Brisbane International 2020: Women's singles draw analysis, preview and prediction
The field is set for the first Premier tournament of the WTA Tour 2020, and it is all you could have asked for. Several top stars have descended at the Queensland Tennis Centre for the 12th edition of the Brisbane International, slated to begin on 6 January.
The draw is jam-packed with big names looming in every section of every quarter. Leading the list are the defending champion Karolina Pliskova, World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty, top 10 players including Petra Kvitova and Naomi Osaka, and Grand Slam champions Maria Sharapova and Samantha Stosur.
With main draw action set to begin on Monday, here is a look at the prospects of the top players in the draw.
Expected quarterfinal: Ashleigh Barty vs Petra Kvitova
Analysis: The first quarter of the draw is the quarter of death, with no easy match-ups. Top seed Barty will in all likelihood face Sharapova, who will be looking to make a statement win to begin her 2020. If she is fully fit, the Russian definitely has the hand for it.
The other seed in the section, Kvitova, has a tricky first found opponent in Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. It does not get any easier ahead as Sloane Stephens awaits in the second round and the winner of Barty-Sharapova duel in the quarterfinals.
That said, Kvitova has had turbo starts to her last two seasons and there is no reason the same won't continue this year. And while a quarterfinal against Barty may feel enticing, a Kvitova-Sharapova throwback will be the perfect start to the decade.
Prediction: Petra Kvitova vs Maria Sharapova
Expected quarterfinal: Elina Svitolina vs Madison Keys
Analysis: This one might be a little easier to predict the results for, with a couple of blockbuster first rounds matches thinning out the field. The winners of Elina Svitolina vs Danielle Collins and Samantha Stosur vs Angelique Kerber should in all likelihood go on to reach the quarterfinals.
Donna Vekic and Madison Keys would be hurdles, but one would expect the likes of Svitolina and Kerber (especially with their counter-punching styles of play) to get the better of these big-hitting women.
Prediction: Elina Svitolina vs Angelique Kerber
Expected quarterfinal: Kiki Bertens vs Naomi Osaka
Analysis: The quarter of power, this one features the likes of Osaka, Kiki Bertens, Sofia Kenin and Anett Kontaveit. And amidst all of that there is also the craft of Hsieh Su-Wei that the players will have to be wary of.
While Osaka might be too strong for the opponents in her section, I would imagine a few upsets at the hands of the Taiwanese in the other are likely. Another Osaka-Hsieh showdown on the Australian hardcourts is definitely a possibility.
Prediction: Hsieh Su-Wei or Anett Kontaveit vs Naomi Osaka
Expected quarterfinal: Johanna Konta vs Karolina Pliskova
Analysis: One of the hardest players to put a finger on early in the season is Johanna Konta. You never really know what kind of form she is in, which makes her very dangerous to play against.
If she manages to come through tough opponents like Barbora Strycova and Alison Riske, it would ring alarm bells not just for the defending champion Pliskova in the quarter, but for everyone else in the entire draw as well.
Prediction: Alison Riske vs Karolina Pliskova
Notable first round matches
Petra Kvitova vs Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova
Samantha Stosur vs Angelique Kerber
Sofia Kenin vs Anastasija Sevastova
Naomi Osaka vs Maria Sakkari