The 2020 Western & Southern Open will be the first tournament to feature the return of multiple top 10 players since the coronavirus-enforced suspension.
Karolina Pliskova, Sofia Kenin and Serena Williams lead the women's field to kick off the American hardcourt swing. Joining them will be defending champion Madison Keys and multiple Slam champions Petra Kvitova, Naomi Osaka and Venus Williams.
With main draw action set to begin on Saturday, here is a look at the prospects of the top names in the draw.
First quarter: Karolina Pliskova leads the way
Expected quarterfinal: Karolina Pliskova vs Aryna Sabalenka
Analysis: A returning Karolina Pliskova is all set to face a field of seasoned players. Her prospective match-ups include Ajla Tomjlanovic and Prague finalist Elise Mertens; the Czech will have to no time to play herself in and will need to be vigilant from the get go.
For sixth seed Aryna Sabalenka, things seem to be a little simpler early on as she faces a qualifier in her first match. Sabalenka's big test will be in the last 16, where she is set to face the winner of the Alison Riske-Amanda Anisimova or the Jennifer Brady-Kim Clijsters matches.
Brady vs Clijsters is a contest to watch out for as it will have the poster girls from two entirely different generations battling things out.
Predicted quarterfinal: Karolina Pliskova vs Alison Riske or Jennifer Brady
Second quarter: Petra Kvitova and Naomi Osaka on a collision course
Expected quarterfinal: Naomi Osaka vs Petra Kvitova
Analysis: The second quarter features Naomi Osaka and Petra Kvitova at opposite ends. Osaka, however, has another Czech to worry about in the form of Karolina Muchova in the second round, with a strong looking Venus Williams looming in the next.
Big-match players in the form of Danielle Collins and Anett Kontaveit stand in Kvitova's path to the last eight. But the big-hitting Kvitova will first have an opportunity to find the range on her groundstrokes against compatriot Marie Bouzkova in a probable second round encounter.
Predicted quarterfinal: Venus Williams vs Petra Kvitova
Third quarter: Serena Williams back on track
Expected quarterfinal: Johanna Konta vs Serena Williams
Analysis: Johanna Konta has one of the easier roads ahead of her; only Polish no. 1 Magda Linette seems to pose a threat to the Brit's chances. A lot could also depend on how well 10th seed Marketa Vondrousova is playing, but given her recent form, a deep run looks unlikely.
Serena Williams will get to test her match-fitness against Alison Van Uytvanck early on, but the real battle in her section is brewing elsewhere. A showcase Maria Sakkari vs Coco Gauff match will see the winner take on the gritty Yulia Putintseva thereafter.
Predicted quarterfinal: Magda Linette vs Serena Williams
Fourth quarter: AO champion Sofia Kenin joins defending Cincy champion Madison Keys
Expected quarterfinal: Ons Jabeur vs Sofia Kenin
Analysis: A packed quarter, this part of the draw will have the seeds face tough opposition at nearly every stage. Defending champion Madison Keys is set to take on Ons Jabeur in the second round, with Iga Swiatek waiting ahead.
na Vekic faces a nightmarish draw; she opens against Victoria Azarenka and could face another Major champion in Sloane Stephens - assuming the American can first find a way to get past the talented Carolina Garcia. The winner here will have a shot at the last eight, against Australian Open champ and second seed Sofia Kenin.
Predicted quarterfinal: Madison Keys or Ons Jabeur vs Sofia Kenin
Notable opening round matches
Alison Riske vs Amanda Anisimova
Jennifer Brady vs Kim Clijsters
Venus Williams vs Dayana Yastremska
Maria Sakkari vs Coco Gauff
Donna Vekic vs Victoria AzarenkaPublished 21 Aug 2020, 15:25 IST