After a short break following Ostrava, the WTA tour is back with an exciting dose of season-ending tennis. Several top players head to Linz in what would be the last tournament of the year for them, aiming to end 2020 on a high.
The Linz Open, belonging to the WTA International category of the women's circuit, will be played on indoor hardcourts. With the WTA Finals annually held in Shenzen already called off due to the coronavirus pandemic, Linz offers its entrants one last opportunity to finish their year with a piece of silverware.
Top Seed and Ostrava champion Aryna Sabalenka will be hoping to go into the off-season with two consecutive titles. Meanwhile Sabalenka's doubles partner Elise Mertens will be bidding to keep her three-year streak of winning at least one WTA title alive, after facing disappointment earlier in the Prague final.
The talented but inconsistent Ukrainian Dayana Yastremska and 2018 finalist Ekaterina Alexandrova round up the top four seeds for the week. 2019 champion Coco Gauff and runner-up Jelena Ostapenko have already called it a season, and won't be returning to the tournament this year.
Fans of Sabine Lisicki faced disappointment, as the former Wimbledon finalist failed to make the main draw of the tournament. The German fell in the final round of qualifying to Tereza Martincova, and her hopes now rest on a precious lucky loser seat if someone withdraws.
With the main draw action set to commence on 9 November, let's have a look at how the draw is likely to unfold at the Linz Open 2020:
Top half: Aryna Sabalenka eyes back-to-back titles
Top seeds:  Aryna Sabalenka,  Dayana Yastremska,  Jil Teichmann,  Bernarda Pera
Expected semifinal: Aryna Sabalenka vs Dayana Yastremska
Dark horse: Aliaksandra Sasnovich
Analysis: Aryna Sabalenka has had a mediocre year for a player of her potential. However, she did beat some quality players to win the title at Ostrava - including Coco Gauff, Jennifer Brady and compatriot Victoria Azarenka.
The top seed should start as the favorite to win in Linz, but will face several players who can beat her on their day. Sabalenka will open her campaign against Italy's Jasmine Paolini, and is likely to face her first true test at the last-eight stage - against either seventh seed Jil Teichmann or former World No. 21 Sorana Cirstea.
In the other quarter of this section, third seed Dayana Yastremska will likely face a threat in the form of Barbora Krejcikova in the Round of 16.
Yastremska was one match away from a fourth WTA title earlier in the year at Adelaide, but fell to Ash Barty at the last hurdle. The 20-year-old has struggled for consistency since and has also been mired in off-court controversies; she would be hoping to put all that behind her with a title in Linz.
If she wins her first two matches, Yastremska could face either America's Bernarda Pera or Belarusia's Aliaksandra Sasnovich in the quarterfinals.
The opening round clash between Pera and Sasnovich is one to watch out for. While Pera is the higher-ranked player, Sasnovich usually plays her best tennis on indoor hardcourts and could well cause an upset.
Predicted semifinal: Aryna Sabalenka vs Dayana Yastremska
Bottom half: Elise Mertens in search of her first title of 2020
Top seeds:  Elise Mertens,  Ekaterina Alexandrova,  Veronika Kudermetova,  Nadia Podoroska
Expected semifinal: Elise Mertens vs Ekaterina Alexandrova
Dark horse: Marta Kostyuk
Analysis: In the bottom-most quarter of the draw, second seed Elise Mertens has a relatively safe opening round match against Ukrainian qualifier Anhelina Kalinina. But the Belgian could face a potential banana peel in the Round of 16, against either veteran Vera Zvonareva or teenage dark horse Marta Kostyuk.
The opening round match between Zvonareva and Kostyuk could be an exciting clash if both players produce their best tennis. The former World No. 2 would be keen to test her skills against a player that many believe is the future of women's tennis.
That said, Mertens is one of the most consistent players on the women's tour; she would be expected to beat either Zvonareva or Kostyuk, and navigate her way through to the quarterfinals. The Belgian is slated to meet Russia's fifth seed Veronika Kudermetova at the last eight stage.
If Mertens does emerge as the winner of her quarter, her semifinal opponent could be Ekaterina Alexandrova.
Alexandrova's section of the draw is actually pretty wide open though. French Open semifinalist Nadia Podoroska, 2018 champion Camila Giorgi and talented 20-year-old Varvara Gracheva would all be looking to challenge the fourth seed for a place in the semifinals.
Alexandrova could be challenged as early as the first round by Ukraine's Katerina Siniakova, who is known to be a giant-killer on her day.
Predicted semifinal: Marta Kostyuk vs Ekaterina Alexandrova
Prediction for the final
Dayana Yastremska vs Ekaterina Alexandrova
Dayana YastremskaPublished 08 Nov 2020, 22:52 IST