Stuttgart | Preview: WTA 500 kicks off European clay-court swing

For some, there is a swift turnaround from Billie Jean King Cup duty at the weekend to the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix, the WTA 500 indoor clay court tournament in Stuttgart, which starts on Monday.

The Porsche Tennis Grand Prix is one of my favourite tournaments. I’ve got great memories of Stuttgart, and not only because I’ve won there twice. I really appreciate the great organisation, the atmosphere created by the fans and, of course, the opportunity to drive a Porsche. I can’t wait to get back to Stuttgart. Iga Świątek

Two-time defending champion Iga Swiatek and World No 2 Aryna Sabalenka lead a jam-packed draw, which includes 8 of the Hologic WTA Tour’s Top 10.

“We’re proud and happy at being able to present our audiences with so many top players once again this year,” said a delighted Tournament Director Markus Günthardt at the recent well-attended Media Talk, which was moderated by Andrea Petkovic in Stuttgart’s Porsche Brand Store.

“We have so many top players here. It means world No. 10 isn’t seeded. It doesn’t happen at any other tournament!”

Emma Raducanu made the quarter-finals in Stuttgart last year, where she lost to top seed Iga Swiatek

© Christian Kaspar-Bartke/Getty Images

The 1st-round sees a clash of wild-cards, with former World No 1 Angelique Kerber facing 2021 US Open champion Emma Raducanu in a first-time meeting.

Raducanu comes to Stuttgart off a successful weekend at the BJK Cup Qualifiers, where she earned wins over Caroline Garcia and Diane Parry to lead Great Britain to a 3-1 win over France in Le Portel.

Kerber, the champion in Stuttgart in 2015 and 2016, is set to compete at the Porsche Tennis Arena for the first time since 2022.

Iga Swiatek is looking to complete a hat-trick of Stuttgart title this year

© Adam Pretty/Getty Images

The top 4 seeds, Swiatek, Sabalenka, No 3 Coco Gauff, and No 4 Elena Rybakina, have 1st-round byes, which gives the World No 1 a few days to transition off the indoor hard court in Biel, Switzerland, to her favourite surface, clay.

The 22-year old Pole is bidding to become the first 3-time champion in Stuttgart since Maria Sharapova swept the titles from 2012-2014, and opens her campaign against either Belgian Elise Mertens or Tatjana Maria from Germany in the 2nd-round.

“The Porsche Tennis Grand Prix is one of my favourite tournaments,” Swiatek stated a while back. “I’ve got great memories of Stuttgart, and not only because I’ve won there twice.

“I really appreciate the great organisation, the atmosphere created by the fans and, of course the opportunity to drive a Porsche. I can’t wait to get back to Stuttgart.”

Looming in Swiatek’s quarter is No 8 seed Jelena Ostapenko from Latvia, who opens against young Czech Linda Noskova, with the winner to meet either Raducanu or Kerber.

Aryna Sabalenka has lost in the final of the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix Stuttgart three years in a row

© Adam Pretty/Getty Images

Rybakina, the 4th seed from Kazakhstan, and Tunisian No 7 seed Ons Jabeur anchor the 2nd quarter, with the latter opening her tournament against Miami semi-finalist Ekaterina Alexandrova from Russia.

Gauff and 5th seed Zheng Qinwen were drawn into the bottom half of the draw and anchor the 3rd quarter, with the 20-year old American taking on a qualifier in her 2nd-round opener, while Zheng will face Romania’s Sorana Cirstea.

“I’ve been very successful on clay and am certain Stuttgart will come up with a perfect and very welcoming week at the start of the European season,” said Gauff, who did not compete in USA’s tie against Belgium in Orlando, Florida.

Sabalenka, a finalist in the last two editions, leads the bottom quarter, and could face former World No 2 Paula Badosa in the 2nd-round after the Spaniard takes on a qualifier in the round 1.

Desirae Krawczyk & Demi Schuurs won last year's doubles title for the second time in a row

© Adam Pretty/Getty Images

Awaiting Porsche Tennis Grand Prix visitors once again this year is an attractive programme of side events giving young and old full value for their money, including diverse themed days, the world-famous Stuttgart Ballet’s performance ahead of the final and photographer Radka Leitmeritz’s works belonging to the ‘Court Supremes’ art project also on exhibit.

The winner of the 47th  Porsche Tennis Grand Prix can look forward to a Porsche Taycan 4S Sport Turismo.

Main-draw play starts on Monday, 15 April, and continues through until Sunday, 21 April, with qualifying rounds taking place over the preceding weekend at the Stuttgart’s Porsche Arena.

The singles final will take place at 1.00pm local time on Sunday, with the doubles final to follow.

Swiatek won her 2nd straight Porsche Tennis Grand Prix singles title last year, defeating Sabalenka, 6-3 6-4, in a rematch of the 2022 final.

Sabalenka has reached the last 3 Stuttgart finals, finishing runner-up to the World No 1 on each occasion, starting with Ashleigh Barty’s defeat in the 2021 final, and the Belarusian is determined to get her hands on the car this year.

In last year’s doubles draw, Desirae Krawczyk & Demi Schuurs also went back-to-back, defeating Nicole Melichar-Martinez & Giuliana Olmos, 6-4 6-1, to win their 2nd straight Porsche Tennis Grand Prix doubles title.



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