WTA Insider breaks down what to expect at the first indoor WTA 500 event of the season at the St. Petersburg Ladies Trophy.
1. The St. Petersburg Ladies Trophy is the first WTA 500 indoor event of the season
After a two-week swing in the Middle East at the Qatar Total Open and Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, the tour goes indoors at the Sibur Arena for the sixth staging of the St. Petersburg Ladies Trophy. The champion of the first WTA 500 indoor event of the season will take home 470 points.
Main draw play begins on Monday, March 15. The doubles and singles finals will be played on Sunday, March 21.
2. Russians lead the seeds
Seeds: 1. Ekaterina Alexandrova, 2. Veronika Kudermetova, 3. Fiona Ferro, 4. Svetlana Kuznetsova, 5. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, 6. Jelena Ostapenko, 7. Kristina Mladenovic, 8. Daria Kasatkina
Wildcards: Margarita Gasparyan, Daria Mishina, Vera Zvonareva
3. Lyon Champion Clara Tauson leads the qualifiers
Fresh off her incredible run to the Lyon title a week ago, 18-year-old Clara Tauson eased through qualifying without the loss of a set. That makes it 20 consecutive sets won by Tauson across all levels.
Qualifiers: Jaqueline Cristian, Anastasia Gasanova, Kamilla Rakhimova, Arina Rodionova, Clara Tauson, Wang Xinyu
Lucky Loser: Cagla Buyukakcay
4. Breaking down the main draw
Ten Russian women are into the singles draw in St. Petersburg, including three of the Top Four seeds. A Russian has yet to win the title in the tournament's first five editions.
Top seed Ekaterina Alexandrova leads the draw, with Abu Dhabi finalist Veronika Kudermetova anchoring the bottom half as the No.2 seed. The top four seeds have byes into the second round.
No.6 seed Jelena Ostapenko has already booked her spot in the second round with a dominant win over an improving Paula Badosa. She is in the tough bottom half of the draw, which includes No.4 seed Svetlana Kuznetsova, No.8 seed and Phillip Island Trophy champion Daria Kasatkina and Lyon champion Tauson.
No.3 seed Fiona Ferro anchors the top half of the draw with Alexandrova, with the two remaining seeds being No.5 seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and No.7 seed Kristina Mladenovic.
5. Clara Tauson takes her winning-streak to Russia
The Danish phenom has not lost a set of tennis since the first set of the final at the ITF W25 in Altenkirchen, Germany, nearly a month ago. After dropping the first set in that final to Switzerland's Simona Waltert, Tauson has reeled off 20 consecutive sets, none of which have even gone to a tiebreak:
ITF W25 Final, Altenkirchen, Germany
d. Waltert, 3-6, 6-1, 6-3
WTA 250 Lyon, France
d. Fayard, 6-2, 6-0
d. Hesse, 6-4, 6-2
d. Alexandrova, 6-3, 6-4
d. Babos, 6-2, 6-3
d. Giorgi, 6-3, 6-1
d. Badosa, 7-5, 6-1
d. Golubic, 6-4, 6-1
WTA 500, St. Petersburg, Russia
d. Shalimova, 7-5, 6-3
d. Pattinama Kerkhove, 7-5, 6-2
Unlike most of the players in the draw, who have been playing outdoors for the past two months, Tauson is playing her third straight indoor tournament. She'll put her 13-match winning streak up against Daria Kasatkina in the first round.
6. Ekaterina Alexandrova's indoor prowess
Since 2018, no one has been more successful indoors than Ekaterina Alexandrova. The Russian No.1 has won 31 indoor matches across all levels over that span. Alison Van Uytvanck, who sits at No.2 behind Alexandrova, has won 20.
Alexandrova has enjoyed good success in St. Petersburg. In 2019, she advanced to the quarterfinals as a qualifier and she backed up that result last year, making the semifinals and pushing eventual champion Bertens to a third set.
The No.34 will open her tournament against either Stefanie Voegele or Tereza Martincova in the second round.
7. Daria Kasatkina is the only Russian champion of 2021 so far
After an inspired showing at the Phillip Island Trophy to end her two-year title drought, Daria Kasatkina returns to St. Petersburg a rejuvenated player. A two-time semifinalist in 2016 and 2018, and a quarterfinalist in 2019, Kasatkina has always brought her best tennis on home soil.
Now ranked at No.61, the 23-year-old will have a tricky opener against Tauson.
8. One former champion in the draw
Kiki Bertens is the two-time defending champion in St. Petersburg. Last year, she defeating Elena Rybakina 6-1, 6-3 in the final. Bertens has opted not to defend her title this year, meaning Kristina Mladenovic is the only former champion in this year's draw.
9. Elena Vesnina continues her doubles comeback
The former No.1 hoped to be able to play singles this week in St. Petersburg but has opted to manage her body and stick to doubles for now. She's paired with Vera Zvonareva, and the duo will face Vera Lapko and Cornelia Lister in the first round.
Nadiia Kichenok and Raluca Olaru are the top seeds in the doubles draw, with Kaitlyn Christian and Sabrina Santamaria as the No.2 seeds.
10. Sloane Stephens and Nadia Podoroska lead the WTA 250 in Monterrey, Mexico
In addition to St. Petersburg, the Abierto GNP Seguros in Monterrey, Mexico is also underway this week. Sloane Stephens and Nadia Podoroska are the top seeds at the WTA 250 event, which also includes Guadalajara champion Sara Sorribes Tormo.