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Eastbourne draw: Kerber & Halep on collision course, No.1 ranking at stake

EASTBOURNE, England - The Aegon International is the place to be next week, as the jam-packed draw features nearly all the women expected to make an impact at Wimbledon.

Read more: Click here for the full Aegon International Eastbourne draw.

Simona Halep almost took the World No.1 ranking away from Angelique Kerber in Paris – can she do it in Eastbourne? WTA Insider analyses the packed Aegon International draw.
Here are the storylines we'll be following closely at Devonshire Park:

1. The No.1 ranking is on the line.

Simona Halep was three games away from the No.1 ranking in Paris and she'll have a chance to take it off the hands of No.1 Angelique Kerber this week. Halep took a late wildcard into Eastbourne after taking two weeks off after a heartbreaking loss in the Roland Garros final to Jelena Ostapenko.

Kerber and Halep are the top two seeds in Eastbourne, in opposite halves of the draw. Here are the No.1 ranking scenarios:

-    If Kerber loses before the quarterfinals, Halep will be No.1 if she makes the semifinal.
-    If Kerber makes the quarterfinals or semifinals, Halep must make the final.
-    If Kerber makes the final, Halep must win the title.

With both Halep and Pliskova in the hunt -- though Pliskova cannot take the No.1 ranking this week -- and Kerber defending finalist points at Wimbledon, regardless of what happens this week, it's likely the No.1 ranking will be in play quite often over the course of the remainder of the season.

2. Jelena Ostapenko gets back on court.

After withdrawing from the Aegon Classic last week, the Roland Garros champion is back in action this week, seeded at No.10. By all accounts, the 20-year-old has continued to keep things low key in Eastbourne, where coach Anabel Medina Garrigues is once again by her side.

For as much as her French Open run was a shocker, success on grass is almost to be expected for the powerful Latvian. A junior Wimbledon champion in 2014, Ostapenko's game is perfectly suited for the low-bouncing, skidding turf. Drawn into the top half of the draw, she'll face a tough opening test against either Ekaterina Makarova or Carla Suárez Navarro and could face No.5 seed Johanna Konta in the third round. Win that and a potential quarterfinal against Kerber awaits.

3. Karolina Pliskova starts her grass campaign.

Last year Pliskova came off a title run in Nottingham to make the final in Eastbourne, losing a tough three-setter against Dominika Cibulkova. That extensive preparation did not yield much fruit at Wimbledon, where she lost in the second round to Misaki Doi.

This year the Czech has opted for a lighter preparation, which seems particularly wise given her surprise run to the semifinals at Roland Garros. After two weeks out of competition, the 25-year-old will look to hit the grass running. She's been drawn into the top-half of the draw and will open against either Alizé Cornet or a qualifier/lucky loser. Looming in the third round could be No.15 seed Timea Bacsinszky, who is also playing her first tournament since making the French Open semifinals, with No.7 seed Svetlana Kuznetsova or No.9 seed Kristina Mladenovic potentially in the quarterfinals.

4. Petra Kvitova looks to keep it rolling.

It's difficult to overstate just how remarkable Kvitova's comeback has been. Just two tournaments into her comeback from a six-month absence after being attacked in her home in December, Kvitova is already into her first grass court final since winning 2014 Wimbledon, advancing to the final of the Aegon Classic in Birmingham. Her most impressive win of her comeback came in a straight-set victory over Mladenovic, a solid gauge of her level.

Kvitova is seeded No.13 in Eastbourne and is on an early collision course with Halep. The two could meet in the third round in what would be the first grass court meeting between the pair. That would be a must-see match.

5. First Looks: Kerber, Radwanska, Wozniacki.

All three women will be playing their first tournaments since Roland Garros and Eastbourne should provide a good gauge as to their comfort on grass this year. Kerber and Radwanska, both Wimbledon finalists who have proven grass court success in the past, are under injury and confidence clouds. Kerber withdrew from Birmingham after injuring her hamstring shortly before the tournament and Radwanska has been hampered by a foot injury through much of the season.

Kerber will face to face down a big-hitter in her opening match, drawing either Kristyna Pliskova or Naomi Broady, with a tough Daria Gavrilova looming in the third round.

Drawn into Halep's half of the draw, Radwanska opens against one of two in-form players in Mallorca Open finalist Julia Goerges or Mallorca semifinalist CiCi Bellis, with Birmingham semifinalist Garbiñe Muguruza looming in the third round.

Wozniacki, a champion here in 2009, is an intriguing case. Grass has rarely been a fruitful surface for the Dane -- Wimbledon remains the only Slam at which she has not progressed past the Round of 16 -- but after a solid showing at Roland Garros, a fit and healthy Wozniacki could break that duck this year.

Seeded No.6, Wozniacki opens against either Naomi Osaka or a Qualifier/Lucky Loser. She could face Elena Vesnina in the third round and possibly Halep or Kvitova in the quarterfinals.

Source: http://www.wtatennis.com/news/eastbourne-draw-analysis-angelique-kerber-simona-halep-no1-ranking-wta-insider

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