Asian hard court swing ups the ante
The 3rd edition of the WTA Premier event in Wuhan marks the largest tournament draw since the final Grand Slam of the year, and features 9 of the world’s top 10 ranked players. The event is played on a moderately quick outdoor hard court similar to the US Open and Cincinnati.
Venus Williams is the reigning champion, having fought through injury to lift the trophy in a final against a similarly injured Garbine Muguruza who was forced to retire when 3/0 down in the second set.
In 2014, Petra Kvitova blasted her way to the title with victory over the absent Eugenie Bouchard.
World Number 1 the favourite in Wuhan
US Open Champion Angelique Kerber is rightly the favourite to triumph in Wuhan. Over the past 8 weeks the German has the best win rate having found success in New York, alongside 2 runner up appearances in Cincinnati and the Olympics.
8 Week Form Win %
Kerber has a strong record in Wuhan that has seen the left hander outperform her seeding in both her previous appearances.
Top 5 performers in Wuhan
|Player||Wuhan 2015/ 2014|
Kerber has not won a hard court title outside of the Grand Slams this season. Furthermore, whilst several other players have been in the continent for tournaments in the previous 2 weeks, Kerber was still in Munich on Friday 23rd September. She does have the benefit of a bye in the first round.
Will Pliskova be a threat?
Following a breakthrough month that saw Karolina Pliskova win Cincinnati and finish runner up in New York, it will be interesting to watch how the Czech performs this week. A poor defeat to Aliaksandra Sasnovich last week in Tokyo and a couple of party themed tweets since arriving in Wuhan give cause for concern. Conditions do favour Pliskova having made the quarterfinals and round of 16 in her 2 previous visits. She also has the 5th best hard court win % in 2016.
You can read my recent blog on Karolina Pliskova’s future Grand Slam chances here – https://gavinnightmair.wordpress.com/2016/09/11/will-karolina-pliskova-win-a-slam/
Top 5 Hard Court Win %
|Player||Surface Win %|
A two-time champion?
Kvitova has had a season to forget on the hard courts winning just over half her matches on that surface whilst claiming no titles. For these reasons it seems unlikely.
Currently in 13th place and almost 900 points short of 8th placed Carla Suarez Navarro, Venus Williams has to start winning soon if she has a chance of qualifying for the end of season championships in Singapore. In her favour is 3 hard court titles, all won in Asia, during the past 12 months. Her recent form looks far short of being in contention, but you must never write off the chances of a Williams.
2016’s best hard court players
Top 5 players combined service hold and break % on hard courts
|Player||Hold and break combined %|
Radwanska was a semi finalist in Tokyo and has the best hard court winning percentages of all players in Wuhan. Whilst this should give her a decent position from which to have a tilt at the title, the Polish player has a woeful record here losing in the R64 and R32 in her 2 previous visits.
Simona Halep has fared slightly better in Wuhan, but has finished at the hardly remarkable R16 and R32 previously. She does have some decent form of late so can’t be ruled out completely.
Johanna Konta is perhaps a surprise name on the lists featuring the best hard court win percentage and the best surface hold and break combined percentage. Unlike the previous 2 players, she has performed well here in the past exceeding expectations to reach the 2015 quarter final. If Kerber isn’t fully focused she may be the one to take advantage in her half of the draw. I don’t see her winning however.
Muguruza played well here last year but her form has gone off a cliff since winning in Paris, underperforming relative to her ranking with great regularity including recently in Tokyo, New York and Rio.
Elina Svitolina could prove to be a lively outsider. She does find herself wedged between Kerber and Konta in the draw, but she has good recent form beating Muguruza en route to a semi final last week in Tokyo, as well as a finalist spot in New Haven. She also lifted an outdoor title in Asia early this year. Her record in Wuhan is strong.
Shuai Zhang has made back to back semi finals in International level tournaments in both Seoul and Tokyo. The highest ranked Chinese player likely carries her nation’s hopes here.
In the bottom half of the draw Caroline Wozniacki has rediscovered some form. She won last week in Tokyo and made the semi final in New York. In Wuhan she has made the semis previously.
This looks difficult to call. Kvitova has a tricky match with Ostapenko in the first round, who she trails 2/1 in the H2H but the Czech did win against her recently in New York. Svitolina has a poor record versus Kvitova. How interested is Kerber? Konta and Suarez Navarro have yet to meet.
Kerber to justify her ranking and sneak through minefield quarter
Olympic Gold medalist Puig has a tricky match up with 2015 semi finalist Vinci. Neither Halep or Keys particularly like it here. Bacsinszky is in poor form.
Halep to advance through weak quarter
Venus will fancy her chances in a quarter that looks winnable. Radwanska doesn’t play her best here, Wozniacki will be tired post Tokyo, Stosur is vulnerable on most hard courts and Kuznetsova will be enigmatic as always.
Focused Venus to advance
If Pliskova is in the mood this quarter looks favourable to her. The conditions are good for her, and she dominates Muguruza on hard courts. There is no good reason to have faith Pavlyuchenkova or the out of form Cibulkova.
Pliskova to make the QFs