The 10th edition of the Guangzhou International Women’s Open is underway in south-east China. Although the 32-player draw for the $500,000 event features no top 20 players, all eight seeds are ranked inside the top 50, which should make for an evenly contested and entertaining tournament.
Check out the full draw HERE: WTA Guangzhou Open Draw
Sorana Cristea (Player Profile) leads the field in Guangzhou, but she has arguably the toughest first round match of any seed. The Romanian will take on Bojana Jovanovski, who travels to China fresh from winning the second title of her career in Tashkent on Saturday. Cristea has beaten Jovanovski three times in four meetings and posted some excellent results on hard courts this summer, but the Serb is an aggressive, powerful competitor and will be feeling extremely confident. The winner of that hard-hitting first round duel will be favoured to get past either Vania King or Chanelle Sheepers in the last 16.
Now would be a good time for the one of the WTA’s most promising newcomers to make another leap forward. Monica Puig impressed everyone with her run to the fourth round of Wimbledon this summer, and the 19-year-old could inch towards the top 40 with a strong result in Guangzhou. Puig has a very winnable opener against qualifier Nadiya Kichenok, after which she could play the idiosyncratic but beatable Petra Cetkovska.
Laura Robson (Player Profile) reached her first ever WTA final in Guangzhou last year, and enters this year’s event knowing that an early flameout will send her tumbling down the rankings. Assuming she is fully recovered from her wrist injury, however, the British number one should have little trouble making the quarter-finals: she will play a qualifier in the first round, and then another qualifier or a wild card in the second. In the last eight, Robson is seeded to meet Varvara Lepchenko, but the American number five hasn’t been in great form recently. More likely to come through that section of the draw is experienced home favourite Jie Zheng. A Robson-Zheng quarter-final would be a rematch of their second round clash in Guangzhou in 2012, which Robson won in straight sets.
The only player under more pressure than Robson is sixth seed Su-Wei Hsieh. Taipei’s top player won the title last year but has done little of note since, which means that her ranking will definitely plummet should she fail to reach the latter rounds in 2013. She will face Argentina’s Paula Ormeachea in the first round, who beat her in their only previous meeting. If Hsieh fails to find the form that won her the trophy 12 months ago, another homegrown player could benefit. Fourth seed Shuai Peng (Player Profile) may not be the same player that reached the top 15 in 2011, but she is still a solid member of the top 40, and will fancy her chances against wild card entrant Shahar Peer in round one. In the second round, Peng would be favourite to oust one of two qualifiers: Richel Hogenkamp of the Netherlands or British number three Johanna Konta.
The final quarter of the Guangzhou draw is headed by second seed Alize Cornet (Player Profile) and fifth seed Urszula Radwanska. Cornet plays Tashkent finalist Olga Govortsova in the first round, and Radwanska faces world number 94 Vesna Dolonc. Radwanska has posted impressive wins over Ana Ivanovic, Venus Williams and Jelena Jankovic this year, while Cornet won the third singles title of her career in Strasbourg and pushed Victoria Azarenka to three sets at both the French and US Opens. Although both are regulars in International events, they have never played each other before.
There is no clear favourite for the 2013 Guangzhou International Women’s Open. The top seeds are undoubtedly talented players and many of them have hard-hitting games that can be extremely effective on a good day, yet most of them are still plagued by inconsistency, the result of either youth or a lack of discipline. Next Sunday’s final could indeed be a one-versus-two battle between Cristea and Cornet (Cristea leads their head-to-head 3-2), but a rested and determined Robson has a great chance to get her hands on the trophy that she came so close to touching last year. Failing that, don’t be surprised if Peng or Zheng thrill the home crowds with workmanlike tennis and steady nerves.