WUHAN, China — The Watch List highlights the must-know storylines for the upcoming week in tennis. The Top 20 WTA players descend on Li Na's home city of Wuhan this week to play the inaugural Wuhan Open, while Kei Nishikori, David Ferrer and Andy Murray kick of the Asian Swing for the men.
The fact that there is now a premier-level tournament in Wuhan, China boasting 19 of the top 20 WTA players is everything you need to know about newly retired Li Na's landscape-shifting effect on tennis. That the Wuhan-native is the one top-20 player missing from the field strikes as pure irony. The inaugural tournament kicked off on Sunday as Li, 32, was preparing to address the media in Beijing regarding her decision to retire after 15 years on tour. Her impending absence from the game will no doubt affect the tournament as it moves ahead.
The 56-player field is headed by No. 1 Serena Williams, with Simona Halep, Petra Kvitova and Maria Sharapova rounding out the top four seeds. The top half is incredibly tough. Serena, Eugenie Bouchard, Sharapova, Ana Ivanovic and Caroline Wozniacki have all landed in that half. Serena could play Bouchard in the quarterfinals and we could get a Tokyo Open rematch in the third round between Ivanovic and Wozniacki. Meanwhile, Sharapova has by far the toughest draw. She could open against Svetlana Kuznetsova, then U.S. Open semifinalist Ekaterina Makarova, either Ivanovic or Wozniacki, and then either Serena or Bouchard. And that's just to get to the final.
With such a stacked field, the blockbuster matches come early. Ivanovic, coming off a great run at the Tokyo Open, plays her first round match against Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. Madison Keys plays Dominika Cibulkova, and Sabine Lisicki and Lucie Safarova also face off in the first round.
Serena could get an opportunity for revenge against Alize Cornet in the second round. The Frenchwoman has handed Serena two losses this season, including in the third round at Wimbledon. Similarly, Venus could play Agnieszka Radwanska in the second round, an opportunity for her to avenge her loss in the Montreal final. Another second rounder to look for is Halep vs. Garbine Muguruza, who made yet another semifinal last week in Tokyo before losing to Wozniacki in three sets.
The ATP's Asian swing gets underway in Kuala Lumpur at this ATP 250 tournament. Kei Nishikori, coming off a short break after making the U.S. Open final a few weeks ago, is the top seed with second-seed Ernests Gulbis, who hasn't won back-to-back matches in his last five tournaments, behind him. Nishikori had a busy lead-up week, having returned to Japan to visit his family and fulfill sponsorship obligations before flying to Hong Kong to lead the ATP's Asia kick-off on Friday. He'll get a much-needed bye into the second round, giving him a couple of extra days to hit the practice courts. He could play Nick Kyrgios in the third round in what will be Kyrgios' final tournament of the season. The 19-year-old has withdrawn from his final three tournaments citing burnout.
With the addition of the new Shenzhen Open, this is the first time in the ATP's history China will serve as host of an ATP 250, 500 and Masters 1000 event across three successive weeks. The tournament got a boost when Andy Murray requested a late wild card into the event. He's the No. 2 seed behind David Ferrer and is still chasing his first title since winning Wimbledon last year. Murray's half of the draw includes Tommy Robredo, Gilles Simon and Richard Gasquet.