Yulia Putintseva in action at the J&T Banka Ostrava Open 2021
The inaugural edition of the Astana Open will be held in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan, from September 27-October 2. The WTA 250 indoor hardcourt tournament will give players the opportunity to gain some momentum heading into the final few weeks of the WTA season.
The 32-player field has attracted some of the most established names from the WTA circuit. Home favorite Yulia Putintseva is the top seed and will look to win her second title of the season following her triumph at the Hungarian Grand Prix earlier in the year.
On that note, here’s an in-depth look at how the draw might unfold:
Top half: Ana Konjuh, Anastasia Potapova, Kristina Mladenovic look to topple Yulia Putintseva
Ana Konjuh in action at the J&T Banka Ostrava Open 2021
Seeded players:  Yulia Putintseva,  Kristina Mladenovic,  Ana Konjuh,  Rebecca Peterson
Expected semifinal: Yulia Putintseva vs Kristina Mladenovic
Dark horse: Anastasia Potapova
Analysis: Fresh off a run to the semifinals of Portoroz and the Round of 16 at Ostrava, top seed Yulia Putintseva will look to carry the momentum to her home tournament in Nur-Sultan. The Kazakh will be eager to capture the title in the inaugural edition of the Astana Open.
The two-time Grand Slam quarterfinalist opens her campaign against Georgia’s World No. 108 Ekaterina Gorgodze and is slated to meet Germany’s rising star Jule Niemeier in the Round of 16. While the first couple of rounds should be easy for the Kazakh, things could get tougher from the quarterfinals.
Fifth seed Ana Konjuh could cause Putintseva a few problems with her silky smooth attacking strokes. The Croat is on the comeback trail following her long battle with elbow injuries and has racked up quite a few wins this year. Konjuh made the final in Belgrade and the semifinals in San Jose and will hope to continue her good run at Nur-Sultan.
Anastasia Potapova strikes a backhand at the J&T Banka Ostrava Open 2021
Third seed Kristina Mladenovic headlines the second quarter of the draw. The Frenchwoman struggled in the first half of the year with a quarterfinal appearance at Lyon being her most notable performance.
Mladenovic, however, has been playing more confidently since the start of the grass season. She made it to the last eight at Nottingham, Chicago and Portoroz, with the latter coming just a week back. The World No. 65 will hope to continue her resurgence in the Kazakh city when she meets local wildcard Anna Danilina first up.
A win is likely to put her in the path of Russian wildcard Anastasia Potapova, who comes to Nur-Sultan in a rich vein of form. The 20-year-old stretched two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova to three sets this week in Ostrava, having come through qualifying.
The winner of the clash will meet sixth seed Rebecca Peterson in the quarterfinals if the Swede wins her first two rounds.
Semifinal prediction: Ana Konjuh def. Anastasia Potapova
Bottom half: Clara Burel, Kaja Juvan, Varvara Gracheva to challenge Alison Van Uytvanck
Alison Van Uytvanck celebrates a point at the 2021 Wimbledon Championships
Seeded players:  Alison Van Uytvanck,  Greet Minnen,  Varvara Gracheva,  Clara Burel
Expected semifinal: Alison Van Uytvanck vs Greet Minnen
Dark horse: Kaja Juvan
Analysis: World No. 55 Alison Van Uytvanck has been in a slump since the end of the grass season. She has managed to win a grand total of five matches in seven tournaments since making the quarterfinals at Nottingham and winning the ITF $100,000 title in the same city.
The Belgian faces Kazakh wildcard Zhibek Kulambayeva in her opener and possibly Aussie veteran Arina Rodionova in the second round.
She could take on seventh seed Varvara Gracheva or Kristyna Pliskova in the quarterfinals. The Czech won four matches at the US Open starting from the qualifying rounds and will hope to bring that competitive spirit to Nur-Sultan.
Gracheva, meanwhile, made a giant-killing run to the semis in Chicago in August, upsetting fourth seed Tamara Zidansek and eighth seed Marta Kostyuk along the way. The 21-year-old would definitely pose a threat to Van Uytvanck.
Kaja Juvan could shake up the Astana Open draw
With three qualifiers in the mix, the third quarter of the draw could be unpredictable. Greet Minnen is the highest seed in this section but an upset could be brewing in the first round itself, with Portoroz semifinalist Kaja Juvan first up for the Belgian.
Eighth seed Clara Burel is the other seed in this quarter, and she begins her challenge against Luxembourg veteran Mandy Minella in a battle of two generations. Burel is coming off a semifinal appearance at an ITF event in Germany and will be looking to make an impact at the Astana Open.
Semifinal prediction: Kaja Juvan def. Varvara Gracheva
Prediction for the final
Ana Konjuh def. Kaja Juvan