David Goffin takes out Diego Schwartzman in Chicago:
It’s homestretch time. The ATP and WTA tours have both begun their late-season, post-Slam swings through Asia. But it’s the women who are a step ahead at the moment. While the men will contest a pair of 250-level tournaments this week, the women’s 56-draw, $2.7 million, Premier 5 event in Wuhan is already underway.
Here’s a look at what we can expect, and what’s at stake, at each of this week’s four tour stops.
Dongfeng Motor Wuhan Open (WTA)
$2,746,000; Premier 5
Most of the WTA’s elite have made the trek to Wuhan: Simona Halep, Caroline Wozniacki, Angelique Kerber, Caroline Garcia, Petra Kvitova, Elina Svitolina, Karolina Pliskova and Garbine Muguruza are all in this 56-player draw—though since I’m writing this a few hours before the second day of play is scheduled to start, I can’t guarantee that one or more of those names won’t be erased by then. It’s upset season, after all, and we already saw a minor one this weekend, when Anett Kontaveit beat No. 9 seed Sloane Stephens. That is an upset on paper, but considering Stephen's late-season record in 2017, and Kontaveit’s quality, it’s hardly a surprise. Daria Gavrilova took out No. 10 seed Jelena Ostapenko on Monday.
With upsets come opportunities, and breakthroughs. Wuhan has been the site of a few of them in recent years. In 2015, Muguruza reached the final and began a meteoric ascent into the Top 5. In 2016, Dominika Cibulkova also reached the final, and a month later won her biggest career title, at the WTA Finals in Singapore. Last year Caroline Garcia won the title in Wuhan, and went on to do the same in Beijing.
Who might start a breakthrough run this year? Karolina Pliskova (winner in Tokyo last week), Kiki Bertens (winner in Seoul last week), Qiang Wang (winner in Guangzhou last week), Aryna Sabalenka, Madison Keys, Daria Kasatkina, Maria Sakkari, Ashleigh Barty (Wuhan finalist last year) or Kontaveit would all seem to be in fine enough form to take advantage of an opportunity here. And we can’t forget world No. 1 Halep, who should be eager to get back on a winning track as soon as possible after her first-round loss at the US Open.
Naomi Osaka cashes in on her US Open win:
Withdrawn: Naomi Osaka, Victoria Azarenka
Shenzhen Open (ATP)
$800,000; 250 ranking points
David Goffin is the top seed in Shenzhen. Is a weekend of Laver Cup, followed by a flight from Chicago to China, the best preparation for this event? We could find out quickly: Goffin might play Andy Murray, an unseeded wild card, in his opening match.
Team Europe wins the Laver Cup:
Also here: Stefanos Tsitsipas, Denis Shapovalov, Alex de Minaur, Borna Coric.
That’s a pretty fair line-up of Next Gen talent.
Chengdu Open (ATP)
$1,183,360; 250 ranking points
Fabio Fognini is the top seed, but of more interest perhaps is No. 2, Hyeon Chung of South Korea. After starting the season so promisingly with a run to the Australian Open semifinals—yes, that happened in 2018—he has spent the last two months in injury-recovery mode. Can he find some of his old form in Asia before the year is over?
Also here: Gael Monfils, Taylor Fritz, and a qualifier named Bernie Tomic
Tashkent Open (WTA)
Tashkent’s $250,000 purse can’t compete with Wuhan’s $2.7 million, and the draw shows it. The top seed is Irina-Camelia Begu, and No. 2 is Vera Lapko. Of more interest to fans might be the presence of Vera Zvonareva, who took a wild card into the tournament, and Marta Kostyuk of Ukraine, who is still just 16.
Maria Sharapova ends her 2018 season early:
And if you think you spotted a familiar name halfway down the draw, you’re not wrong. Sabina Sharipova is here.