#CTOpen15: Previewing the Draw

BEIJING, CHINA - SEPTEMBER 28:  Simona Halep of Romania celebrates winning against Barbora Zahlavova Strycova of the Czech Republic during day two of the China Open at the China National Tennis Center on September 28, 2014 in Beijing, China.  (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)

   Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images

By Nick McCarvel

Top seeds and champions here over the last three years, Simona Halep (2013) and Petra Kvitova (2012 and 2014) face a Connecticut Open presented by United Technologies field as strong as any in the last decade.

The singles draw was made Friday insdie the Connecticut Tennis Center at Yale, with Halep and Kvitova both receiving first-round byes. But that’s where the road stops being easy: seeds Lucie Safarova, Karolina Pliskova and Sara Errani join Halep on the top half of the draw while Caroline Wozniacki, Timea Bacsinszky and Agnieszka Radwanska join Kvitova on the bottom.

It’s a be-ready-or-bust line-up for the 30 WTA players set to compete this week, including Radwanska, the No. 7 seed that took a last-minute wild card into New Haven. She was on hand Friday to help with the making of the draw, and showed no expression when big-serving American CoCo Vandeweghe was picked to play her in round one.

“This tournament is always strong,” said Radwanska, the world No. 15 and a finalist at Wimbledon in 2012. “It’s a very good challenge. We [players] expect that the week before a Grand Slam; from the first round you have to play 100% or else you’re in big trouble.

“There’s a lot of great match-ups,” tournament Anne Worcester said. “This draw was already strong last Friday, then to have wild cards for Safarova, Wozniacki and Radwanska, that’s huge.”

First Quarter: Halep
Potential quarterfinal: Halep vs. Pliskova

Halep, a French Open finalist last year and the current world No. 3, will look to capture this title once again, having done so in her breakout season in 2013. She’s joined by Pliskova, the No. 5 seed, in that quarter, the Czech player who made her debut in the top 10 a few weeks ago and is now at a career high No. 7 in the world.

Second Quarter: Safarova

Potential quarterfinal: Safarova vs. Errani

Another Czech player, Safarova, 28, had her best ever Grand Slam result earlier this year at the French Open where she finished runner up against Serena Williams. The world No. 6 opens against a spunky Australian in Daria Gavrilova, who is a petite but punch-heavy player from the baseline.

Safarova is joined by another Roland Garros success story, No. 8 seed Sara Errani, the 2012 French Open finalist. Dominika Cibulkova, an Australian Open runner up herself, is also in this quarter of the draw.

Third quarter: Wozniacki
Potential quarterfinal: Wozniacki vs. Bacsinszky

Four-time champion Wozniacki comes back to New Haven hoping to find her form at the US Open having struggled since Wimbledon, and bothered by a slight calf injury. The two-time US Open finalist from Denmark could meet 2014 Wimbledon runner-up Genie Bouchard in the second round, Bouchard playing a qualifier in the first round. Wozniacki will meet American wildcard and local hope Alison Riske to start, a match that will be a must-see for Connecticut tennis fans.

Bacsinszky, a resurgent Swiss player, is Wozniacki’s projected quarterfinal opponent, though former top 10 star and tour veteran Flavia Pennetta could play a role, as well.

Fourth quarter: Kvitova

Potential quarterfinal: Kvitova vs. Radwanska

It’s hard to pick a “hardest” quarter in this draw, but the last one might be it, with Vandeweghe set to challenge Radwanska in the first round while Alizé Cornet, a pesky Frenchwoman, could linger in round two.

For Kvitova, the two-time Wimbledon champion, she could have to deal with hard-hitting American Madison Keys in the second round, the 20 year old meeting another WTA rising star in Elina Svitolina in the first round. Either way, Kvitova will have her work cut out for her, both Keys and Svitolina being top 20 residents.

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