The fall season officially starts this week for the top players on the WTA tour as they compete in Tokyo.
12 of the top 13 players, with the exception of Serena Williams, will be competing this week at the Toray Pan Pacific Open, a premier WTA event. Three past winners of the tournament—Agnieszka Radwanska, Caroline Wozniacki and Maria Sharapova—will all be in action this week.
Some players, such as Wozniacki, have had a jump-start to the fall swing, as the Dane captured her first 2012 title in Seoul, while Su-Wei Hsieh won at Guangzhou.
With the majority of the top players returning to the hard courts, it should show insight into not only the fall season, but the year-ending championships as well.
Victoria Azarenka’s Quarter
We last saw Azarenka in defeat as she failed to serve out for the U.S. Open Championships against Serena Williams, eventually losing 7-5 in the third set. Azarenka has done a lot of growing up in 2012, winning her first major, starting the year with a 26-0 win/loss record and becoming world No. 1. The two-time semifinalist here hopes to advance a round further and claim her first title since the spring.
There are some ladies that could derail the world No. 1, including U.S. Open quarterfinalist Roberta Vinci and Cincinnati finalist Angelique Kerber, as well as a resurgent Ana Ivanovic, who in years past seemed to shine during the fall.
Agnieszka Radwanska’s Quarter
The defending champ has her work cut out for her, as she faces Jelena Jankovic in her first match in Tokyo. Radwanska is coming off a disappointing U.S. Open, failing to reach the quarterfinals.
Also lurking in the draw is a confident Wozniacki and hard-court specialist Li Na, who could battle out for a spot in the quarterfinals facing Radwanska.
Petra Kvitova’s Quarter
Like Radwanska, Kvitova would like to put the last Grand Slam behind her as she enters the fall swing. She was a semifinalist last year in Tokyo, and the only threatening name she could face en route to the quarterfinals would be Nadia Petrova.
Should she advance, Kvitova could possibly face a U.S. Open rematch versus Marion Bartoli, who only allowed Kvitova two games in the final two sets.
But don’t count out Sara Errani, who hopes to continue her great 2012 campaign.
Maria Sharapova’s Quarter
The two other top seeds in Sharapova’s quarter are Sam Stosur and Dominika Cibulkova, against whom Sharapova has winning records. However, Sharapova will have a tough task in her first match back since New York, most likely facing Sabine Lisicki, who handed Sharapova a loss at Wimbledon and a tough match at the Olympics.
With that being said, Sharapova has had past success at this tournament, winning in 2005 and 2009, and is the most consistent player in her quarter.
All in all, this year's Tokyo tournament is tough to call, but will give insight into an exciting WTA fall season.
For more information about the main draw, click here.