WTA Osaka - DRAW: Naomi Osaka and Sloane Stephens share top half

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WTA Osaka - DRAW: Naomi Osaka and Sloane Stephens share top half

The crowd in Tokyo had been able to watch some high-quality WTA matches for almost 45 years, with the first edition of the Pan Pacific Open taking place back in 1976. Between 2009-2013, the Pan Pacific Open had been a part of the Premier 5 series, won by Petra Kvitova, Nadia Petrova, Agnieszka Radwanska, Caroline Wozniacki and Maria Sharapova before becoming a Premier event in 2014, staying in that group ever since.

Karolina Pliskova was the last champion in Tokyo when she won the title in 2018, with the even moving to the Utsubo Tennis Center in Osaka next week. The US Open champion Bianca Andreescu and the semi-finalist Belinda Bencic were forced to withdraw but the draw is still very strong, led by the home favorite Naomi Osaka who has not reached the semi-final on the Tour since April and Stuttgart.

Naomi will face a qualifier Alize Cornet or Viktoriya Tomova in the second round before more challenging quarter-final clash against the Hiroshima champion Nao Hibino, Varvara Flink, Yulia Putintseva or Petra Martic who reached the final in Zhengzhou.

Sloane Stephens leads the second quarter, desperate to achieve some notable result after losing ground completely in the last months and the season in general, failing to reach the final so far in 2019 and dropping out from the top-10.

Sloane will face Xinyun Han or Camila Giorgi in the second round before the quarter-final duel versus Garbine Muguruza, Su-Wei Hsieh, Elise Mertens or Anastasija Sevastova, not an easy task whoever wins two matches from that group.

Angelique Kerber and Madison Keys are the favorites in the third quarter, having to beat Daria Kasatkina, Monica Puig, Zarina Diyas, Alison Riske and Nicole Gibbs to set that quarter-final battle and stay on the title course.

In the bottom quarter, Kiki Bertens and Donna Vekic are the seeded players, with Caroline Garcia, Kristina Mladenovic, Misaki Doi, Dayana Yastremska and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova who will try to spoil their party and advance into the semis from there.