Beijing R1: Sloane Stephens vs (9) Karolina Pliskova
A Blockbuster first round match at the China Open on Sunday sees Sloane Stephens come up against Karolina Pliskova. This is a tough first round match-up for the 9th seeded Czech, this is such an important week for Pliskova who currently sits in 10th position in the race to Singapore standings. Pliskova simply must win this first round encounter to keep her hopes of reaching a maiden WTA Finals campaign alive.
Sloane Stephens has been in pretty miserable form ever since claiming her first WTA title in Washington a couple of months ago. The American suffered a shock first round exit in New York and has been unable to gain any real momentum in Asia. Sloane suffered a surprise quarter-final loss to Aliaksandra Sasnovich in Seoul and arrives in Beijing on the back of a humiliating 2-6 0-6 loss to Garbine Muguruza in the second round at the Wuhan Open last week. Beijing will be Sloane’s last real chance to make an impact at a major event in 2015.
Karolina Pliskova’s form during the Asian swing has been mediocre, making quarter-final appearances in Tokyo and Wuhan. Karolina picked up hard fought victories over Mirjana Lucic-Baroni and Elina Svitolina last week in Wuhan but ultimately succumbed to Roberta Vinci in straight sets, a disappointing and potentially costly loss for Pliskova. The Czech is now part of a large pack of players fighting for the remaining positions at the WTA Finals, Pliskova will need a good week in Beijing to keep her chances alive.
The only previous encounter between the pair took place way back in 2012, Stephens recorded a 6-2 6-2 victory at Wimbledon. A lot has changed since then, Sloane and Karolina have gone in different directions. Karolina Pliskova has had a far more consistent year and should thrive on the quicker courts in Beijing. This is a match Karolina must win to keep her Singapore chances alive and I think she will be good enough to claim victory here.