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Moscow 2021: Women's singles draw analysis, preview & prediction | VTB Kremlin Cup

Aryna Sabalenka is the top seed in Moscow
Aryna Sabalenka is the top seed in Moscow
Sudeshna Banerjee
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The VTB Kremlin Cup, scheduled to be held in Moscow from October 18-24, will give top players the opportunity to rack up some vital points as they seek a berth at the WTA Finals.

The WTA 500 tournament has attracted a host of top stars with World No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka and two-time Grand Slam champion Simona Halep taking wildcards into the event.

While Sabalenka leads the 32-player field, the newly-crowned Chicago champion Garbine Muguruza is the second seed. French and US Open semifinalist Maria Sakkari and Roland Garros runner-up Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova round out the top four seeds.

On that note, here's an in-depth look at how the draw might unfold:


Top half: Maria Sakkari, Ons Jabeur, Simona Halep look to topple Aryna Sabalenka

Maria Sakkari in action at the J&T Banka Ostrava Open 2021
Maria Sakkari in action at the J&T Banka Ostrava Open 2021

Seeded players: [1] Aryna Sabalenka, [3] Maria Sakkari, [5] Ons Jabeur, [8] Simona Halep

Expected semifinal: Aryna Sabalenka vs Maria Sakkari

Dark horse: Ons Jabeur

Analysis: Aryna Sabalenka will be playing her first tournament since exiting the US Open in the semifinals. A positive COVID-19 test has kept the 23-year-old out of action since the final Major of the season, forcing her to pull out of the ongoing BNP Paribas Open.

The Belarusian has had a phenomenal season so far, reaching a couple of Grand Slam semifinals for the first time in her career. Sabalenka, who has already qualified for the WTA Finals, will be eager to get back to winning ways and boost her confidence ahead of her maiden singles appearance at the season-ending event.

The World No. 2 won't have it easy in the Russian capital as a host of talented players will look to take her down. Sabalenka has a tough opener against either Berlin champion Liudmila Samsonova or Wimbledon quarterfinalist Ajla Tomljanovic.

Ons Jabeur in action at the BNP Paribas Open
Ons Jabeur in action at the BNP Paribas Open

A win could put the top seed face-to-face with Daria Kasatkina or the in-form Ons Jabeur. The Tunisian will create history next week as the first Arab player to be ranked inside the top 10 of either the ATP or the WTA rankings.

Jabeur comes into this tournament on the back of a solid few weeks that saw her finish as the runner-up in Chicago and reach the semifinals in Indian Wells. Provided she is not tired after her recent exploits, Jabeur could be a dangerous opponent for Sabalenka.

The path doesn't get any easier for Sabalenka. Ostrava finalist Maria Sakkari, the third seed in Moscow, will lie in wait in the last four if the seeds hold up.

That said, the Greek will need to play well to reach that stage. She will have to overcome the likes of Dayana Yastremska and possibly Simona Halep to make it to the semifinals.

Semifinal prediction: Aryna Sabalenka def. Maria Sakkari

Bottom half: Jelena Ostapenko, Anett Kontaveit, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova hope to challenge Garbine Muguruza

Garbine Muguruza in action at the BNP Paribas Open
Garbine Muguruza in action at the BNP Paribas Open

Seeded players: [2] Garbine Muguruza, [4] Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, [6] Angelique Kerber [7] Elena Rybakina

Expected semifinal: Garbine Muguruza vs Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova

Dark horse: Jelena Ostapenko

Analysis: Former World No. 1 Garbine Muguruza will hope to bring her title-winning form from Chicago to Moscow as she guns for her third trophy of the season. The Spaniard failed to make an impact at Indian Wells and will be eager to bounce back in Moscow.

The two-time Major winner is slated to meet Ostrava quarterfinalist Tereza Martincova as early as the second round after a first-round bye.

With Indian Wells semifinalist Jelena Ostapenko and Wimbledon semifinalist Angelique Kerber looming in the last eight, Muguruza can't afford to relax. Bad Homburg runner-up Katerina Siniakova is another player in this section who could shake up the draw.

(L-R): Maria Sakkari & Anett Kontaveit at the Ostrava Open
(L-R): Maria Sakkari & Anett Kontaveit at the Ostrava Open

The other quarter of the draw is just as interesting. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova is the highest seed in this section (4), but she could face serious challenges from the likes of Ostrava winner Anett Kontaveit, Roland Garros quarterfinalist Elena Rybakina or Olympic silver medalist Marketa Vondrousova.

Pavlyuchenkova has been drawn against a qualifier in her opener, and a win would pit the Russian against one of the aforementioned names.

Semifinal prediction: Anett Kontaveit def. Angelique Kerber

Prediction for the final

Aryna Sabalenka def. Anett Kontaveit


Edited by Arvind Sriram
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