Bencic, Sabalenka Lead Shenzhen Open Field

SHENZHEN, December 11, 2019 (Press Release)

The Shenzhen Open every year opens the season for women’s tennis, and every year it is China’s very first tournament on the calendar. It is no different in 2020 as the US$775,000 championship will be played from 4 to 11 January on the courts of the Shenzhen Longgang Sports Centre.

The field will be led by two of the most exciting young players in women’s tennis, 22-year-old Belinda Bencic and defending Shenzhen Open champion Aryna Sabalenka. For the first time in the tournament’s history, players from China dominate the direct entry field with six players – that is a record for the tournament.

“Exciting young athletes will provide tennis fans in and around Shenzhen with fantastic tennis,” Tournament Director Luiz Carvalho said. “We are truly delighted to welcome Belinda to the city, and welcome back Aryna, our popular titleholder. Both ladies have played in China frequently and for Arnya it could be almost a second home – all three titles she won in 2019 came in China.

“Tournaments like the Shenzhen Open remain very important for the structure and continued development of tennis in China and that has been proven by the outstanding number of Chinese players that have achieved direct acceptance into the main draw. Chinese women’s tennis has been strong for many years and it remains so as many players have done exceptionally well on the WTA tour. At the Shenzhen Open, they will be led by Wang Qiang, Zhang Shuai and Zheng Saisai, with all three being among the eight seeds.”

The Shenzhen Open will have 24 direct acceptances, four wild cards and four qualifiers. The direct entry cut-off for the 2020 edition is a solid 85. There are 14 different nations on the direct list and the tally is China 6, Belarus 2, Czech Republic 2, Kazakhstan 2, Russia 2, Spain 2 and with one player each are Belgium, Japan, Poland, Romania, Switzerland, Tunisia, Ukraine and the USA.

Bencic is ranked eighth in the world and, while that is just one off her career high ranking, it would be safe to say that 2019 was the best year of her career. She joined with her countryman Roger Federer to win the Hopman Cup and went on to claim titles in Moscow and Dubai where she beat Simona Halep, Sabalenka, Elina Svitolina and Petra Kvitova.

The Swiss was a finalist at Mallorca, a semi-finalist at the season-ending WTA Finals here in Shenzhen, the US Open (where she upset defending champion Naomi Osaka), Madrid, Indian Wells and Hobart. She was also a quarterfinalist at Charleston.

Our defending champion Sabalenka was also at the top of her game for much of the year. Besides winning the Shenzhen Open, she also claimed titles in Wuhan, where she beat world No.1 Ash Barty, and Zhuhai. Ranked eleven, she was a finalist at San Jose, a semi-finalist at Strasbourg and St. Petersburg as well as a quarterfinalist at Zhengzhou and Eastbourne, where she beat Caroline Wozniacki.

Elise Mertens has been a stalwart of Belgian tennis for a number of years. Ranked 17, the 24-year-old won the Doha title by beating Halep and Angie Kerber en route. She made the semis in Osaka and the US Open quarters as well as final eight showings in Mallorca, Rabat and Sydney, and the fourth round at Wimbledon.

Wang Qiang is the first of China’s six players in the line-up. The 27-year-old did not win a title in 2019 but had a solid season reaching the quarters of important events such as the US Open, accounting for Barty; Miami, where she moved past Serena Williams, and Prague. She was also a semi-finalist at the Bronx in New York and the Indian Wells Challenger.

Garbiñe Muguruza is one of the most wonderful players to watch. Her athleticism is fantastic and the statuesque Spaniard has a super personality. Her career record speaks for itself with titles at Wimbledon and the French Open and being world No.1.

Muguruza won in Monterrey this year, beating Victoria Azarenka, made the Indian Wells quarters, ousting Serena Williams, and reached the 16’s at the French Open and Australian Open. While she did not scale the heights of previous seasons in 2019, the Shenzhen Open may prove to be the start of a defining year for Muguruza as it is the first tournament where she resumes working with her former coach and former Wimbledon champion Conchita Martínez.

The 20-year-old Kazakh Elena Rybakina is very new to the tour. Ranked 36, she won her first career title in 2019 at Bucharest, was a finalist at Nanchang, won three ITF Futures, made the semis at Luxembourg and ‘s-Hertogenbosch and the quarters at Linz, Wuhan (beating  Halep) and Istanbul.

China’s Zhang Shuai and Zheng Saisai at this stage would be the seventh and eighth seeds.  Zhang is ranked 39, was a finalist at Anning and reached the quarters at Wimbledon (beating Wozniacki), and Guangzhou and picked up an ITF event in Japan.  Zheng won her first career title in 2019 at San Jose and backed it up with the title in Anning. She was also a semi-finalist in Zhuhai and made the quarters at Zhengzhou, Acapulco and Hua Hin.

“We are very happy to once again be a partner at the Shenzhen Open to start the new season,” Liu Wenbin, Director of Tennis Administration Center of the General Administration of Sport of China and Deputy Chairman of the Chinese Tennis Association, said. “Every year the tournament grows and every year we get to see some exciting tennis from the players who are fresh from their off season.”