2015 WTA Seoul and Guangzhou Previews and Predictions
Niall Clarke, Tennis Atlantic
As well as touching down in Tokyo, the Asian swing also calls in at Seoul and Guangzhou for the Korea Open and the Guangzhou International.
The event launched in 2004 at the Seoul Olympic park in South Korea. Previous champions include Maria Sharapova, Venus Williams, Caroline Wozniacki and Agnieszka Radwanska. Last year’s champion was Karolina Pliskova who is playing in Tokyo, so will not defend her title.
The Korea Open
Location: Seoul, South Korea
Prize Money: $426,750
Date: 21st– 27th September 2015
The seeded players (ranking)
1. Irina Begu (30)
2. Anna Schmiedlova (32)
3. Sloane Stephens (33)
4. Varvara Lepchenko (38)
5. Mona Barthel (48)
6. Alexandra Dulghuru (51)
7. Julia Goerges (54)
8. Alison Van Uytvanck (55)
First round matches to watch
(8) Alison Van Uytvanck vs Andreea Mitu
Interestingly, these two young players battled each other for a place in the French Open Quarter finals back in June, now they are drawn together again in the first round of an International tournament.
The Belgian won on that day in Paris and holds a 2-1 head to head lead against her opponent, but Mitu claims the only victory on a hard court. Neither player has managed to kick on since Roland Garros but it will be interesting to see which one pulls through in Seoul.
Christina McHale vs Yaroslava Shvedova
Both unseeded, but both have more talent than their rankings suggest. Two underachievers? I believe so, and they will face off in round one here.
Shvedova has seen her ranking tumble since reaching the top 30 in 2012. She is more of a doubles specialist these days but on her day is capable of producing tennis that not many players can deal with. McHale comes in on decent form after making the semi-finals last week and holds the victory in their only previous meeting. This one could go either way.
(WC) Kimiko Date Krumm vs Ajla Tomljanovic
Yeah, Date Krumm is still around. She will turn 45 years old this month, and despite her 26 year old career heading into its twilight, she still will play the Asian swing. First round is Tomljanovic, who is a fairly big hitter of the ball which gives a nice stylistic contrast. The Croatian-Aussie was successful in their meeting in Tokyo last week. Can she repeat that performance?
Top seeded Romanian Irina Begu has quietly made her way into the top 30 this season, and she’ll be looking to cement that position this week with a title win. She could very well be the pre-tournament favourite. A qualifier in round one should be simple enough, whilst Polona Hercog or Lauren Davis will provide an interesting, but winnable round two.
Julia Goerges is the other seed in this section. The former top 20 player has not been able to re-capture that form, but she is still a highly dangerous big hitter. Lara Arruabarrena might be tricky in the first round, but if she can get through that Jo Larsson awaits in the second.
Lepchenko will be looking to build off the back of an impressive US Open run this week. The American has been dealt with a fairly difficult round two after a qualifier round one. Heather Watson could await, though the Brit is not in the best of form.
Van Uytvanck and Mitu will conduct their Roland Garros rematch in the first round in one of my three to see, but Irina Falconi in the second round will certainly be interesting. The American faces Siniakova in round one.
Sloane Stephens may arguably be the favourite in the minds of many. She now has the title duck off her back after winning in Washington, can she add a second title to her collection? The third seed will play local wildcard Han Nae-Lan in round one. Round two will be either Tomljanovic or Date Krumm, both of which possess different challenges for the American.
Dulgheru is the other seed in this section, but she has also been dealt with a toughie. A qualifier in round one could be simple enough, but Magdalena Rybarikova or Klara Koukalova in the second could spell an early exit for the sixth seed.
Schmiedlova’s gradual rise up the rankings has continued with some impressive title efforts this year. The young Slovakian is the second seed here and will fancy her chance at going all the way. Big serving twin of Karolina Pliskova, Kristyna. Shvedova or McHale could provide an upset in round two.
Barthel is the last remaining seed yet to be covered. The talented German will face a local wildcard in the first round before meeting to winner of Bertens vs Duque Marino in the second.
Begu def. Goerges
Lepchenko def. Van Uytvanck
Stephens def. Rybarikova
Schmiedlova def. Barthel
Begu def. Lepchenko
Stephens def. Schmiedlova
Stephens def. Begu
Like the Korea Open, the Guangzhou International launched 11 years ago as part of the Asian Swing. Li Na won the inaugural event to become the first Chinese titlist. Other former champions include former world number one’s Jelena Jankovic and Dinara Safina and last year’s champion Monica Niculescu.
The Guangzhou International
Location: Guangzhou, China
Prize Money: $226, 750
Date: 21st– 27th September 2015
The seeded players:
1. Simona Halep (2)
2. Andrea Petkovic (17)
3. Sara Errani (21)
4. Jelena Jankovic (25)
5. Svetlana Kuznetsova (31)
6. Monica Niculescu (39)
7. Danka Kovinic (69)
8. Saisai Zheng (70)
First round matches to watch:
Yania Wickmayer vs Magda Linette
It was just meant to be wasn’t it? Just days after competing in the Tokyo International final, Wickmayer and Linette will play each other again in the first round of Guangzhou.
The Belgian won on that occasion to win her third career title, so the Pole will be out to avenge that loss this week. Will Wickmayer inflict more misery on Linette, or will the Pole find her revenge.
(5) Svetlana Kuznetsova vs Daniela Hantuchova
Kuznetsova and Hantuchova will meet for the 15th time in the first round of the Guangzhou International.
The Russian leads the head 9-4, winning their past three meetings, including on Chinese soil in Beijing last year. Both players are past their prime, but it could still be a good battle between two tour veterans. Certainly the marque round one match-up.
(4) Jelena Jankovic vs Elena Vesnina
The always un-predicatble Jankovic opens up her tournament with a tough round one against former top 20 player Vesnina.
These two battled for hours at Wimbledon earlier in year in a marathon three setter that Jankovic eventually won 10-8 in the third. The Serbian leads the head to head 6-1, but a lot of those victories were before Vesnina made any impression. Despite the pigeon status, Vesnina is not a player you would want to be drawing in the opening round of an International. And given Jankovic’s randomness, who knows what might happen?
The reasons are still unclear as to why the world number two is playing an International with Wuhan right around the corner, but she is here and ready to play. Halep opens with a qualifier before likely facing Timea Babos in round two. Both of which are should wins if she takes it seriously.
20 year old Kovinic is the other seeded player in this quarter. The Montenegrin faces a dangerous unseeded player in Bojana Jovanovski in the opening round in a potential upset. The winner will face either Denisa Allertova orAnna-Lena Friedsam.
It is not on clay, but Errani must be considered amongst the favourites for the title as the third seed. Duan, then two qualifiers should be simple enough for the Italian, who is looking to replicate the success of her compatriots from the US Open.
Saisai Zheng will be motivated in her home country to make a deep run this week, so the last of the seeded players might play a little bit above that level. The draw has been kind to the Chinese, Alexsandra Krunic in round one follow by Su-Wieh-Hsieh or a qualifier should see her into the quarter finals at the very least.
Perhaps the most interesting quarter is headlined by former world number one Jankovic. A tough round one against Vesnina will test her at the very least. Francesca Schiavone could await the winner in the second round.
Amongst this veteran section is Kuznetsova, who faces Hantuchova is a difficult first rounder. Urszula Radwanska could be a potential second round opponent if she can get past her qualifier opponent
Petkovic is looking for form after sruggling in her US Open third round match with Johanna Konta. The German faces Monia Puig in round one. The young Puerto Rican has not kicked on at all this year so it should be no problem. Wickmayer or Linette, both of whom are in form, awaits the winner.
Defending champion Niculescu returns as the sixth seed here. Yulia Punitseva is her round one opponent, and if she can get through that there should be no problems in making the quarter finals.
Halep def. Jovanovski
Errani def. Zheng
Jankovic def. Kuznetsova
Niculescu def. Petkovic
Errani def. Halep
Jankovic def. Niculescu
Errani def. Jankovic