Three spots remain on the Road to Singapore, with Madison Keys going head-to-head with Svetlana Kuznetsova, while Garbiñe Muguruza faces Wuhan winner Petra Kvitova.
WTA Staff

Precious ranking points are on the line at the China Open in Beijing today, and we're previewing the must-see matchups right here, courtesy of contributor, Chris Oddo.


Second Round and Round of 16

[1] Angelique Kerber (GER #1) vs.Barbora Strycova (CZE #21)
Head-to-head: Kerber leads, 5-1
Key Stat: All six of their previous meetings have ended in straight sets.

After over 70 matches, all the excitement of winning two majors and becoming No.1 in the world, one would expect that the Angelique Kerber is ready to coast down the stretch before packing it in for a long winter. Not the case. Kerber's competitive juices are still flowing and the German is very much embracing the grind of the Asian swing. After her straight-sets win over Katerina Siniakova in the first round on Monday she told reporters that she's still working on improving her focus.

"I think I improved a lot," she said, when asked about keeping her composure under pressure. "I know that I can still improve this, but I think this is also one of the keys why I'm playing so good and so consistent, because it's really important to have your mind on the court and just thinking about the match right now."

Kerber has not only played excellent tennis in 2016, she also has done an incredible job of remaining even-keel through a whirlwind year. Her next challenge will come against feisty Czech Barbora Strycova on Wednesday. Kerber has taken five of six against the 30-year-old but she best beware Strycova knocked her off at the Mutua Madrid Open this year and would love nothing more than to add a win over a reigning No.1 to her resumé.

Pick: Kerber in three

[2] Garbiñe Muguruza (ESP #3) vs. [14] Petra Kvitova (CZE #11)
Head-to-head: Tied, 1-1
Key Stat: Kvitova is on a seven-match winning streak.

The third all-time meeting between red-hot Petra Kvitova and defending Beijing champion Garbiñe Muguruza has "epic" written all over it. Two of the game's most gifted power brokers, Kvitova and Muguruza will look to dictate early and often in hopes that they might get the other on the defensive. Execution will be of paramount importance, as both possess the weapons to win with first-strike tennis, but both will have to be careful about going for too much too fast. Kvitova, who stretched her winning streak to seven with a straight-sets win over Wang Yafan on Tuesday, knows of the danger that awaits.

"I know how dangerous she is," she said of Muguruza. "I mean, she's really playing aggressive from both sides and she's serving real well and returning as well. That's why I think I really need to be ready from the first shot which I'm playing."

Muguruza is also cognizant of the type of challenges that Kvitova can present. She gave an interesting take on what she perceived to be the difference between herself and Kvitova after her second-round win over Yulia Putintseva on Monday.

"I think we come from different bases of game," she said. "I was made a tennis player in Spain. It's completely different. I can be aggressive sometimes. Sometimes I can reduce a little bit. I can play with that. I think she's very aggressive and that's it. But I think we both go for our shots. I want to have the control. She wants to have the control. So it's like a fight there."

Pick: Kvitova in three

[8] Madison Keys (USA #9) vs. [9] Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS #7)
Head-to-head: Keys leads, 2-0
Key Stat: At No. 7, Kuznetsova is playing at her highest ranking in six years.

Rising phenom Madison Keys and proven veteran Svetlana Kuznetsova will square off in a battle with heavy Road to Singapore implications on Wednesday in Beijing. Though Keys has taken the first two meetings, Kuznetsova has been in elevated form in 2016 and should prove to be a far more difficult test for the 21-year-old American here in Beijing. The 31-year-old Russian is embracing a "go with the flow" motif in 2016, and she says she has a different outlook on the Asian swing now that she's one of the older players on tour. Simply put, Kuznetsova has no time to be tired.

"Like probably when I was 25, 26, I was like, 'Damn, I'm so tired,'" Kuznetsova told WTA Insider last week in Wuhan, where she reached the semifinals. "Damn, when is the season going to be over? Now I don't feel tired because I believe it's mental."

Keys, currently No. 8 on the RTS leaderboard, came into the week with a 256-point lead over Kuznetsova on the Road to Singapore leaderboard. With a victory the American will significantly increase her chances of claiming a coveted Singapore berth for the first time, but with Kuznetsova's improved form and attitude, it will take a determined effort from Keys.

Pick: Kuznetsova in three

[5] Karolina Pliskova (CZE #6) vs. Daria Kasatkina (RUS #24)
Head-to-head: Tied, 1-1
Key Stat: Pliskova qualified for WTA Finals for the first time on Tuesday when Dominika Cibulkova was defeated by Alizé Cornet.

Karolina Pliskova can take a deep breath and know she's going to Singapore in three weeks no matter what happens on Wednesday when she meets Russian Daria Kasatkina in second-round action. Will that be a good thing for the powerful Czech, or will the fact that Pliskova has qualified for Singapore cause her to relax so much that she becomes ripe for an upset at the hands of Kasatkina? If it happens, it wouldn't be the first time that the 19-year-old knocked off the Czech. Kasatkina defeated Pliskova in straight sets this spring in Madrid, and even though the victory came on clay she can take confidence from the fact that she found a way to get the win. But a lot has changed since Madrid. Pliskova has reached a new level by winning her biggest title in Cincinnati and reaching her first Grand Slam final at the U.S. Open. She is a more confident, self-assured player. Kasatkina, though undeniably talented, is not quite there yet. She still needs more seasoning on the game's biggest stages. Kasatkina opened the season by winning her first ever match against a Top 10 player in Auckland, but since her upset over Venus Williams she has lost eight of nine against the Top 10. Can she find that winning formula again on Wednesday, or will it be Pliskova who asserts herself as the player more ready for prime time?

Pick: Kasatkina in three

Around the Grounds: Two-time semifinalist Peng Shuai will battle Caroline Garcia in the first women's match on National Tennis Stadium. The world No. 223, a two-time semifinalist at Beijing, is currently attempting to rebuild her game after back surgery last season. She upset No. 6-seeded Venus Williams in the first round. No.11-seeded Johanna Konta will square off with Timea Babos in the first match on Moon Court. The British No.1 is still alive in the Singapore hunt, but needs a big result here in Beijing.