How will Angelique Kerber handle her first match as a reigning World No.1 on Tuesday? We preview a busy slate of action in Wuhan, courtesy of WTATennis.com contributor Chris Oddo.
How will it feel, taking the court as the WTA's top-ranked player for the first time? Angelique Kerber isn't quite sure.
"I don't know if it feels different," she told reporters on Sunday in Wuhan. "I mean, I'm still the same person."
More than anything, having two weeks to relax after winning the US Open has left her feeling recharged and ready to push on through until the end of the 2016 season.
"The two weeks at home, that gives me a lot of relaxing and a lot of power again, a lot more motivation," she said. "I had a few days' rest. That was really important for me after the US trip. Now, of course, the last trip of the year here in Asia, I'm really looking forward. I will try to enjoy everything, try to play my best and let's see. I'm looking forward to now play the next tournament after New York."
The German will take on Kristina Mladenovic, a player that she has defeated in straight sets in their two previous meetings. Mladenovic, who defeated CoCo Vandeweghe in first-round action on Sunday in Wuhan, has not won back-to-back matches since July.
Pick: Kerber in two
No.3 seed Agnieszka Radwanska has lost two of her last three matches to Ekaterina Makarova, but she does own a 4-1 lifetime record against the Russian on hardcourts. Makarova, who blasted past Sabine Lisicki on Monday, has gone 0-3 against the Top 5 this season but she does own eight Top 5 wins in her career. Can Makarova, in the midst of a mildly disappointing season, summon the magic and make a run at Radwanska? It won't be an easy task. The Pole is always an extra-tough out on hard courts. She's gone 31-9 this season on the surface (Makarova has gone 14-12), and has won 99 matches on hardcourts since the beginning of 2014. Though she has gone winless in her first two appearances at Wuhan, Radwanska has been in good form of late, winning 9 of her last 11 and reaching the Tokyo semifinals last week.
Pick: Radwanska in three
Wuhan was a major springboard for Garbiñe Muguruza in 2015. The Spaniard came to the Dongfeng Motor Wuhan Open having lost four of six after her breakthrough final at Wimbledon. But Muguruza erased all doubts about her big-match legitimacy by reaching the final here and then winning the title in Beijing to assure Singapore qualification. This year, Muguruza is the hunted rather than the hunter: She's looking to cling to her Singapore status rather than swoop in and steal it. Currently at No.6 in the Road to Singapore standings, the Spaniard needs a few more key wins to clinch her spot. It's not time for holiday yet, but Muguruza wants to make sure that when it is time for vacation, she can look back on her season knowing that she's done everything she can to succeed.
"This year I want to do everything I can so I can go on holiday happy," she said on Sunday in her pre-tournament press conference. "I don't want to have [losing] on the back of my mind."
Pick: Muguruza in three
The turnaround continues. Now knocking on the door of the Top 20 just a month after bottoming out at No.74 in the world rankings, Caroline Wozniacki continued her torrid play with a straight-sets thumping of Samantha Stosur on Monday in Wuhan. The indefatigable Dane may be running on fumes after a long week in Tokyo, but it is not affecting her tennis. "I felt surprisingly good on court today," she said in her post-match press conference after defeating Stosur for the seventh time in 12 career matches.
"I was expecting to be tired, maybe not have the right timing, since it's completely different conditions. I think a day off would have been nice, but I played really well today? I'm on a roll, so hopefully I can keep pushing myself and play well."
On Tuesday Wozniacki will be at it again, facing 20-year-old Czech Katerina Siniakova for the first time. Will Wozniacki have the energy to fend off the rising youngster? Siniakova has reached the final in two of her last four events (Bastad, Tokyo International), but to progress further in Wuhan she'll need to stop the momentum of the Wozniacki freight train.
Pick: Wozniacki in two
Around the Grounds: Defending champion Venus Williams will contest her first match since the US Open against Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan. Williams holds a 3-1 lifetime edge over the fiery 21-year-old, but Putintseva won the pair's last meeting, defeating Williams in three tough sets at Charleston this year. Williams was magnificent in Wuhan last season. She notched three Top 10 wins in claiming what ended up as the biggest title of her season. Williams says that being the defending a champion isn't playing on her mind at all. The 36-year-old is just eager to play some good tennis.
"I'm just happy to be here, do the best I can, hope to play just as well as last year, have just as much luck," she told media on Sunday. "So no big expectations."