CINCINNATI, OH, USA – Serena Williams is among the players to have confirmed her presence at the Western & Southern Open, where WTA World No.1 Ashleigh Barty will also be involved in a star-studded field.
Indeed, 43 of the current leading 44 players in the world will participate in the hard court event, which runs from August 10-18 and acts as a key build-up tournament to the US Open, which begins on Monday, August 26.
Dominika Cibulkova is the only absentee from the Top 43 of the Ranking as she continues to battle an Achilles injury that has also prevented her from playing Wimbledon.
On the other hand, there will be a welcome return to action for CiCi Bellis, who has been out of the game since Miami 2018 due to a succession of wrist and arm problems. The 20-year-old, who recently opened up on her injury torment, will use her protected ranking of WTA World No.43 to feature in the Ohio tournament.
Kiki Bertens is the defending champion after a thrilling 2-6, 7-6(6), 6-2 victory over Simona Halep last year, with the Romanian having now reached the final in Cincinnati in three of the last four years only to lost on each occasion.
Serena, who can count two titles to her name, is the only player to have won the event more than once since it became a Premier 5 tournament in 2009.
Other previous champions who are on the acceptance list for the 2019 draw include Garbiñe Muguruza, Karolina Pliskova and Victoria Azarenka.
Maria Sharapova is the other active former winner but at WTA World No.80 she has not earned a direct acceptance into the competition.