USA | WTA Preview – North American hard-court swing begins

Many of the big guns return to action on the Hologic WTA Tour this week, with action at the WTA 500 beginning on Monday at the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic in San Jose, California, and the WTA 250 Citi Open in Washington, DC.

I am excited to be playing the Citi Open for the first time this summer. I love Washington, DC, and returning to the nation’s capital to play in front of a community that has supported me so strongly feels like a homecoming. Venus Williams

Maria Sakkari and Paula Badosa, the World No 3 and 4, head the field in San Jose, which includes newly-crowned Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina and 4-time major champion Naomi Osaka, both of whom face tough opening-round tests.

It is, in fact, the toughest field the tournament has seen in over a decade.

A finalist in 2018, Sakkari returns to San Jose as the top seed, and receives a 1st-round bye, and awaits the winner of the enticing first-round encounter between Canada’s Bianca Andreescu and American Shelby Rogers.

The Greek has enjoyed consistent success in San Jose, having followed up her run to the final with a semi-final appearance here last year.

San Jose will be Andreescu’s first hard-court tournament of the season and the Canadian comes in off strong clay and grass seasons, highlighted by making the Rome quarter-finals and Bad Homburg final.

Rogers won their sole prior meeting, a straight-set win last summer in Chicago.

Sakkari’s quarter also sees 8th-seeded Karolina Pliskova and another American, Amanda Anisimova, who is in the midst of the best season of her career.

Pliskova faces a rematch with wild-card Katie Boulter, the Brit who beat the Czech in the 2nd-round of Wimbledon last month.

Wimbledon finalist and World No 5 Ons Jabeur is also in the top half of the draw, with the Tunisian facing either Madison Keys from the USA or China’s Zhang Shuai in round 2.

Paula Badosa returns to the match court for the first time since Wimbledon as the 2nd seed in San Jose

© Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Badosa, the No 2 seed from Spain, leads the bottom half of the draw, which includes 4th-seeded Aryna Sabalenka, No 6 seed Coco Gauff, Rybakina, and Osaka.

With all top 4 seeds having byes, Badosa will open her tournament against either American Alison Riske-Amritraj or a qualifier.

The most exciting section of the bottom half of the draw involves Gauff and Osaka, who could face each other in the 2nd-round.

Gauff will make her San Jose debut against Anhelina Kalinina, while Osaka will face 19-year-old Chinese talent Zheng Qinwen on Tuesday during the day session.

If Gauff and Osaka face off in round 2, it will be their first meeting since 2021 Cincinnati and fourth overall.

Rybakina is unseeded in San Jose, and makes her hard-court return against 2021 finalist Daria Kasatkina.

The World No 12 is seeded 7, and is playing her first tournament since the clay season, where she made her first Slam semi-final at Roland Garros.

Rybakina and Kasatkina have split their prior meetings, with Rybakina winning their last match at 2021 Abu Dhabi.

Emma Raducanu had an early exit from Wimbledon and is now focused on the defence of her US Open title

© Sebastien Bozon/AFP via Getty Images

In Washington, American Jessica Pegula, the World No 7, and Britain’s Emma Raducanu, ranked 10, lead a field that sees the return of Venus Williams to the singles match court.

Williams plays the Citi Open for for the first time in her incredible career next week, and is one of 6 Grand Slam champions in the women’s main draw alongside Raducanu, Simona Halep, Victoria Azarenka, Sloane Stephens and Sofia Kenin.

The 42-year-old 7-time Grand Slam champion, who made her professional debut back in 1994, accepted a wild-card entry into the WTA 250 tournament and last appeared at the Chicago Women’s Open in August 2021 where she lost in the 1st-round, while her last singles win came at Wimbledon 12 months ago when she defeated Mihaela Burzarnescu, 7-5 4-6 6-3, before losing to Jabeur in the 2nd-round.

The American did take part in the mixed doubles with Jamie Murray at Wimbledon this year, and won their opening match before being stunned in round 2.

“I am excited to be playing the Citi Open for the first time this summer,” Venus said. “I love Washington, DC, and returning to the nation’s capital to play in front of a community that has supported me so strongly feels like a homecoming.”

Absent from Washington, though, is Leylah Fernandez, whose return to action has been delayed following the grade three stress fracture in her right foot that she suffered in the quarter-finals at the French Open.

The World No 14 has still not fully recovered and has been forced to pull out of the tournament.

The teenager is now likely to make her come-back at her home tournament, the WTA 1000 Canadian Open, which gets underway on 8 August at the Aviva Centre in Toronto.

Meanwhile, defending champion Jessica Pegula is the top seed, with reigning US Open champion Emma Raducanu and 2-time major champions Simona Halep and Victoria Azarenka rounding out the top 4 seeds.

Pegula will face local wild-card Hailey Baptiste in the opening round, and the winner will face either Daria Saville or Swedish qualifier Mirjam Bjorklund.

Jessica Pegula is the defending champion and the top seed in Washington DC this week

© Rob Carr/Getty Images

Raducanu, seeded 2 in her tournament debut, was set for a tough assignment against Wimbledon quarter-finalist Marie Bouzkova in the 1st-round but the Czech withdrew after winning her first WTA title at the Prague Open.

The British No 1, who is also playing doubles this week with Clara Tauson from Denmark, will now face American qualifier Louisa Chirico in her opener, with the winner to face either 2020 Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin or Colombia’s rising star Camila Osorio in round 2.

Kenin is set to play her first tournament since Indian Wells after being sidelined by injury this spring.

Williams starts her debut against Canadian qualifier Rebecca Marino, with the winner meeting Tauson, the 8th seed, or 2013 finalist Andrea Petkovic from Germany.

Raducanu’s quarter also includes No 5 seed Elise Mertens and 2015 champion Sloane Stephens.

The American also faces a tough opening draw against Aussie Ajla Tomljanovic, who is coming off her first major quarter-final at Wimbledon.

No 3 seed Halep has been drawn into Pegula’s top half of the draw and, coming in fresh off a run to the Wimbledon semi-finals, the former World No 1 will open against a Spanish qualifier, Cristina Bucsa.

The Romanian goes into Washington having made the semi-finals in her last 3 tournaments, while her last foray on American hard courts, she advanced to the Indian Wells semi-finals in March.

No 4 seed Azarenka is playing her first tournament since Roland Garros and has landed in the bottom half of the draw where she opens against Dayana Yastremska from Ukraine.

Also lurking in Azarenka’s quarter is surprise Wimbledon semi-finalist Tatjana Maria from Germany, who opens against lucky loser Wang Xiyu from China, with the winner to face either Mayar Sherif from Egypt or Croatia’s Donna Vekic.



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