WUHAN, China - With No.1 ranking on the line and significant implications for the Porsche Race to Shenzhen, all eyes move to the final Premier 5 event of the season at the Dongfeng Motor Wuhan Open, where seven of the Top 10 are in action.
Main draw play begins on Sunday, September 22nd.
Top Eight Seeds: No.1 Ashleigh Barty, No.2 Karolina Pliskova, No.3 Elina Svitolina, No.4 Simona Halep, No.5 Petra Kvitova, No.6 Kiki Bertens, No.7 Belinda Bencic, No.8 Wang Qiang
Top Half: Barty, Halep, Bertens, Bencic
Bottom Half: Pliskova, Svitolina, Kvitova, Wang
Projected Round of 16: Barty-Kenin, Bencic-Keys, Halep-Vekic, Bertens-Sabalenka, Wang-Kerber, Svitolina, Wozniacki, Kvitova-Stephens, Pliskova-Sevastova.
2018 Final: Aryna Sabalenka d. Anett Kontaveit, 6-3, 6-3.
Barty and Pliskova duel for No.1
The No.1 ranking will be on the line in Wuhan between Ashleigh Barty and Karolina Pliskova.
A semifinalist last year, No.1 Barty is defending 350 points. In contrast, No.2 Pliskova lost in the opening round last year but would need to reach the quarterfinals to add points to her ranking total (replacing her current 17th best result of 180 points).
If Barty loses her opening match, Pliskova will return to No.1 However, if Barty wins her opening match, then Pliskova will need to reach the semifinals and advance a round further than Barty to return to No.1.
If Barty and Pliskova meet in the final, then the winner will own the No.1 ranking after Wuhan.
Porsche Race to Shenzhen coming down to the wire
With Ashleigh Barty and Karolina Pliskova securing the first two qualifying spots for the Shiseido WTA Finals Shenzhen, six spots remain with four weeks left in the regular season. With 900 points on offer in Wuhan and 1,000 the following week in Beijing, the next two weeks offer a big opportunity for the top players to clinch their spots in Shenzhen.
Wimbledon champion Simona Halep currently sits in the No.3 spot on Race Leaderboard and in prime position to qualify this week with a good run in Wuhan, where she has progressed past the quarterfinals just once in her career. Seeded fourth this year, the Romanian will open against either Barbora Strycova or Wang Xiyu, and could face either Donna Vekic or Victoria Azarenka in the Round of 16.
The real race for the final qualifying spots could come down to the women who are projected to be in the 7-10 spots in the Leaderboard on Monday: Petra Kvitova sits at No.7, Belinda Bencic at No.8, WTA Finals champion Elina Svitolina at No.9, and Kiki Bertens at No.10. Bencic, Svitolina, and Bertens are projected to be separated by just 35 points when their tournaments gets underway.
Bencic will open against either Ekaterina Alexandrova or a qualifier, Svitolina faces either Garbiñe Muguruza or Peng Shuai, and Bertens will face a qualifier.
Best in Show
When it comes to success over the Wuhan-Beijing swing, Petra Kvitova and Caroline Garcia are the queens. Since 2014 when Wuhan and Beijing have been played back-to-back, Kvitova and Garcia lead the tour in most match wins and has earned the most cumulative points at the two events.
Since 2014: Most Match Wins at Wuhan & Beijing
22- 8: Petra Kvitova
22- 8: Caroline Garcia
18- 8: Garbine Muguruza
18- 9: Caroline Woznaicki
16-10 :Angelique Kerber
14- 9: Elina Svitolina
Since 2014: Most Points Earned at Wuhan & Beijing
3,286: Petra Kvitova
2,581: Caroline Garcia
2,191: Garbine Muguruza
1,932: Caroline Wozniacki
1,463: Simona Halep
20/20 Vision in Wuhan
After seeing its first three editions won major champions in Petra Kvitova (2014, 2016) and Venus Williams (2015), the last two editions of Wuhan have seen surprise title-runs by Caroline Garcia (2017) and Aryna Sabalenka (2018).
Both Garcia and Sabalenka were ranked No.20 when they made their title runs, and in each case the title served as a spectacular springboard for their careers. Garcia would go on to be the first woman to win Wuhan and Beijing back-to-back and vault herself into her first WTA Finals and a Top 10 finish. Sabalenka would go on to finish her breakout season at No.11.
Will 2019 see another outsider make their way to the title table? For those keeping score at home, the player holding the No.20 ranking at the start of this year's tournament? Sofia Kenin, who comes into the event on the heels of winning her third title of the season in Guangzhou.
Notable First Round Matches: Daria Kasatkina vs. Caroline Garcia, Sofia Kenin vs. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Madison Keys vs. Camila Giorgi, Donna Vekic vs. Victoria Azarenka, Aryna Sabalenka vs. Aliaksandra Sasnovich, Venus Williams vs. Danielle Collins, Marie Bouzkova vs. Karolina Muchova, Caroline Wozniacki vs. Hsieh Su-Wei, Sloane Stephens vs. Zhang Shuai, Ajla Tomljanovic vs. Dayana Yastremska.