With the No. 1 ranking at stake, Serena Williams will look to take advantage of a last-minute Western & Southern Open wild card in an effort to hold off current world No. 2 Angelique Kerber.
After a first-round bye, Williams will play the winner of Elina Svitolina and Christina McHale in a match that will have everyone watching. Svitolina, 21, took out Williams in straight sets earlier this week in Olympic competition, despite falling to the American in four previous attempts. McHale has also posed a threat to the world No. 1, pushing her to three sets twice this year. Should she survive that early test, Williams is set to face two-time Grand Slam champion Svetlana Kuznetsova in a potential quarterfinal matchup.
No. 4 seed Garbine Muguruza has a chance to play spoiler for Williams once again in the top half, after defeating the 34-year-old in the Roland Garros final. World No. 11 Dominika Cibulkova and Olympic semifinalist Petra Kvitova are also in Muguruza’s quarter, along with rising star – and Olympic medalist – Monica Puig.
In the bottom half of the draw, Kerber has her work cut out for her as she makes a push for No. 1. In order to take over the top spot, she will need to claim the Rookwood Cup, with Williams falling before the quarterfinals. Before heading north to Cincinnati, the Australian Open champion will fight to claim a gold medal for Germany when she plays Puig on Saturday in Rio.
Simona Halep, a finalist here last year, defeated Kerber just weeks ago en route to the Montreal title. In order to set up a semifinal rematch, Halep will face a potential quarterfinal with Agnieszka Radwanska, should the Pole escape a dangerous second-round encounter with the winner of former top-10 players Lucie Safarova and Andrea Petkovic.
Women's qualifying play kicks off Saturday at 10:00 a.m.