WTA Wuhan Open 2018 draw preview and predictions – Could Petra Kvitova be headed for a third Wuhan title?

Hannah Wilks in WTA 21 Sep 2018
  • Simona Halep, Naomi Osaka and Petra Kvitova lead the draw at the 2018 Wuhan Open
  • Wuhan Open tennis is live from Wuhan from 23-29 September 2018
Caroline Garcia is the defending champion at the Wuhan Open, live from Wuhan from 23-29 September 2018

The last WTA Premier-5 event of the 2018 season is upon us – who will triumph at the Wuhan Open?

We break down the draw and predict the semifinalists and champion at the Dongfeng Motor Wuhan Open, live from Wuhan from 23-29 September 2018.

Defending champion Caroline Garcia could face early challenges from former runner-up Garbine Muguruza, Sloane Stephens and US Open champion Naomi Osaka, among others, while two-time WTA Wuhan champion Petra Kvitova looks set to clash with Kiki Bertens and Angelique Kerber – and can world no. 1 Simona Halep, already qualified for Singapore, bounce back from her early defeat at the US Open?

With six spots still open at the WTA Finals and 900 ranking points (as well as over $2 million in prize money) on the line in Wuhan, the competition is guaranteed to be fierce – and if there’s anything the past four years have taught us, it’s to expect the unexpected when it comes to the Wuhan Open.

Top quarter

Simona Halep (WANG ZHAO/AFP/Getty Images)
Projected quarterfinal: Simona Halep (1) vs Elina Svitolina (6) (3-4)
A rematch of the Rome final is projected in this quarter between top seed Simona Halep and Elina Svitolina – but there are plenty of other challengers lurking who will want to disrupt that.

Last seen being unceremoniously bounced from the US Open in the first round by Kaia Kanepi, Halep has nevertheless taken a firm grip on the world no. 1 ranking and is one of two players to have qualified for the WTA Finals Singapore already – so she arguably has little to play for in Wuhan, where she’s fallen early on three out of four previous appearances (she was a semifinalist in 2016). Looking for her second title on Chinese soil in 2018, Halep has a first-round bye in Wuhan but could be almost immediately in trouble – she trails probable second-round opponent Dominika Cibulkova 2-4 in the head-to-head, losing their last meeting in the final of Singapore in 2016, and indeed has never beaten the Slovakian (a former Wuhan finalist) on hard courts. 
Halep could meet Daria Kasatkina, who beat her in the first round of Wuhan last year, in the third round but a more likely opponent – with Kasatkina struggling for form – might be US Open quarterfinalist Lesia Tsurenko.

Elina Svitolina fares little better when it comes to potential opponents. Since defending her Rome title, the Ukrainian has failed to impress and there are immediate challenges in her path, starting with either Aryna Sabalenka – the New Haven champion who exploded over the summer and will be looking to bring the same sensational form to Asian hard courts – or canny (and in good form) Carla Suarez Navarro. Julia Goerges or Su-Wei Hsieh follow – Goerges plays Victoria Azarenka in the first round but the Belarusian was last seen retiring in tears in Tokyo on Friday. Look for Cibulkova or Kasatkina to make a run in this quarter.

Semifinalist: Cibulkova

Second quarter

Angelique Kerber  (Photo by Wang He/Getty Images)
Projected quarterfinal: Angelique Kerber (3) vs Petra Kvitova (5) (6-6)
Nobody has a better record in Wuhan than two-time champion Petra Kvitova, and although Grand Slam glory has eluded her in 2018, the Czech has picked up five titles on the regular WTA Tour in 2018 and looks poised to qualify for Singapore. 

But there are challenges a-plenty for Kvitova in Wuhan – she could open against Camila Giorgi, the hard-hitting Italian in great form who is into the semifinals in Tokyo at the time of writing, or the nimble, crafty Aleksandra Krunic, who’s been a bugbear for her in the past; and in the third round, Kiki Bertens, who beat her in Montreal and Cincinnati and seems to have brought her strong form to Asian hard courts judging by her semifinal run in Seoul, or perhaps tricky US Open semifinalist Anastasija Sevastova await. Kvitova should be able to power through some combination of Giorgi, Krunic, Sevastova and Bertens though, particularly with Giorgi and Bertens going deep this week.

Wimbledon champion Angelique Kerber, who like Halep has qualified for Singapore already, was a semifinalist in Wuhan in 2015 but doesn’t have much form since winning her third Grand Slam title. She should be more than equal to Madison Keys in the second round, though, and looks likely to end a potential run by 2017 runner-up Ashleigh Barty in the third. A Kvitova-Kerber quarterfinal would be a juicy prospect indeed – a rematch of the 2016 classic they played in Wuhan ending the same way?

Semifinalist: Kvitova

Third quarter

Naomi Osaka
Projected quarterfinal: Naomi Osaka (7) vs Caroline Garcia (4) (0-0)
Naomi Osaka shows no signs so far of coming back to earth after her US Open win, into the semifinals in Tokyo at the time of writing, and she doesn’t have a bad draw in Wuhan – Samantha Stosur or Zhang Shuai to open, and while French Open finalist Sloane Stephens would be a horror of a third-round opponent, Stephens might well be blasted off the court by Anett Kontaveit in the first round, leaving Osaka to face the Estonian, in-form Tokyo semifinalist Donna Vekic or Coco Vandeweghe, all of whom would be much more comfortable opponents for her. 

One suspects, though, that Wuhan after Tokyo and New York might be a bridge too far for the still-raw Osaka. Indeed, this quarter looks like the one that might well produce a surprise semifinalist. Defending champion Caroline Garcia has shown little of the form that saw her storm to the Wuhan and Beijing titles last season and Garbine Muguruza, 2015 Wuhan runner-up, seems lost at sea at the moment (not to mention facing a first-round rematch with Alison van Uytvanck, who knocked her out of Wimbledon). Perhaps Vekic, who has toiled stoically to improve, or Kontaveit might take advantage. 

Semifinalist: Vekic

Fourth quarter

Projected quarterfinal: Karolina Pliskova (8) vs Caroline Wozniacki (2) (3-6)
Karolina Pliskova
With Karolina Pliskova facing a tight turnaround from Tokyo – where she is in the semifinals at the time of writing – and Caroline Wozniacki in something of a doldrum (she hasn’t won back-to-back matches since winning Eastbourne), opportunity also knocks for a surprise semifinalist in this quarter.

The winner of an intriguing first-round duel between Elise Mertens and Aliaksandra Sasnovich could find their way through to the quarterfinals, particularly if Wozniacki is struggling for fitness or form, while in the top section, Pliskova as well as both of her potential second-round opponents, Wang Qiang and San Jose finalist Maria Sakkari, have gone deep in tournaments this week. Jelena Ostapenko, projected to face Pliskova in the third round, looks well poised to take advantage but she’ll have to get past two maddening opponents in the form of Daria Gavrilova and Barbora Strycova/Alize Cornet to do so. Can she find form and range? It’s all to play for in this section. Pliskova has looked good in Tokyo and might be the woman to bring that form to Wuhan. 

Semifinalist: Pliskova

Semifinals: Kvitova d. Cibulkova
Pliskova d. Vekic

Final: Kvitova d. Pliskova

Wuhan Open tennis is live from Wuhan from 23-29 September 2018.

*Geo-restrictions apply; funded account required or to have placed a bet in the last 24 hours to qualify

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WTA Wuhan Open 2018 draw preview and predictions – Could Petra Kvitova be headed for a third Wuhan title?

WTA Wuhan Open 2018 tennis is live from Wuhan from 23-29 August with defending champion Caroline Garcia in the same quarter of the draw as Naomi Osaka, Sloane Stephens and Garbine Muguruza

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