Muguruza to face challenges at WTA Wuhan Open

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Round one of the 2017 Dongfeng Motors Wuhan Open, a WTA Premier 5 event, is set to kick off on Sunday, with a main draw that will see newly crowned world No.1 and top-seed Garbine Muguruza face big challenges in the following week.

The Wimbledon champion, also the only player who has officially secured qualification for the WTA finals, will play against a high-quality field which features 17 of the world's top 20 players, including eight of the current top 10 - including six Grand Slam singles champions (including Muguruza, Kerber, Ostapenko, Kuznetsova, Kvitova and Stosur).

"I'm very excited to come back to Wuhan and play in front of the Chinese fans again. There're always so much fun to play for because as players we can really feel their enthusiasm," said the 2015 Wuhan runner-up Muguruza. "I've played well in Wuhan in the past and it's a tournament I always love to play," she added.

The Spaniard will have a bye through to the second round, where she will encounter with either compatriot Suarez Navarro or Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine. A possible third-round match against French player Kristina Mladenovic would be a great chance for the top seed to take revenge for her French Open loss, where she was blocked from the last eight by Mladenovic.

Joining with Muguruza in the top half are defending champion Petra Kvitova, French Open winner Jelena Ostapenko, US Open champion Sloane Stephens and former world no.1 Karolina Pliskova.

Thanks to her maiden major title, American player Stephens has raised up her world ranking to no. 17, jumping 66 places after winning 15 of her last 17 matches, including a 6-3, 6-0 thrashing of fellow American Madison Keys in US Open final.

With no points to defend for the rest of the season, Stephens has a great chance to finally break into the top 10 for the first time. A good run in Wuhan could seal the deal, as well as put her in strong contention to qualify for her first BNP Paribas WTA Finals. Stephens will start her campaign with a duel against home player Wang Qiang in the first round.

Reigning champion Kvitova is one of the local favorites, and the big-hitting Czech has previously had good luck in Wuhan as she has taken home the title twice from three editions, first in its inaugural year 2014 and for a second time last year. The 11th seed will vie for a third title in a fight that will include a meeting with local favorite Peng Shuai.

Landing in the bottom half are 2nd-seeded Simona Halep of Romania, fourth seed Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark, last year's runner-up Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia and US Open finalist Keys.

Like her good friend Stephens, Keys has boosted her world rankings to No. 12 with good momentum during the summer. To book a ticket to this year's WTA finals, the American needs to grab as many points as possible in Wuhan and at the coming China Open in Beijing.

The Wuhan Open, inaugurated in 2014 in the home city of two-time Grand Slam champion Li Na, is the second largest women's tennis tournament in East Asia after the China Open in Beijing, and offers a prize pot of 2.66 million dollars and 900 WTA points.

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