Charleston | Preview – Pegula replaces Sabalenka as top seed and Svitolina returns

Jessica Pegula heads the field for next week’s Charleston Open, a WTA 500 event, the main draw for which starts on Monday, following the withdrawal of World No 2 Aryna Sabalenka after picking up an injury in Miami,

I have no expectations. I set short-term tasks for myself for a month, two at most. It's important to find my game, to be fit and strong. I was, and I am motivated for 100%. Elina Svitolina

Sabalenka, the Australian Open champion was stunned 6-4 6-4 by unseeded Sorana Cirstea in the Miami Open quarter-finals on Wednesday, after picking up the suspected groin injury earlier in the tournament.

“Sad to announce that I have to withdraw from Charleston,” Sabalenka tweeted on Thursday. “I picked up an injury during one of my matches in Miami and I need time to rest and heal.

“I’m so sorry to the tournament and the fans. I was really looking forward to being back and playing in front of you all.”

Sabalenka has had a superb start to the season, winning the Adelaide title before capturing her maiden Grand Slam crown at Melbourne Park by beating Elena Rybakina in the final, while she also reached the quarter-finals in Dubai before losing to Rybakina in the Indian Wells final.

Ons Jabeur from Tunisia is the No 2 seed in Charleston

© Harry How/Getty Images

As a result, a trio of Top 10 stars headline the Credit One Charleston Open maid draw, with World No 3 Pegula carrying the top seed tag, and former World No 2 Ons Jabeur from Tunisia, Russian No 1 Daria Kasatkina and defending champion Belinda Bencic leading the field for the first WTA 500-level tournament of the 2023 clay-court season.

Elina Svitolina also makes her return to the WTA Tour in Charleston, after a year-long maternity leave, having welcomed daughter Skaï to the family in October with her husband, Gael Monfils.

The top 8 seeds in the tournament receive a bye into the 2nd-round of a main draw made up of 56 players.

In the top half of the draw, Pegula could face 2021 Charleston champion and No 5 seed Veronika Kudermetova from Russia in the quarter-finals, if seeds hold.

Other players in the American’s section include 2021 Charleston semi-finalist and 12th-seeded Paula Badosa from Spain, 2020 Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin from the USA, Canada’s 2021 US Open finalist Leylah Fernandez and rising American Alycia Parks.

Bencic, who won the 6th of her 8 career WTA singles titles in Charleston last year, heads the second quarter as the No 4 seed, and the Swiss could face 7th seed Ekaterina Alexandrova from Russia, a Miami quarter-finalist this week, in the Last 8 if the seeding run to form.

Elina Svitolina makes her return to the WTA Tour in Charleston next week, after a year's maternity leave

© Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Svitolina is also in the second quarter, where she will play her first match on tour since Miami just over a year ago, and, in the 1st-round, the Ukrainian will square off against 3-time Grand Slam quarter-finalist Yulia Putintseva, a Russian-born Kazakh, with the winner to meet Alexandrova in round 2.

Initially, Svitolina was targeting to be ready to return during the grass court season but, after seeing how well she was feeling in practice, she decided there was no reason for her to wait.

“At first, we thought that my comeback would be at a time of Wimbledon, but then, when we saw that I was in quite good training shape, we started wondering about Roland Garros and the tournaments prior to it,” Svitolina said. “For example – Rome. When I started playing with some girls, I felt that I was already in about 80% of my good form.

“Then we decided: if I play on clay, practice long enough, then maybe it would be good to start in Charleston, because this is the first clay tournament.

“This way I will be able to play the entire clay season, because my level in a training sense is very good.

“Our daughter Skaï won’t be with me in Charleston, it’s still a long road, but then when I go back to Europe and there’s a European series, it’ll be a lot easier for her to travel and we’ll be closer to home, so it’ll a lot easier to plan everything,” she added.

The former World No 3 has also accepted to play an ITF tournament in Oeiras, Portugal, from 17-23 April, where she will be the biggest name in the player field.

“I have no expectations,” Svitolina said. “I set short-term tasks for myself for a month, two at most. It’s important to find my game, to be fit and strong. I was, and I am motivated for 100%.”

Also in the second quarter is an intriguing all-American 1st-rounder between No 13 seed Danielle Collins and Charleston native Shelby Rogers.

Daria Kasatkina is the No 3 seed in Charleston

© Christopher Pike/Getty Images

The bottom half of the draw sees 2017 Charleston champion Kasatkina heading up the third quarter as the No 3 seed and, if the Russian holds to her seeding to the quarter-finals, she could possibly face No 8 seed and 2023 Australian Open semi-finalist Magda Linette from Poland, or 9th seed and 2019 champion Madison Keys from the USA.

Jabeur, last year’s runner-up to Bencic, anchors the bottom quarter as the No 2 seed, with former World No 1 Victoria Azarenka from Belarus, the No 6 seed, at the other side of the quarter, and she could be a quarter-final opponent for Jabeur.

2016 Charleston champion Sloane Stephens, another American and former US Open champion, could potentially be a tricky 2nd-round opponent for Azarenka, while, also in the bottom quarter, No 14 seed Jil Teichmann from Switzerland will meet Czech teen Linda Fruhvirtova in an eye-opening 1st-round clash.



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