This is a great chance for the Swiss teenager to shine as she takes the top spot. After a long season Down Under and Fed Cup duty, Bencic hits the fray as the target to chase. The Swiss miss had a shaky start in Brisbane, were she lost to American qualifier Sam Crawford in the second round, but built up a head of steam in Sydney, with a run to the semi-final.
She came up against an inspired Maria Sharapova and gave the Russian a good run for her money in a very tight quarter-final at the Australian Open, and has been enjoying Fed Cup success away to Germany.
With home crowd favourite Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in her bracket, Bencic should top the quarter on her current form.
After having such a resurgent spell at the tail end of 2014, Wozniacki seems to have struggled to reach similar heights over 2015, and 2016 could not have started any worse. Actually that’s not fair, as her season opener in Auckland saw her reach the semi-finals and perhaps be assured of a decent run in Australia, but she fell in the first round in the opening round of carnage that befell the WTA by the end of the second round.
It is not a great draw for the Dane, with Dominika Cibulkova likely to face her in the opening round (Wozniacki gets a bye into the second round) and depending on what Kristina Mladenovic turns up, she could find herself ina battle to advance. The Frenchwoman was part of one of the best battles at the Australian Open, falling to Daria Gavrilova in a third set battle.
You had to feel for Ivanovic at the Australian Open. First her second round match was interrupted by a spectator falling in the stands, a sound that the players heard from the court, and which left Ivanovic shaken. Then in her third round match against Madison Keys her coach Nigel Sears collapsed leaving Ivanovic visibly distressed at the news once he was taken to hospital.
All appears to be well, and Sears has resumed coaching the Serbian. She too enjoyed a decent period of resurgence a couple of years ago but has yet to regain that spark. She has a few names in her bracket who could cause her some issues after their own Australian Open runs, as well as Alizé Cornet who on her day can be a headache for anyone.
But hopefully Ivanovic’s reunion with a recovered Sears will give her some confidence.
Veteran Vinci seems to have a great quarter in front of her. In her last year, she is swinging freely in that knowledge, reaching the quarter-finals in Brisbane and the third round of the Australian Open. Maybe keep an eye out for Latvia’s Jelena Ostapenko who was embroiled in that bizarre exchange of words early in the season with Britain’s Naomi Broady after clobbering a ball-kid with her racquet.
The St. Petersburg Ladies Trophy takes place between 8-14 February.
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