The inaugural edition of the Top Seed Open in Lexington takes place next week, with multiple Major champions heading the draw. The 23-time Major winner Serena Williams will compete for the first time since February, seeking a better run than at the Australian Open where she suffered an early loss.
Serena will face Bernarda Pera in the first round, with a blockbuster encounter coming right after that if she passes the Croat native. Right below Serena, Venus Williams and Victoria Azarenka will fight for the place in the second round against Serena, facing each other for the eighth time.
Venus had won five of the previous seven encounters against the Belarusian, but they all have to start from zero after the coronavirus outbreak that had halted the season for five months. Shelby Rogers or Misaki Doi play against the 7th seed Sloane Stephens or a qualifier, with former US Open champion seeking more reliable results following the top-30 exit.
Serena and Venus Williams, Victoria Azarenka, Sloane Stephes and Cori Gauff will play in Lexington.
The second quarters brings another thrilling encounter between two young guns, as the 4th seed Amanda Anisimova takes upon Catherine Bellis, who is returning after numerous elbow injuries.
Jessica Pegula, Vera Zvonareva, Jil Teichmann, Ajla Tomljanovic and Julia Putintseva will seek the semi-final spot from that group as well, and it should be interesting to see who will prevail. Johanna Konta and Magda Linette are the seeded players in the third quarter, having to beat Lauren Davis, Jennifer Brady, Heather Watson, Anna Blinkova and Marie Bouzkova en route to the quarter-final duel.
Ons Jabeur and Aryna Sabalenka are the top-ranked players in the bottom quarter, facing two young Americans who have already claimed two doubles titles in 2019. The 16-year-old Cori Gauff is ranked just outside the top-50 following the fourth round at the Australian Open, with an 18-year-old Catherine McNally chasing the place in the top-100 ahead of the US Open.
"I never expected to be playing here in Kentucky, but it's close to Florida and easy to get here for me; I'm excited," Serena Williams told reports. "There won't be fans here, but it's cool.
We've been stuck at home for six months, and I've never been home for that long since I was a teenager. Even when I was pregnant, I traveled a lot to so many different places, so it's been a long time since I've been home that long.
That was nice, but it's also a really cool opportunity to come to Kentucky. The biggest difference is that it wasn't just from me being injured. Everyone just had to take a break and a pause, so it will be entertaining and interesting to see how we play.
Everyone has the opportunity to be fitter now because we spent so much time at home... to just work on yourself, your life and your game."