WTA Tianjin draw preview, predictions and matches to watch: Top seed Karolina Pliskova aims to strengthen WTA Finals chances in Tianjin

Andrew Hendrie in WTA 7 Oct 2018
  • Karolina Pliskova, Caroline Garcia, Aryna Sabalenka and Elise Mertens lead the field at the Tianjin Open
  • The Tianjin Open is live from Tianjin, China between October 8-14
Karolina Pliskova (Photo by NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP/Getty Images)

WTA Finals Singapore contenders Karolina Pliskova and Aryna Sabalenka go for glory at the Tianjin Open alongside the likes of Caroline Garcia and Elise Mertens as the WTA International event takes place between October 8-14.

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Taking a late wildcard into the Tianjin Open as she continues to pursue a spot at the season-ending WTA Finals Singapore, Karolina Pliskova leads the field in the Chinese city, while the fast-rising Aryna Sabalenka is still an outside shot of qualifying for Singapore as the 20-year-old looks to build on her magical form from the last couple of months.

With Elise Mertens and Carolina Garcia also in the field, along with former champion Alison Riske (the American who plays some of her best tennis at International-level tournaments in Asia), it promises to be a thrilling week in Tianjin!

Read on below as we break down the draw and predict who will emerge from each quarter.

First quarter

Projected quarter-final: Karolina Pliskova (1) vs Maria Sakkari (8) - H2H: Sakkari leads 1-0

Currently in the eighth and final spot for the WTA Finals, Pliskova needs a big week in Tianjin if she wants to hold off Kiki Bertens in the Race to Singapore, with the Dutchwoman only trailing her by 10 points as she lines up in Linz this week. Knowing she needs to accumulate more points if she wants to qualify for Singapore, Pliskova has taken a wildcard into Tianjin and will begin her title quest against Varvara Lepchenko before a possible second round meeting with either Lara Arruabarrena or Polona Hercog.

Karolina Pliskova (Photo by Di Yin/Getty Images)


Eighth seed Sakkari beat Pliskova in their only previous encounter on the clay of Rome earlier this season, with the Greek opening her campaign against Katie Boulter of Great Britain, while Katerina Kozlova or a qualifier will be waiting in the second round. Despite that loss to Sakkari in Rome, it’s a nice little section for Pliskova and one would expect the Czech - who won the Tokyo title to launch her Asian swing - to be able to reach at least the semi-finals in Tianjin.

Predicted semi-finalist: Pliskova

Second quarter

Projected quarter-final: Aryna Sabalenka (4) vs Danielle Collins (7) - H2H: Sabalenka leads 1-0

In tenth spot in the Porsche Race to Singapore as she continues to chase down a ticket to the WTA Finals, Sabalenka needs to win the title to continue to give herself an outside shot of qualifying for the season-ending showpiece. The 20-year-old has been on fire over the last couple of months, winning her first two career titles in New Haven and Wuhan to rise to No. 11 in the world, while Sabalenka was also a runner-up in Tianjin last year as she made her first tour-level final. Sabalenka begins against fellow young gun Sofia Kenin and would face either Magda Linette or Evgeniya Rodina in the second round if she wins.

Aryna Sabalenka (Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)


Danielle Collins lost to Sabalenka in the opening round of the U.S. Open, with the American eighth seed taking on former French Open semi-finalist Timea Bacsinszky in the first round, while she could meet Yulia Putintseva in the second round. That’s a tough draw for the American and she’ll do well to make the quarter-finals, but regardless, I’d expect Sabalenka to be advancing to the semi-finals if she continues her blistering form.

Predicted semi-finalist: Sabalenka

Third quarter

Projected quarter-final: Elise Mertens (3) vs Su-Wei Hsieh - H2H: Mertens leads 1-0

Both Mertens and Hsieh arrive in Tianjin on respective three-match losing streaks as they each target deep runs in the Chinese city. Starting the Asian swing with a chance of qualifying for the WTA Finals, Mertens has fallen out of contention after suffering first round defeats in Wuhan and Beijing to Aliaksandra Sasnovich and Zhang Shuai respectively. Mertens is set to face more Chinese players in Tianjin, opening against Zhu Lin before a potential second round showdown with Wang Yafan or a qualifier.

Elise Mertens (Photo by Di Yin/Getty Images)


Hsieh meanwhile has lost in straight sets in the opening rounds of Wuhan and Beijing after making the semi-finals of Seoul. The unorthodox player from Chinese Taipei ask on the player who beat her in that Seoul semi-final - Ajla Tomljanovic - and if she survives that challenge, former champion Alison Riske could be waiting in the second round.

It’s a danger section for two players struggling for form at the moment - and I’m not sure either Mertens or Hsieh can get out of it.

Predicted semi-finalist: Riske

Fourth quarter

Projected quarter-final: Caroline Garcia (2) vs Petra Martic (6) - H2H: Garcia leads 2-0

Set to drop to No. 16 in the world when the new rankings are released on Monday after going down in the Round of 16 at the China Open as the defending champion, Garcia looks to pick herself back up in Tianjin and claim her first silverware of the season. The Frenchwoman suffered a very tough loss against Sabalenka in Beijing, going down 6-0 in the third set after having multiple chances to win the match - can Garcia rebound in time for Tianjin? She opens her title quest against a qualifier and could meet another qualifier in the second round - or Romanian’s Irina-Camelia Begu.

Caroline Garcia (Photo by Emmanuel Wong/Getty Images)


Petra Martic is the other seed in this section, with the Croatian facing Duan Yingying in the opening round before a potential second round against a Chinese wildcard: either Yuan Yue or Liu Fangzhou. Duan could pose some problems for Martic in the first round, but all in all, it’s a very manageable section for Garcia to make the semi-finals.

Predicted semi-finalist: Garcia

****

The Tianjin Open is live from Tianjin, China between October 8-14.


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WTA Tianjin draw preview, predictions and matches to watch: Top seed Karolina Pliskova aims to strengthen WTA Finals chances in Tianjin

WTA Finals Singapore contenders Karolina Pliskova and Aryna Sabalenka go for glory at the Tianjin Open alongside the likes of Caroline Garcia and Elise Mertens as the WTA International event takes place between October 8-14.

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