The first Premier-level tournament of the grasscourt season, the $1,006,263 Nature Valley Classic, is about to kick off in Birmingham and the field is stronger than ever, featuring all the world’s Top 3 WTA players.
While we are expecting the arrival of No.1 Naomi Osaka and fresh French Open champion Ashleigh Barty, third-ranked Karolina Pliskova has already had a close meeting with the trophy, having participated in Saturday’s draw ceremony. Besides the WTA Top 3, Top 10 players Elina Svitolina and Aryna Sabalenka further strengthen the field, together with wildcard Venus Williams, the five-time Wimbledon champion who is playing her first Wimbledon tune-up tournament since Eastbourne 2011.
No.1 ranking will be on the line at the Nature Valley Classic. If Osaka wins her opening match, Barty would have to go all the way to the title to overtake her at the top spot, while if Osaka loses her opener, Barty would have to reach the final to be crowned No.1. The Top 2 both have tough openers, Osaka against No.33 Maria Sakkari and Barty against 22nd-ranked Donna Vekic, who is enjoying the best time of her career, including a run to the final this week on the grass of the Nature Valley Open in Nottingham.
Other intriguing first-round match-ups include:
Karolina Pliskova vs. Michaela Buzarnescu
Venus Williams vs. Aliaksandra Sasnovich
Home favorite Johanna Konta vs. Anett Kontaveit
Julia Georges vs. Dayana Yastremska
Aryna Sabalenka vs. Hsieh Su-Wei
Hoping to be ready for Wimbledon, the 2017 and 2018 Birmingham champion Petra Kvitova will not show up at the tournament this year, having withdrawn with an arm injury that had forced her to pull out of Roland Garros on the eve of her first-round match.