The field has been set for the clay court season, which will begin with the 2019 Volvo Car Open. While the big names might be missing from the draw at Charleston, there is still plenty of action to look forward to. Here are my picks for the tournament.
Expected quarterfinal: Sloane Stephens vs Madison Keys
Analysis: Stephens might face a tough test in form of Ajla Tomljanovic in the third round, as would Keys against Tatjana Maria (if she manages to get past the talented Russian newcomer Natalia Vikhlyantseva in the opening round) in the second round.
Keeping in mind the recent form of these players, one can expect Tomljanovic and Maria to square off in the last eight.
My picks: Ajla Tomljanovic vs Tatjana Maria
Expected quarterfinal: Aryna Sabalenka vs Elise Mertens
Analysis: Mertens faces a tough draw with expected encounters against Kaia Kanepi and Danielle Collins, but she might just come through. Sabalenka has an easier draw and that is exactly what she needs at this point to find her form in the current season.
My picks: Aryna Sabalenka vs Elise Mertens
Expected quarterfinal: Julia Goerges vs Anastasija Sevastova
Analysis: Belinda Bencic looms large in Goerges' side of the quarter and it might as well make for the match of the tournament if these two hard-hitting opponents were to meet in the third round. Meanwhile, Sevastova might find it easy to get to the last-8.
My picks: Julia Goerges vs Anastasija Sevastova
Expected quarterfinal: Caroline Wozniacki vs Kiki Bertens
There is only one thing standing in Wozniacki's path to the last 8, Mihaela Buzarnescu. The Romanian can prove to be a tricky opponent on any day; the kind that has troubled the former world no. 1 in the past.
Kiki Bertens might just prove to be too strong in her side of the draw, but one can expect intriguing matches against the like of Andrea Petkovic (who has looked good this season) and Maria Sakkari.
My picks: Mihaela Buzarnescu vs Kiki Bertens.
Noteworthy first round matches:
Andrea Petkovic vs Varvara Lepechenko
Maria Sakkari vs Alize Cornet
Sabine Lisicki vs Sofia Kenin
Sara Errani vs Monica Puig