The women’s tour heads to Cincinnati, where top seed Karolina Pliskova is the defending champion.
This upcoming stretch is where Pliskova caught fire last year and she has 2,100 points to defend between now and the end of the US Open.
This time, the Czech is the world No. 1 and the hunted rather than the hunter. Here’s a look at the Cincinnati draw and the main talking points ahead of the action…
Karolina Pliskova (CZE)  v Caroline Wozniacki (DEN) 
Elina Svitolina (UKR)  v Angelique Kerber (GER) 
Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS)  v Garbine Muguruza (ESP) 
Simona Halep (ROU)  v Johanna Konta (GBR) 
Kristina Mladenovic (FRA)  v Daria Gavrilova (AUS)
Elena Vesnina (RUS) v Carolina Garcia (FRA)
Madison Keys (USA)  v Coco Vandeweghe (USA)
Sloane Stephens (USA) v Lucie Safarova (CZE)
Dominika Cibulkova (SVK)  v Ana Konjuh (CRO)
The Muguruza quarter of the draw includes: Kuznetsova , French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko , Stanford champion and runner-up Madison Keys  and Coco Vandeweghe, along with talented Russian Daria Kasatkina and Spaniard Carla Suarez Navarro.
The German’s task at hand is not any easier than Muguruza’s. Kerber shares a quarter of the draw with: Elina Svitolina, who is into her fifth final of the season in Toronto (faces Wozniacki on Sunday 21:20 UAE time), two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, Toronto quarter-finalists, Lucie Safarova and Sloane Stephens (faced off in Canada on Friday and will meet in Cincy opening round), Washington champion Ekaterina Makarova, and No10 seed Agnieszka Radwanska.
With all the fuss surrounding Maria Sharapova and wildcards, the Russian hasn’t been able to make full use of those invites due to ongoing injuries. Sharapova, who returned from a 15-month doping ban end of April, has only managed to contest 10 matches in nearly four months. Her latest withdrawal is from Cincinnati, where she was due to face Ostapenko in the first round but an ongoing left arm injury has ruled her out.
Is over-training during her suspension perhaps a reason for her injury woes? Or is this just bad luck?
She has withdrawn six times already in the last three and a half months, suffering a thigh problem that forced her to retire from her Rome second round, and pull out of Birmingham, Wimbledon qualifying. A soreness in her left arm ruled her out of her second round in Stanford, and she subsequently withdrew from Toronto and Cincinnati.
She says her latest withdrawal is a precaution for the US Open, where she will either play qualifying, or contest the main draw as a wildcard (USTA have not announced their decision yet).
The world No. 1, who won the title last year in Cincy, did well during her first week at the top of the rankings, reaching the quarter-finals in Toronto before losing a close three-setter to Wozniacki in a rain-interrupted clash. She blew leads in the first and final sets in that match and will be looking to avoid that this week in Cincy. Pliskova could have a rematch with Wozniacki by Friday as they’ve both landed in the same quarter of the draw.
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