What a two week period for women's tennis! An epic final between the top two players in the world saw Caroline Wozniacki defeat Simona Halep for her first career Grand Slam title. The victory propels the Dane into the No. 1 position in the rankings as well for the first time in six years.
The WTA Tour now moves on with tournaments in St. Petersburg and Tapei.
Wozniacki remarkably has decided to remain in the draw here in Russia despite the exhausting two weeks she just experienced in Melbourne. I'll be keeping expectations low for her given the physical and emotional toll that the Australian Open no-doubt took on her. She opens against Anastasia Potapova who defeated Tatjana Maria 6-2, 6-4 in the first round. Wozniacki has been a top player for many years but will offer opponents a little extra motivation now that she is the World No. 1 again.
Daria Kasatkina is the 8th seed and also in Wozniacki's quarter. The always dangerous Alize Cornet is also floating in this section and is totally capable of emerging as the last woman standing in this part of the draw.
4th seed and defending champion Kristina Mladenovic will attempt to end her 15 match losing streak in singles competition. The Frenchwoman had some positive news recently however as she won the Aussie Open women's doubles event with Timea Babos. Kiki will face the winner between Sorana Cirstea and Dominika Cibulkova in her opening match which doesn't exactly inspire me to believe that a win is on the horizon for her.
No. 2 seed in the bottom of the draw is 2017 French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko. The 20 year old has struggled since her Grand Slam victory last year but is still so young and learning how to cope with life as a full-time pro. She will face either Kiki Bertens or 2010 Wimbledon and US Open finalist Vera Zvonareva in her first match. Ostapenko is also the reigning doubles champion here in St. Petersburg.
The most exciting match of the first round sees 7th seed Elena Vesnina face wildcard Petra Kvitova in what should be a good battle. 3rd seed Caroline Garcia is also in the bottom half of the draw and a good bet to make it towards the finish line.
There will be a new champion in Tapei as last year's winner Elina Svitolina is not entered in the draw. Shuai Peng is the top seed this year and will open against Ana Bogdan.
Canadian Genie Bouchard is benefiting from a wildcard and may soon require those on a regular basis if she wants to play in any big tournaments on the Tour. Her ranking has slipped to 121st in the world and her game and confidence are in need of a major overhaul to remain relevant in the sport. She opens against Lin Zhu. Magda Linette and Timea Babos are both also in the top half of the draw and are seeded 7th and 8th respectively.
Shuai Zheng is the 2nd seed and opens in the bottom half of the draw against Kateryna Kozlova. Veteran Sam Stosur is the 3rd seed and also in this part of the tournament and she begins her quest against Nao Hibino.