WUHAN: Garbine Muguruza heads a stellar line-up as she tries to capture her first tournament as world number one at the WTA Wuhan Open this week.
The Wimbledon champion lost heavily in the semi-final of the Pan Pacific Open to sixth-ranked Caroline Wozniacki at the weekend but is looking to make amends just two weeks after taking the top spot.
“My best tennis wasn’t here,” she said after the 6-2, 6-0 defeat in Tokyo on Saturday.
“I’m not going to think about this loss too much. I still feel (Tokyo) was a good tournament for me to start the Asian swing,” she said.
The top seed faces a tough task in the Chinese city as eight of the world’s top 10 are in action.
US Open champion Sloane Stephens and runner-up Madison Keys also return to competition for the first time since their Flushing Meadows final two weeks ago.
Petra Kvitova is the reigning champion and is eyeing a Wuhan treble after he 27-year-old Czech also won here in 2014.
“I’m happy to be back. For sure I have great memories from these two years which I won and I had a few practices out there and I feel good,” Kvitova said Sunday.
Kvitova pushed aside Muguruza at the US Open before suffering a narrow quarter-final defeat to Venus Williams.
“I think I played good in the US Open and I hope I can take it with me for the rest of the season,” added the twice Wimbledon champion Kvitova. “I know how the field here is, every match is just very difficult.”
The battle to finish in the top eight and reach the WTA finals in Singapore next month is likely to dominate a hot and damp Wuhan, where world number two Simona Halep, fourth-ranked Karolina Pliskova, Wozniacki, Johanna Konta, Svetlana Kutnetsova, Jelena Ostapenko and Dominika Cibulkova complete the top eight seeds.
Stephens has risen to 12th and could break into the top eight with a continuation of the red-hot run of form that has seen her win 15 of her last 17 matches.
It would cap a remarkable rise from languishing at 957th in the world just two months ago after 11 months out of the game with injury.
Stephens, 24, will face China’s Wang Qiang in the first round on Monday and Kvitova will go up against another local favourite in Peng Shuai. Keys faces US qualifier Varvara Lepchenko.
Muguruza is due to play the winner of the first-round encounter between Carla Suarez Navarro and Lesia Tsurenko after receiving a bye.