WTA Stanford: Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza and former world number ones headline the draw

Garbine Muguruza plays her first professional tournament since her triumph at the Wimbledon Championships as she is the top seed at the Bank of the West Classic, where former world number ones Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka would also compete at.

WTA Stanford: Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza and former world number ones headline the draw
The general view of the main stadium at the Bank of the West Classic | Photo: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza will look to extend her good form at the Bank of the West Classic, her first appearance in the IMG-owned tennis tournament since her quarterfinal finish in the 2014 edition. After winning her second Grand Slam title just weeks ago, the Spaniard rose back into the Top 10 of the rankings and regained her status of one of the best players in the world with some impressive play, defeating Venus Williams, who is coincidentally the defending finalist here in Stanford, in a one-sided final. However, the American would not be present to defend her points as she opted to skip the tournament.

Garbine Muguruza poses with her Wimbledon trophy after her triumph | Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images Europe
Garbine Muguruza poses with her Wimbledon trophy after her triumph | Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images Europe

However, she faces a very tough challenge in her pursuit of the title as former world number ones Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka, both still on the comeback trail due to a suspension and maternity leave respectively, are huge contenders for the title as well. Sharapova makes her first appearance in a US tennis tournament for the first time since her suspension from tennis and Azarenka returns to Stanford after a two-year absence.

Former Top 10 player Madison Keys leads the pool of American players with the hope of triumphing on their home ground. The American has had a disappointing season thus far, with early exits in all her tournaments due to a lingering wrist injury which already forced her to go under the knife twice.

Madison Keys in action at the Wimbledon Championships | Photo: Michael Steele/Getty Images Europe
Madison Keys in action at the Wimbledon Championships | Photo: Michael Steele/Getty Images Europe

Less big names as compared to previous years?

This year’s edition of the Stanford Classic has a surprisingly weaker field as compared to previous years, with only one Top 10 player signing up for the tournament. (Note: Muguruza was ranked outside the Top 10 when the entry list was announced) Previous editions of the tournament saw players like multiple Grand Slam finalist Caroline Wozniacki, soon-to-be world number one Karolina Pliskova, Grand Slam champion and former world number one Angelique Kerber, seven-time Grand Slam champion Venus Williams all participating.

Nevertheless, the presence of crowd favorites Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka, who are both ranked outside the Top 150 currently, would definitely boost ticket sales with their status of being Grand Slam champions and former world number ones. Recent Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza could definitely bring in more attention to the tournament, especially with Stanford being her first tournament since her triumph at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club. Home favorites Madison Keys, Alison Riske, fifth seed Coco Vandeweghe and rising star Catherine "Cici" Bellis are also what the crowd would look out for during the week. Bellis is currently the highest ranked unseeded player in the draw without any withdrawals.

Maria Sharapova would be playing her first tournament since May after a lingering leg injury | Photo: Gareth Copley/Getty Images Europe
Maria Sharapova would be playing her first tournament since May after recovering from a lingering leg injury | Photo: Gareth Copley/Getty Images Europe

Hard hitters lurk in the draw

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova would be the third seed in the draw behind Muguruza and Keys, with this being a golden opportunity for her to make a push for her third WTA title of the year. It would be the Russian’s first appearance in Stanford after withdrawing from the tournament last year due to an injury.

Ana Konjuh rounds up the top four seeds, who are coincidentally all hard-hitters. The youngster is a quarterfinalist at the 2016 US Open, and just recently reached the second week of the Wimbledon Championships where she lost to Venus Williams in straight sets. Konjuh’s only result at the Bank of the West Classic was a second round finish back in 2015, losing to eventual winner Angelique Kerber.

Hard-hitters like Timea Babos and Kristyna Pliskova would be seeded in the draw, and both players look to carve a deep run here with the advantage of their seeding positions. It would be Babos’ debut in Stanford while the Czech is hoping to improve on a first-round exit last year.

Kristyna Pliskova in action at the Wimbledon Championships | Photo: David Ramos/Getty Images Europe
Kristyna Pliskova in action at the Wimbledon Championships | Photo: David Ramos/Getty Images Europe

Young rising stars Naomi Osaka and Natalia Vikhlyantseva are dangerous dark-horses lurking in the draw, with their ability to upset the higher-ranked players. The Japanese were first exposed to the limelight at the exact same tournament back in 2014 when she created a huge upset against 2011 US Open champion Samantha Stosur, triumphing in three tough sets. It would also be Osaka’s fourth consecutive appearance in Stanford. Vikhlyantseva made her career breakthrough earlier this year, and would thus make her debut in the tournament which has a 46-year history.

Other players in action

Lesia Tsurenko will make up the seeds in the draw, with the Ukrainian being a fresh face here in California. The seeds would be looking to have a good draw, especially with dangerous unseeded players like Sharapova and Azarenka waiting to cause some huge upsets.

There would be another Japanese player in action with Misaki Doi joining the field, hoping to get a win here along with fellow Asian Wang Qiang, who is having a career-best season thus far.

Misaki Doi in action at the recently-concluded Wimbledon Championships | Photo: David Ramos/Getty Images Europe
Misaki Doi in action at the recently-concluded Wimbledon Championships | Photo: David Ramos/Getty Images Europe

2017 Shenzhen Open champion Katerina Siniakova and 2016 Korea Open champion Lara Arruabarrena will make their first appearances in the main draw of the tournament. They would be joined by veteran Varvara Lepchenko, who had earned some impressive victories here in Stanford in the previous years, causing some huge upsets against quality players like Caroline Wozniacki and Agnieszka Radwanska to reach the quarterfinals in this tournament thrice in her career.

Former Grand Slam champion Francesca Schiavone would be making her last appearance in Stanford after announcing her intention to retire from professional tennis at the end of the year, and she was the second last direct acceptance into the main draw after Magda Linette.

Francesca Schiavone would be making her last appearance at the Bank of the West Classic | Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images Europe
Francesca Schiavone would be making her last appearance at the Bank of the West Classic | Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images Europe

Full entry list

1. Garbine Muguruza
2. Madison Keys
3. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova
4. Ana Konjuh
5. Coco Vandeweghe
6. Lesia Tsurenko
7. Kristyna Pliskova
8. Timea Babos
9. Cici Bellis
10. Alize Cornet
11. Alison Riske
12. Naomi Osaka
13. Wang Qiang
14. Katerina Siniakova
15. Varvara Lepchenko
16. Lara Arruabarrena
17. Natalia Vikhlyantseva
18. Francesca Schiavone
19. Magda Linette
20. Misaki Doi
21. Maria Sharapova [WC]
22. Victoria Azarenka [WC]
23. Wildcard (TBD)
24. Wildcard (TBD)
25. Qualifier
26. Qualifier
27. Qualifier
28. Qualifier

Victoria Azarenka hits a forehand at the Wimbledon Championships | Photo: Michael Steele/Getty Images Europe
Victoria Azarenka hits a forehand at the Wimbledon Championships | Photo: Michael Steele/Getty Images Europe

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