Marketa Vondrousova has tested positive for coronavirus and will not play in the J&T Banka Ostrava Open, which begins tomorrow, Monday.
I had never lifted a trophy before! Jennifer Brady, the dark horse in Ostrava
“I’m disappointed, but there’s nothing I can do. I feel quite good, so hopefully it will stay that way,” she said in a statement.
The 21-year-old from the Czech Republic was among a number of crowd home favourites at the event, alongside top seeds Elina Svitolina and Karolina Pliskova.
Vondrousova, the World No 20 and 2019 Roland Garros finalist, reached the semi-finals in Rome, but was ousted in the first round of Roland Garros by eventual champion Iga Swiatek.
Her spot in the Ostrava draw has been filled by fellow Czech Barbora Strycova.
Other players who have withdrawn from the event include Petra Kvitova, Johanna Konta and Angelique Kerber, along with Sloane Stephens from qualifying, all because of injury or scheduling concerns.
Gauff wins wildcard battle
Wildcard Coco Gauff dropped just one game in her opening match to move into the second round of qualifying for the main draw in Ostrava on Saturday.
Playing in her first match since the French Open, the American teenager is the No.3 seed in the new Premier-level tournament’s qualifying draw and needed just 53 minutes to see off fellow wildcard Jana Cepalova, serving up 3 aces and breaking her opponent 5 times en route to a dominant 6-1 6-0 victory.
Also in action, top seed Veronika Kudermetova also took a step closer to the main draw after a hard-fought straight sets victory over Stefanie Voegele, 7-6(5) 6-3.
The Russian edged through a tight opening set decided on the narrowest of margins: with no breaks of serve across the first 12 games, and claimed the only mini-break of the tiebreak to take the set before closing out the match,
No 2 seed Marie Bouzkova wrapped up first round action with a solid straight sets victory over Kataryna Zavatska, 6-3 6-2.
The Czech stayed aggressive on the return of serve, breaking Zavatska 5 times en route to victory after an hour and 44 minutes.
Other qualifying seeds moved into the second and final round in search of a spot in the Ostrava main draw, including straight sets wins from No 4 Jil Teichmann, No 5 Anna Blinkova and No 7 Paula Badosa.
Teichmann, who reached the final in Lexington earlier in the year, moved past Anna-Lena Friedsam, 7-5 6-3, while Blinkova fought past Tamara Zidansek, 7-6(5) 6-4 and Badosa took down Sorana Cirsta, 6-3 6-3 to advance.
Main draw preview
The J&T Banka Ostrava Open, which is new to the WTA calendar, has received an official exemption which allows the tournament go ahead as planned despite new COVID-19 restrictions in the Czech Republic.
Amidst COVID-19 the tournament was hastily arranged so WTA players had at least one more opportunity to play in 2020, with several tournaments cancelled throughout the season due to the pandemic.
The arena being used to hold the tournament has held many Fed Cup ties, recently renamed the Billie Jean King Trophy, for the Czech Republic ties in recent years.
An indoor hard court event at Premier level offering $528,500 in prize money, there has been several withdrawals with Grand Slam champions, including Kvitova, Garbiñe Muguruza, Angelique Kerber and Sofia Kenin all pulling out, although the draw is still stacked with notable names.
Elina Svitolina and former World No 1 Karolina Pliskova are the Top seeds, with US Open finalist and 4th seed Victoria Azarenka looming in the top half, and 3rd-seeded Aryna Sabalenka in the bottom.
Petra Martic, Elena Rybakina, Elise Mertens and Anett Kontaveit are the remaining seeds in the draw, but there are several unseeded players who are capable of making an impact over the coming week.
Svitolina, Pliskova, Sabalenka and Azarenka all receive first round byes and will start their campaigns in the second round.
No 1 seed Svitolina faces stiff opposition in her first match as she takes on the winner of Kristyna Pliskova and Maria Sakkari.
Sakkari stunned 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams at the Western & Southern Open this summer and just missed out on a Top 8 seed.
Projected to meet Svitolina in the semi-finals is Azarenka, aiming to shake off a disappointing French Open finish by rebounding on hard courts, on which she won the Western & Southern Open title and narrowly fell to Naomi Osaka in a thrilling final in Flushing Meadows.
Azarenka will face one of two qualifiers following her first round bye.
Wildcard Jelena Ostapenko should provide a stern test for Martic in their opening round clash, while the rapidly-improving Ons Jabeur will fancy her chances against Barbora Strycova in her opening round.
Mertens has a tough opener against Amanda Anisimova, who has struggled at times recently but could threaten the Belgian if playing well.
No 2 seed Karolina Pliskova could face Donna Vekic in her opening round, should the Croat overcome her qualifier, while Sabalanka is her projected semi-final opponent, who takes on a qualifier or Czech wildcard Katerina Siniakova.
Playing on home soil may help Pliskova after more disappointment at the Grand Slams this year, and if she get past Vekic, she then, potentially, could take on Rybakina afterwards.
In the limited amount of action in 2020, Sabalenka has not been at her best and a potential second round against wildcard Katerina Siniakova is not the easiest of matches on paper, though the Belarusian should prevail.
It was a disappointing French Open for Kontaveit, who had been in encouraging form before and after the suspension and she has a tricky opening against Ekaterina Alexandrova and then, potentially, Magda Linette but the indoor conditions should help the Estonian.
No 6 seed Elena Rybakina also looms large in the bottom half, and while the Kazakh has struggled at the majors in 2020, her tour-leading 5 finals show she is a force to be reckoned with.
She should prevail against a qualifier to begin with, before taking on the winner of an intriguing first round between Dayana Yastremska and US Open semi-finalist Jennifer Brady.
Brady has been one to watch since the tour resumed after the COVID-19 lockdown, winning her maiden major title at the Top Seed Open presented by Bluegrass Orthopaedics in Lexington and pushing eventual champion Osaka to three sets in New York.
“I had never lifted a trophy before!” said Brady on her Lexington title, and she could well prove to be the dark horse in Ostrava too.