2021 WTA Tour preview: Open fields in Chicago, Nur-Saltan

THE CHICAGO Fall Tennis Classic has been dealt a blow this year, with a number of top talents unable to play in what is an open field of entrants. Whilst the likes of Ash Barty, Aryna Sabalenka, Iga Swiatek, Naomi Osaka and – after a late withdrawal – Maria Sakkari will not take part, there are still plenty of big names to get excited about. We preview that WTA 500 event, as well as the smaller Astana Open 250 draw.


Top seed Elina Svitolina will lead a stacked 2021 Chicago Fall Tennis Classic draw ahead of the massive Indian Wells. The top eight seeds have byes in the opening round, with Spaniard Garbine Muguruza going in as second seed, and Belinda Bencic and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova as third and fourth respectively. All eyes will be on Grand Slam winner and Belgian wildcard Kim Clijsters who has drawn well in the opening round, taking on Chinese Taipei’s Su-Wei Hsieh with the winner to advance to a clash with sixth seed Tunisian Ons Jabeur.

Muguruza will take on either Ann Li or Donna Vekic in the second round with Victoria Azarenka waiting for her in the third round. In the same quarter of the draw, the Spaniard must deal with Andreescu, whom if fit will be one of, if not the favourite, for the tournament on hard court. She will have Shelby Rogers – fresh off that win at the US Open over Barty – in the second round, with the in-form Ostrava Open title winner Anett Kontaveit likely to be her third round matchup.

After a decent showing at Columbus, Coco Vandeweghe takes on Poland’s Magda Linette in the opening round, with 16th seed Jil Teichmann the likely second round opponent for the winner of that clash. The most competitive quarter of the draw could result in an Elise Mertens and Danielle Collins third round contest for the right to play either Pavlyuchenkova or Teichmann in the quarter final. Above them, 13th seed Tamara Zidansek cannot think beyond her first round match, with a horror draw.

Zidansek takes on former US Open winner Sloane Stephens in the first round, before a likely clash with the in-form Czech Tereza Martincova, and then Bencic having a cruisy run to the third round. Bencic should have no troubles going deep in this tournament with a very favourable draw. Italian Camila Giorgi should continue her good form and run into Svitolina in the third round, with Jessica Pegula the ninth seed likely to play Jabeur if she gets past the potential Clijsters.

Bencic and Andreescu should be up there as favourites with top seed Svitolina in what is a really well-spread and even draw for a WTA 500 event.


Rising Kazakhstan talent Yulia Putintseva has a huge opportunity to win her third title at a significantly weakened Astana Open event in her home nation. The Nur-Saltan contest has the 49th ranked Putintseva as the top seed at the event, and she has a comfortable run into the quarter finals at least. The first round winner between Croatia’s Ana Konjuh – fifth seed – and Russia’s Anna Blinkova could prove to be the other quarter finalist in that top quarter, with Kristina Mladenovic the third seed and likely to advance deep in the tournament, with Rebecca Peterson (sixth seed), home nation talent Zarina Diyas and Russian wildcard Anastasia Potapova the other threats in that quarter.

In the bottom half of the draw, it is a real throwback to the past with names such as Alison Van Uytvanck (second seed) Lesia Tsurenko (qualifier), Anna-Lena Friedsam and Mandy Minella all in there. It’s a good chance for Slovenian young gun Kaja Juvan to make a run, with a mouth-watering potential quarter finals clash with fellow young talent Clara Burel on the cards. Burel faces Minella in the opening round, with Juvan having the considerably more difficult Greet Minnen (fourth seed), but if both can get though, it shapes as a clash for the future. Australian Arina Rodionova faces Friedsam in the opening round with another young gun Varvara Gracheva seeded seventh and a potential to face Van Uytvanck in the final eight.

Putintseva should be favourite for this tournament, with Mladenovic and Konjuh among the next best options. As they are all in the top half of the draw, expect Juvan and perhaps Kristyna Pliskova to be the dangers in the bottom half, though Pliskova faces Gracheva first up.

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