WTA Insider breaks down the blockbuster matches in the cards at the 2019 Western & Southern Open.
WTA Insider Courtney Nguyen
August 11, 2019

CINCINNATI, USA - The main draw for the 2019 Western & Southern Open is out and the final Premier event ahead of the US Open features a Battle for No.1 and a heavy slate of blockbuster first-round clashes that kick off on Monday, August 12th. 

For the full draw, click here. 

Tournament Snapshot: 

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 Petra Kvitova, No.7 Elina Svitolina, No.8 Sloane Stephens.

Top Half: Barty, Pliskova, Kvitova, Stephens
Bottom Half: Osaka, Halep, Bertens, Svitolina

Projected Round of 16: Barty-Kerber, Kvitova-Sabalenka, Pliskova-Konta, Stephens-Sevastova, Bertens-Bencic, Keys-Halep, Svitolina-Serena, Osaka-Wang Qiang.

2018 Final: Kiki Bertens d. Simona Halep, 2-6, 7-6(6), 6-2.

How will Kiki Bertens fare in the biggest title defense of her career?

Bertens' rise through the rankings started here 12 months ago, where she captured her first hardcourt title and biggest title across all surfaces, with a run that included wins over Halep, Petra Kvitova, Elina Svitolina, and Caroline Wozniacki. 

The Dutchwoman has continued to make history for her country, following up her stunning 2018 with an even better 2019. After winning the biggest title of her career at the Madrid Open in the spring, Bertens became the highest-ranked player in Dutch tennis history.

With a bye into the second round, Bertens will face either Venus Williams or Lauren Davis in her opening round, with one of Belinda Bencic, Donna Vekic, Victoria Azarenka, or Katerina Siniakova waiting in the Round of 16.

Who will be the No.1 and top seed at the US Open?

Naomi Osaka returns to No.1 on Monday after her run to the quarterfinals of the Rogers Cup last week, but will the defending US Open champion be the top seed in New York? 

With US Open seeding determined by the rankings on the Monday after Cincinnati, seeding positions, as well as the No.1 ranking, are still in play this week
 
No.2 Ashleigh Barty and No.3 Karolina Pliskova will need to reach the semifinals to have a chance of moving to No.1 after Cincinnati. (Barty and Pliskova are in the same half of the draw):

- If Osaka loses her opening match, Barty needs to make the semifinals and Pliskova needs to make the semifinals.
- If Osaka loses in the third round or quarterfinals, Barty or Pliskova would need to reach the final
- If Osaka loses in the semifinals, Barty or Pliskova would need to win the title

All three women have a bye into the second round. Osaka will open against either Aliaksandra Sasnovich or Australian qualifier Astra Sharma. Barty faces the tough task of facing either Maria Sharapova or Alison Riske, who defeated her at Wimbledon last month. Pliskova will open against either Lesia Tsurenko or lucky loser Monica Puig. 

Is this Simona Halep's year? 

The World No.4 has made the final in three of the last four years in Cincinnati but has never been able to break through and win it. This year, she comes into the event with an injury cloud, as she was forced to retire in the Toronto quarterfinals due to Achilles pain. 

It's an ongoing issue that Halep has dealt with through much of her career, and with a bye into the second round, Halep should have the time to recover in time for her first match against either Carla Suárez Navarro or Ekaterina Alexandrova. 

Halep's quarter is a tough one, with a potential rematch of the final against No.5 Bertens in the quarterfinals, and one of either Madison Keys, Garbiñe Muguruza, Amanda Anisimova, or Daria Kasatkina in the Round of 16.

Will Serena Williams be fit to play?

After a great week for Serena up in Toronto at the Rogers Cup, the American was forced to retire four games into the final due to an upper back injury. Serena said afterward that she's had back spasms before and she's usually fine 48 hours later, and she confirmed her intention to come to Cincinnati in hopes to play. 

Seeded No.10 in Cincinnati, where she last lifted the title in 2015, Serena has been drawn into the bottom half of the draw led by Osaka and defending champion Bertens. She is set to play qualifier Zarina Diyas in the first round, with the winner to play either Julia Goerges or Toronto semifinalist Sofia Kenin, who defeated Serena at Roland Garros. 

Serena could face No.7 Svitolina in the Round of 16, with Osaka looming once again in the quarterfinals. 

The action is hot from the first round:

The first round matches in Cincinnati feature some tough marquee match-ups, including: 

Maria Sharapova vs. Alison Riske (winner to play Ashleigh Barty)
Caroline Garcia vs. Iga Swiatek
Angelique Kerber vs. Anett Kontaveit
Aryna Sabalenka vs. Petra Martic
Anastasija Sevastova vs. Svetlana Kuznetsova
Dayana Yastremska vs. Caroline Wozniacki
Jelena Ostapenko vs. Yulia Putintseva
Belinda Bencic vs. Victoria Azarenka
Madison Keys vs. Garbiñe Muguruza
Amanda Anisimova vs. Daria Kasatkina
Sofia Kenin vs. Julia Goerges
Wang Qiang vs. Hsieh Su-Wei