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'20 to Watch' - Week 1 Review

No fewer than eight of the ’20 to Watch’ were in action as the new tennis season got underway. With WTA tournaments in Auckland, Brisbane and Shenzhen, there were opportunities for the youngsters to make an early impression.

Puerto Rican, Monica Puig, was certainly one of those to put down an early marker. She came through qualifying in Brisbane in impressive fashion, beating two former top-40 players in Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Vera Dushevina. Australian wildcard, Olivia Rogowska, was dispatched in comfortable fashion in the first round, before her most impressive performance against fourth seed, Angelique Kerber. With power and precision hitting, she won the first set, but was eventually beaten in a final set tiebreak. If she can find that level regularly, she will fly up the rankings.

Annika Beck also continued her good form from the later stages of 2012. Having gained automatic entry to the inaugural WTA event in Shenzhen, she defeated young Spaniard, Garbine Muguruza, and fourth seed, Su-Wei Hsieh, to reach her first ever WTA quarter-final, before losing in three sets to home favourite, Shuai Peng. An encouraging beginning to the New Year and a first Grand Slam main draw victory at the Australian Open will be her next objective.

The two other players from the list to play main draw matches this week were Genie Bouchard and Elina Svitolina. Bouchard was given a wildcard into the main draw in Auckland, but hit too many unforced errors in a disappointing straight sets defeat to Elena Vesnina. Meanwhile, Svitolina gained direct entry into the main draw in Shenzhen, where she beat former top-20 player, Shahar Peer, for the loss of just four games, before losing to eventual finalist, Klara Zakopalova, in straight sets.

The other big performance of the week was from young Australian, Ashleigh Barty. She gained the biggest win of her career when she beat former French Open champion, Francesca Schiavone, in the Hopman Cup for the loss of just three games. She also won the first set against Andrea Petkovic, before the injury-prone German was forced to retire.

Elsewhere, there were qualifying defeats for Daria Gavrilova in Brisbane, and Madison Keys and Anna-Karolina Schmiedlova in Auckland.

This coming week sees Eugenie Bouchard and Madison Keys playing at the WTA Apia International in Sydney, Yulia Putintseva and Daria Gavrilova in action in Hobart, and young Taylor Townsend will play in the $25k ITF tournament in Innisbrook, Florida.

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