Romanian tennis player Simona Halep, world's no. 1, is going to kick off 2018 season by playing against American Nicole Gibbs in the opening round of the WTA tournament in Shenzhen (China), equipped with total prizes worth 626,750 US dollars.Halep (26) and Gibbs (24, WTA's 110) will meet for the first time in the professional circuit.
The other four Romanian players on the main singles chart are Irina Begu, Mihaela Buzarnescu, Monica Niculescu and Ana Bogdan.
Begu (27, WTA's 43), seed no. 4, will play against Chinese Fangzhou Liu (22, WTA's 148), with this being their first meeting.
Buzarnescu (29, WTA's 56) will meet a very strong opponent, Russian Maria Sharapova (30, WTA's 59). It is also their first meeting.
Monica Niculescu (30, WTA's 79) will play against a young opponent on the rise, namely Belarusian Arina Sabalenka (19, WTA's 73).
Ana Bogdan (25, WTA's 105) will meet first Camila Giorgi (25, WTA's 80). The Italian defeated the Romanian player in their only match, which took place in 2017, in the first round at Shenzhen, 1-6, 7-6 (5), 6-3.
In the doubles event, Raluca Olaru and Ukrainian Olga Savciuk, who reached up to the final last year in Shenzhen and will be seeds no. 2 in 2018, will meet the pair Nicole Gibbs (SUA)/Carol Zhao (Canada) in the first round of the competition. In their turn, Irina Begu and Simona Halep will meet the Chinese pair Xinyun Han/Chen Liang, and Buzarnescu and Irina Bara will play against seeds no. 4, Natela Dzalamidze (Russia)/Xenis Knoll (Switzerland).
On Saturday, in the first round of qualifications, Irina Bara (22, WTA's 184) was defeated by Swiss Stefanie Voegele (27, WTA's 174), 6-4, 6-3.
In the last year's edition, Halep reached up to the round of sixteen. Instead, the Romanian player won the title in Shenzhen in 2015 and Niculescu won here two doubles titled, in 2014, when she maid pair with Klara Koukalova (the Czech Republic) and in 2016,when she played alongside American Vania King.