Women’s Look Forward: Linz, Hong Kong, Tianjin

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

Call this the calm before the bigger calm.

The WTA scheduled three events for this week, and two for next, but it really feels as if a lot of players are winding down. And the players who are qualified for Singapore aren’t going to want to waste energy. So we don’t have any of the very top players in action, and the players who are out of the contest are often taking the week off.

The biggest single exception to that is Lucie Safarova. She isn’t quite clinched for Singapore, plus she has been ill for many weeks. So she is in Linz partly to work on her Race total but mostly to get playing again. She took a wildcard to earn the #1 seed. She’s the only Top Ten player in the field; #2 seed Caroline Wozniacki is just short, and she’s out of the hunt for Singapore. So is #3 seed Roberta Vinci, who is in Wozniacki’s half. Andrea Petkovic took a wildcard to earn the #4 seed. Anna Karolina Schmiedlova is #5 and in Petkovic’s quarter. Camila Giorgi is #6 and Safarova’s first seeded adversary. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova’s big week in Beijing put her in the Top Thirty (ahead of Giorgi), but she still got stuck with the #7 seed; she’s in Vinci’s quarter. Barbora Strycova is #8 and in Wozniacki’s quarter. Oddly for a field that features the strongest player in action this week, there really don’t seem to be many unseeded threats.

Tianjin has a fascinating field of Singapore hopefuls: Flavia Pennetta is #1, Agnieszka Radwanska #2, Karolina Pliskova #3. Then… Elina Svitolina #4, Kristina Mladenovic #5, and no one else who was Top Fifty last week! Teliana Pereira is #6, Alison Riske #7, and Zheng Saisai #8. That obviously doesn’t leave many strong unseeded players, although Pereira opens against Nao Hibino, who has won half the WTA main draws she has played (all two of them), with Kateryna Bondarenko to follow. And Svitolina got a draw full of slumping but fairly skilled players; she opens against Elena Vesnina, then maybe Bojana Jovanovski.

Hong Kong lost its top seed so fast that we never even got to see the draw with her in it. Garbine Muguruza pulled out, citing a left ankle injury, but it seems pretty clear that what she really pulled out with was “I’m tired and I just qualified for Singapore and who needs this?”-itis. Tough for the tournament, but certainly understandable. That caused Venus Williams to be promoted into her spot even though she is only the #3 seed. The #2 seed, and only Top Ten player in the field, is Angelique Kerber, who is in on a wildcard. Kerber will probably make Singapore no matter what, but some insurance never hurts. It will be interesting to see what she does about Moscow if she officially qualifies this week…. The #4 seed is Jelena Jankovic, who is another wildcard; she’s in Venus’s half. Promoted into Venus’s old spot in the draw is #5 seed Samantha Stosur. Daria Gavrilova is #6 and in Stosur’s quarter. Caroline Garcia is #7 and in Kerber’s. Alize Cornet has the #8 seed and is in Venus’s quarter. Promoted into Stosur’s seeded spot is Heather Watson.

Here again, there aren’t a lot of strong unseeded players, although Kerber has to open against Francesca Schiavone. Some of the unseeded players here are ranked very low indeed — the fact that we have six qualifiers and two Lucky Losers doesn’t help. (In addition to a replacement for Muguruza, they also needed a replacement for Casey Dellacqua, who is out with a concussion. It’s almost as if tennis is turning into the National Football League.) We would guess that this will be the last WTA event of the year for just about everyone here except Kerber.

The Rankings

Three more weeks and we’ll be done with rankings shift. (Until next year’s rankings shift for the Olympics, anyway.) Rather than losing three International events, what comes off this week is Moscow 2014 (a Premier) and Luxembourg (an International). Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova won Moscow, over Irina-Camelia Begu, with Lucie Safarova and Katerina Siniakova semifinalists. Annika Beck won Luxembourg, over Barbora Strycova, and Denisa Allertova and Mona Barthel were semifinalists.

That means Pavlyuchekova is going to lose the Top Thirty spot she just gained; indeed, she might lose her Top Forty spot. Begu, who finally hit the Top 25, will also be falling out, and likely out of the Top Thirty. Siniakova we’re not sure about, because she’s so low, but it’s likely to be a lot lower. Beck will probably lose her Top Fifty .spot, and Strycova her Top Forty spot. Allertova, whose result at Luxembourg pointed toward her 2015 breakthrough, may end up not much above #100.

But, of course, what really matters now is the Race. It still looks like Halep, Sharapova, Muguruza, Kvitova, Safarova, and Kerber are safe (although Safarova and Kerber obviously are playing to try to make extra sure), leaving Pennetta, Pliskova, Radwanska, and Suarez Navarro contending for two spots (Bacsinszky’s decision not to play takes her out. Interesting that Suarez Navarro isn’t in action either). And all three of the ones who are in action playing Tianjin! Expect fireworks there — the winner, if it’s Pennetta or Radwanska, will probably qualify.

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