Ostrava Open: A Blockbuster Draw That’s Worthy Of A Premier Event

WASHINGTON, October 19, 2020 (by Michael Dickens)

The first edition of the J&T Banka Ostrava Open, a WTA Premier event debuts Monday in Ostrava, Czech Republic. There’s $528,000 in prize money and it’s attracted Top 10 players – World No. 5 Elina Svitolina and World No. 6 Karolina Pliskova – as well as past Grand Slam champions like No. 4 seed Victoria Azarenka and wild card Jelena Ostapenko to its 28-player singles draw. If that’s not enough, American teen prodigy Coco Gauff and former World No. 10 Daria Kasatkina earned berths in the main draw by winning a pair of qualifying matches over the weekend at Ostravar Arena.

The top seed Svitolina, who last month won a WTA International event in Strasbourg, France, then reached the quarterfinals of the French Open, will face either Kristyna Pliskova, twin sister of Karolina, or Maria Sakkari in her first match after enjoying a first-round bye. No. 2 seed Karolina Pliskova will face either qualifier Veronika Kudermetova or Donna Vekic in her first match later in the week.

Besides Svitolina, Karolina Pliskova and Azarenka, the other seeds include: No. 3 Aryna Sabalenka, No. 5 Petra Martic, No. 6 Elena Rybakina, No. 7 Elise Mertens and No. 8 Anett Kontaveit.

The 55th-ranked Gauff was drawn in Sabalenka’s quarter of the draw and will play Katerina Siniakova in the first round. She could face No. 12 Sabalenka in the second round.

The field also features seven players from the Czech Republic home nation – the Pliskova twins, Karolina Muchova, Siniakova, Barbora Strycova, Tereza Martincova and Barbora Krejcikova. An eighth Czech player, Marketa Vondrousova, was scratched after testing positive for Covid-19 last week.

Since August, when the WTA Tour resumed play in Lexington, Ky., Azarenka is 15-4 and has the second-most wins among all players, behind Mertens, who leads with 17 post-hiatus victories. The Belarus native, who has risen to No. 14 in the rankings, will face either Martincova or Krejcikova in her first match in the second round.

Tennis TourTalk asked the 31-year-old Azarenka during a Saturday virtual round table chat if she minded not knowing who she initially would face since she was drawn to play a qualifier (that wouldn’t be decided until late Sunday afternoon). “Honestly, it doesn’t make any difference to me,” she said, with a hint of laughter in her voice.

“I’ve been doing this for quite a while, to be prepared for whoever I play. I never really look at the draw, either. So, it doesn’t really matter to me. When my coach told me, I was actually surprised to see I was seeded and had drawn a bye. That kind of shows you how much I care about the draw.”

If Azarenka beats No. 121 Martincova or No. 85 Krejickova, a quarterfinal-round matchup against No. 21 Mertens could await her. She could face either top-seeded Svitolina or No. 5 seed Martic, ranked 18th, in the semifinals.

The 22nd-ranked Kontaveit, who opens the tournament on Centre Court against No. 33 Ekaterina Alexandrova, is the only seeded player in action on opening day, among the four scheduled singles matches.

The indoor hard-court tournament will continue through next Sunday’s singles and doubles finals. The singles winner will receive $50,000 and 470 WTA rankings points.

De Minaur wins UTS3 in Ultimate Tennis Showdown debut

Alex de Minaur of Australia beat France’s Richard Gasquet 3-1 in the final of the Ultimate Tennis Showdown 3, the brainchild of international tennis coach and academy owner Patrick Mouratoglou, Sunday evening in Antwerp, Belgium.

Irony of ironies, the No. 8 seed de Minaur faces Gasquet in the first round of the European Open in Antwerp.

The weekend in review

Happy 64th Birthday, Martina Navratilova

What they’re saying

After he lost to Borna Coric in the semifinals of the St. Petersburg Open Saturday evening, Milos Raonic said he’d love to come back to St. Petersburg, the Russian port city on the Baltic Sea, in the future. “Yes, I’d love to come back. I’d love this tournament to continue to be in the ATP 500 category to have even more reasons to come back. I might come back for tennis, but maybe I might also come back to make a trip on my own.”

What they’re sharing on social media

Garbiñe Muguruza / Art & romance in Florence

Grigor Dimitrov / Classy clothes, classy car

View this post on Instagram

♠️

A post shared by Grigor Dimitrov (@grigordimitrov) on