Women’s Look Forward: Quebec City, Japan Open

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Copyright © 2015. No duplication is permitted without permission from Bob Larson Tennis.

Quebec City is a very popular tournament that no one wants to play at.

Even in tennis, that’s a hard statement to wrap our heads around. Apparently the players who are convinced to play there like it very much. But it’s in an awkward spot — a carpet event coming in the middle of the hardcourt season; the last event of the year in North American; and, of course, it’s right after the US Open. No event could get much of a field with handicaps like that! Based on the old rankings, there would have been two Top Fifty players in the field. There is only one who is Top Forty, and she is in on a wildcard: #1 seed Madison Keys.

We would guess that Eugenie Bouchard had been expected to play, and to be #2 (or #1 until they lured Keys), but presumably her head injury is too severe. That means that the #2 seed is Mirjana Lucic-Baroni, the defending champion, but her ranking took a beating at the US Open; she might have been seeded if the new rankings were used, but perhaps not. Certainly she would have been seeded low. So the #2 player in the field is in fact #3 seed Mona Barthel, who is the only player other than Keys who is Top Fifty in the new rankings. Unfortunately for the balance of the draw, she is in the same half as Keys. So the de facto #2 seed is Lucie Hradecka, who is officially seeded at #4. Annika Beck is #5 and in Hradecka’s quarter, Tatiana Maria #6 and in Keys’s, Evgeniya Rodina #7 and in Lucic-Baroni’s, and An-Sophie Mestach is #8 and in Barthel’s. That gives us a cutoff for seeding around #100, so there obviously aren’t a lot of strong unseeded threats. There are some players with a lot of history (Klara Koukalova might face Keys in round two, Beck might face Shelby Rogers in that round, Hradecka opens against Donna Vekic, and Lucic-Baroni’s second match might be against Tamira Paszek) — but no one who stands up and says, “I’m a contender.” Indeed, if she can just stay healthy and play her game, Keys should walk away with this.

Simple geography may have been what allowed the Japan Open to achieve a (slightly) stronger field — three Top Fifty players, including one who was Top Ten last week although she isn’t any longer. Carla Suarez Navarro took a wildcard to earn the top seed. Zarina Diyas, who will turn into a pumpkin pretty soon if she can’t start adding points again, is the #2. Our final Top Fifty player is #3 Madison Brengle, who is in Suarez Navarro’s half; her recent results haven’t matched up to what she did in the first half of the hear. Alison Riske is #4. Johanna Larsson, who has been slumping after doing quite well earlier in the year, is #5 and in Suarez Navarro’s quarter. Christina McHale is #6 and in Riske’s. Ajla Tomljanovic is #7 and in Brengle’s part of the draw. The #8 seed goes to Polona Hercog, who is in Diyas’s quarter.

That gives us a seed cutoff around #65, meaning that about a third of the unseeded players here would have been seeded in Quebec. Nonetheless, there aren’t a lot of really strong unseeded prospects. On the other hand, there are several with good histories. Suarez Navarro has to open against Kateryna Bondarenko. Larsson’s second round could be against Yanina Wickmayer. And Tomljanovic could play her second round against Kimiko Date-Krumm, who is almost certainly playing one of her last WTA-level matches, if Date-Krumm (who needed a wildcard to get into this weak draw) can somehow top countrywoman Misaki Doi.

The Rankings

You probably won’t be surprised to hear that this will be yet another funny week, rankings-wise. The events going off are not the same as what is coming on — and what is going off is bigger. Both this week’s events are International tournaments. But, last year at this time, we had three events, and one of them a Premier. The Premier was the Pan Pacific, won by Ana Ivanovic over Caroline Wozniacki, with Angelique Kerber and Garbine Muguruza the semifinalists. The two International events were Seoul and Guangzhou. Karolina Pliskova won Seoul, over Varvara Lepchenko; Christina McHale and the soon-to-vanish-into-motherhood Maria Kirilenko were semifinalists. Monica Niculescu won Guangzhou, over Alize Cornet, with Timea Bacsinszky and Wang Yafan semifinalists.

You’ll notice that very few of those players are in action this week — in particular, none of the Pan Pacific players is playing. That’s going to cost Ivanovic; she will fall to perhaps #10. Wozniacki, with less to defend and a bigger sixteenth event score, won’t be so much affected, but it does appear she’ll lose one spot. Also, Kerber is likely to fall behind Carla Suarez Navarro in the contest for the last Top Ten spot. Pliskova and Muguruza also lose ground, so Suarez Navarro might be able to get up to around #9.

New US Open champion Flavia Pennetta, it appears, will rise to #6 after Wozniacki’s and Ivanovic’s points come off. There will be no movement in the Top Five.

Niculescu will fall to probably just above #50. Lepchenko will fall out of the Top Forty also. Cornet will likely be below the Top Thirty.

KEYWORDS: Preview Quebec City Tokyo

Copyright © 2015. No duplication is permitted without permission from Bob Larson Tennis.