2018 Tokyo WTA: Main Draw Preview

We’re headed towards the final stretch of the season in Asia after a crazy two weeks at the US Open. The Asian swing is one of my favourite parts of the year so I hope to cover the big events for the next few weeks. This week the Asian swing kicked off at an International event in Hiroshima; next week we’ll continue to stay in Japan where bigger names head to the Premier-level event in Tokyo. Let’s break down the draw now…

Main Draw

Seeded player profiles

[1/WC] Caroline Wozniacki (No.2)

Image result for wozniacki tokyo 2017

Player profile: Aside from triumphs at the Australian Open and Eastbourne, Wozniacki is having a really terrible year and her level has definitely dropped a ton from her 2017 consistency. The North American swing has always been a great hunting ground for Wozniacki, yet this year she had only won one match in three events in Montreal, Cincinnati and the US Open. A two-time finalist in New York, Wozniacki put in a horrible performance against Lesia Tsurenko who perfectly executed her game plan against the Dane. Wozniacki has always been the epitome of consistency in her career, yet stuck __ unforced errors in a straight set match to Tsurenko. She’s still ranked World No.2 but she’ll have ton of points to defend over the next two months – let’s see whether Wozniacki can improve her fortunes in Asia.

Draw projections: All top four seeds start off with a bye, so Wozniacki’s first match of the week will be against Camila Giorgi or a qualifier. Giorgi’s always so dangerous on her day, and with Wozniacki’s confidence waning, an upset alert is certainly on the cards. That is if though Giorgi can get past the qualifier! Wozniacki is projected to face Ashleigh Barty in the quarters, although Victoria Azarenka is also in this section – the Belarusian’s first round will be against home favourite Kurumi Nara.

Tokyo win-loss record: 26-7 (2010, 2016, 2017 champion)

[2] Caroline Garcia (No.4)

Image result for garcia us open 2018

Player profile: I can’t believe Garcia is up to a career-high of No.4 in the rankings – she’s barely done anything notable outside of the clay court swing this year. Garcia has only made two semifinals this year – both on clay – and she hasn’t beaten a single top 20 player since Rome. Most of Garcia’s ranking points have come from the Asian swing having won Wuhan, Beijing and making it all the way to the semifinals in Singapore. If she doesn’t improve her form soon a dip down the rankings is definitely about to ensue.

Draw projections: Garcia’s first opponent will be either Aliaksandra Sasnovich or Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, two players that can certainly cause problems on Garcia’s off days. Sloane Stephens, Donna Vekic and Johanna Konta are all possible quarterfinal opponents.

Tokyo win-loss record: 2-3 (2017 QF)

[3] Naomi Osaka (No.7)

Image result for osaka us open 2018

Player profile: Osaka’s an absolute revelation around the world right now and even though that US Open final was marred by controversy, thankfully she still got the attention she deserved. I was so impressed by Osaka with how she dealt with everything – her tactics were spot on against Serena, she served so well, she didn’t let the situation get to her, and it seemed like she wasn’t feeling nervous on the court at all. Now with the whole world focusing on this young talent, coming back to her home country, will she begin to feel the pressure and added attention, or continue to excel and win more titles? I’m so excited for Osaka’s future and I‘m fascinated to see how how she performs in her first match after the big triumph, and how full will the stadium be for her first match in Tokyo.

Draw projections: Osaka’s first match since her biggest triumph of her young career will be against Dominika Cibulkova or a qualifier. Cibulkova isn’t going to be affected by the home crowd and is always a bundle of energy so that’s going to be a fascinating match if it happens. No.8 seed Barbora Strycova, who recently hit the headlines after her comments about Serena Williams is seeded to be Osaka’s last eight opponent.

Tokyo win-loss record: 7-5 (2016 F)

[4] Karolina Pliskova (No.8)

Image result for pliskova tokyo 2017

Player profile: Pliskova continues her steady yet unconvincing season and comes into the Asian swing with a third straight quarterfinal appearance at the US Open. Pliskova’s serve has always been her best weapon in her career, yet hasn’t been able to use it to great effect all year – although that part has seen some improved throughout the fortnight in New York, her groundstrokes have been mediocre and is lacking in power and aggression these days. I’d like to see her adopt a more aggressive game plan as she did a couple of years back, and coming forward to the net whenever she has the chance to do so. The Asian swing hasn’t been the best of hunting grounds for Pliskova, so I’ll be intrigued to see if her coaching partnership with Stubbs has a positive influence on her over the next few weeks.

Draw projections: A potential Pliskova-Pliskova round two match is on the cards, however the lower-ranked Kristyna will have to beat the scrappy and tenacious Daria Gavrilova to do so – not going to be easy. Ka.Pliskova-Muguruza, one of my favourite match-ups, is our projected quarterfinal in this section.

Tokyo win-loss record: 4-4 (2015, 2017 QF)

[5] Sloane Stephens (No.9)

Image result for stephens us open 2018

Player profile: Stephens’ US Open title defence wasn’t really too bad at all – while a sloppy loss to Anastasija Sevastova, a player she hasn’t lost to prior the fortnight was disappointing, Stephens should take the positives out from two stunning performances she had against Victoria Azarenka and Elise Mertens. Stephens has dropped to No.9 in the world, but she has literally no points to defend over the next few weeks. With the WTA Finals around the horizon, Stephens will be eager to collect some points and cement her place in the world’s top 10.

Draw projections: Stephens kicks off her Tokyo campaign against Donna Vekic – the player who beat her in the first round in Wimbledon. Vekic’s been playing great tennis this year so that’s going to be a fascinating watch. The winner of that match will likely play Johanna Konta in the second round.

Tokyo win-loss record: 1-1 (2013 R2)

[6] Garbiñe Muguruza (No.14)

Image result for muguruza tokyo 2017

Player profile: It’s been a really horrible year for Muguruza – after a third round loss in her Wimbledon title defence, Muguruza suffered from injury and only started her North American hard court swing in Cincinnati where she lost to Lesia Tsurenko, then in the US Open lost to World No.204 Karolina Muchova. Similarly to Pliskova, I feel Muguruza’s game has begun to steer towards more passive gameplans and even when she has tried to play more aggressively, her forehand is a huge letdown. Her volley tactics have not been as effective as previous years and generally has been lacking in confidence on court throughout the whole season. Now out of the top 10 – something Muguruza faced in 2017 as well – will the Spaniard be able to find back some confidence as she did last year?

Draw projections: Muguruza’s first match of the week will be against Belinda Bencic – even amidst Bencic’s struggles to get back fully fit and to find her game, this is not an easy opener at all. Whoever comes through will definitely play a qualifier in the second round.

Tokyo win-loss record: 8-5 (2014, 2017 SF)

[7] Ashleigh Barty (No.17)

Image result for barty us open 2018

Player profile: Barty’s been one of the most consistent players on the tour this season and she has continued that with runs to the semifinals in Montreal and fourth round in the US Open. Barty’s been so good at beating the players that are lower ranked than her, but what has derailed her from progressing up the rankings is her inability to beat the higher ranked players. Her last six losses on the tour have all been decided in straight sets, and against higher ranked players. I believe Barty will break into the top 10 one day but she’ll have some work to do before doing so; let’s see how she performs coming into the Asian swing in Tokyo.

Draw projections: Barty will play US Open doubles partner CoCo Vandeweghe in the first round – coincidentally both of them won their first Grand Slam title in New York! The winner of this match could play Vika Azarenka afterwards.

Tokyo win-loss record: 1-1 (2017 Q2)

[8] Barbora Strycova (No.25)

Image result for strycova us open 2018

Player profile: Strycova’s been just steady this season and hasn’t really had a breakout run anywhere, though she has had some success on the doubles tour recently. Strycova’s recent loss on the tour was a straight-sets loss to Elise Mertens in New York but with Angelique Kerber’s withdrawal, she managed to snag the last seed in the 28-player draw in Tokyo.

Draw projections: Strycova’s drawn a qualifier in round one, before either Anett Kontaveit or Kristina Mladenovic in round two.

Tokyo win-loss record: 7-8 (2017 QF)

FinaTokyPredictionSloane Stephens d. Dominika Cibulkova

Thanks for reading! Tokyo predictions will come out very soon!

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