half of the draw, where the World No.1 looks to extend her hardcourt winning streak. Barty finished the spring hardcourt season with the Miami Open title and tacked on two Fed Cup wins to bring her current hardcourt win-streak to eight matches.
Barty faces a tough path to the semifinals. Back on her favored hardcourts, the Aussie opens against either Hsieh Su-Wei or Sofia Kenin in the second round, with one of Konta, Dayana Yastremska, Victoria Azarenka, or Camila Giorgi waiting in the Round of 16 and No.6 Elina Svitolina or Bencic potentially in the quarterfinals.
Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka could face in the quarterfinals.
A rematch of the 2018 US Open final could be in the cards in Toronto, as Osaka and Serena are two wins away from meeting for the first time since New York.
With a bye into the second round, Osaka will open against either San Jose finalist Zheng Saisai or a qualifier, with a third-round match against either Yulia Putintseva, who defeated her in back-to-back matches in Birmingham and Wimbledon, or 2017 finalist Caroline Wozniacki.
After losing in the final of Wimbledon last month to Simona Halep, Serena was adamant that, now healthy, she wanted to play more tournaments ahead of the final major of the year. The American has made good on that promise, returning to the Rogers Cup for the first time since 2015 to play just her fourth non-Slam tour event of the year.
Still in search of her first title since returning from maternity leave in 2017, Serena was bumped up to the No.8 seed after Petra Kvitova's pre-tournament withdrawal. After a bye into the second round, Serena will open against either Elise Mertens or Aliaksandra Sasnovich, with No.10 Anastasija Sevastova or Lesia Tsurenko potentially looming in the Round of 16.
Simona Halep and Sloane Stephens ready for a rematch.
No player has more points to defend between now and the US Open than Wimbledon champion Simona Halep. A champion in Montreal last year and finalist in Cincinnati, Halep is under some points pressure before New York. The good news is she has virtually nothing to defend starting at the US Open. Halep lost in the first round last year and shut down her season one month later due to injury.
Halep faces a potentially tricky draw to the quarterfinals, where she could get a rematch of the 2018 Coupe Rogers final against No.7 Sloane Stephens. After an opening bye, Halep will face either Kristina Mladenovic or a qualifier, Madison Keys or Donna Vekic potentially waiting in the Round of 16.
Navigate that path to the semifinals and Halep could see a Wimbledon final rematch against Serena, or her first meeting with Osaka since the latter became a major champion. The two split their two last two meetings, with Osaka winning at 2018 Indian Wells en route to the title and Halep getting her revenge in Rome a few months later.
Bianca Andreescu comes home.
Bianca Andreescu returns to her hometown tournament with her smiling Indian Wells trophy shots blanketing the Aviva Centre. Set to play her first match since having to withdraw from Roland Garros due to a continuing shoulder injury, Andreescu is set to face the other face of Canadian tennis, Eugenie Bouchard, in the first round.
A win there could see a rematch of the rivalry that lit up the spring hardcourt season, as Andreescu could face Angelique Kerber. The two played a pair of dramatic three-set matches earlier this year, with Andreescu beating Kerber in the Indian Wells final and then doing the same to make the Miami Round of 16. Kerber opens her tournament against Daria Kasatkina.
Notable First Round Matches: Johanna Konta vs. Dayana Yastremska, Venus Williams vs. Carla Suárez Navarro, Anett Kontaveit vs. Maria Sharapova, Angelique Kerber vs. Daria Kasatkina, Eugenie Bouchard vs. Bianca Andreescu, Victoria Azarenka vs. Camila Giorgi, Caroline Garcia vs. Jelena Ostapenko, Madison Keys vs. Donna Vekic, Carolina Wozniacki vs. Yulia Putintseva, Sofia Kenin vs. Hsieh Su-Wei.