The 2020 WTA season kicks off this week with events in Brisbane, Auckland and surprise Shenzhen. Some players might as well rent a condo year-round in this Chinese metropolis, as it hosts this WTA international, the WTA Championships and also several ITF tournaments. The Shenzhen Open features, among others, tour heavyweights such as Belinda Bencic, Aryna Sabalenka, or Garbiñe Muguruza. Who will start off the campaign with a bang?
WTA Shenzhen Monday Predictions
Qiang Wang vs Ons Jabeur
Head to Head: Wang 1-0 Jabeur
Here’s a match between two players who peaked at the US Open but then had uneven results in the fall. After reaching the quarters in New York, Wang posted a subpar 2-4 record in Asia, where she was defending over 1,500 points. Conversely, Jabeur did Jabeur things, beating the likes of Donna Vekic or Yulia Putitntseva while losing to No. 242 Yue Yuan. Consistency doesn’t exist in Jabeur’s dictionary.
All in all, I think Wang is too solid for the Tunisian. Jabeur should own the highlights, but the Chinese should advance.
Prediction: Wang in 2
Kristyna Pliskova vs Irina-Camelia Begu
Head to Head: Begu 2-1 Pliskova
All the ingredients point to a hard-fought battle. Neither player is remotely close to her best at the moment. The easiest score in their previous three encounters was 6-4 7-6(8). In fact, even though Pliskova earned that win at the 2017 Australian Open, Begu posted a 1.26 dominance ratio, per Tennis Abstract. Therefore, this match will likely come down to a few key points. If Begu is able to regularly open up the court with her cross court forehand, she is the likely victor. Contrarily, if that shot breaks down, expect Pliskova to earn the win. Ultimately, I’ll give the Romanian a narrow edge since she already has two qualifying matches under her belt.
Prediction: Begu in 3
Margarita Gasparyan vs Aryna Sabalenka
Head to Head: first meeting
I’m positive Sabalenka receives a hefty participation fee, but even if that wasn’t the case, she would be wise not to play Auckland or Brisbane. In 2019, the world No. 11 lifted three trophies on Chinese soil: Shenzhen (International), Wuhan (Premier 5) and Zhuhai (Tournament of Champions). Her record in China was a sterling 16-2, whereas she compiled a forgettable 23-20 elsewhere.
Gasparyan never really followed up on her surprising run to the round of 16 at the 2016 Australian Open and has fallen off the Top 100. It’s hard to envision her producing a scalp against the defending champion here.
Prediction: Sabalenka in 2
Xinyu Wang vs Garbiñe Muguruza
Head to Head: first meeting
Exactly a year ago, the Chinese prospect broke into tears when she was forced to retire against Maria Sharapova. Over the following 12 months, the 18-year-old climbed from No. 291 to her current No. 150 spot in the WTA rankings, playing an astounding 12 events in her home country. While she showed steady improvement, she will need to think outside the box to challenge Muguruza. Wang’s unorthodox forehand should be a major liability versus the overpowering baseline shots hit by the Spaniard.
I recently wrote about Muguruza’s substandard 2019 season, but working with Conchita Martínez should instill confidence in her game. The two-time major champion needed a fresh voice to guide her back to the top and I believe the 1994 Wimbledon winner, a very cerebral player during her own professional career, is the perfect choice.
Prediction: Muguruza in 2
Main Photo from Getty.