From left to right, Rafael Nadal of Spain, Simona Halep of Romania, Novak Djokovic of Serbia, Li Na of China, Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria, Maria Sharapova of Russia, Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic, Serena Williams of the US, Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic, and Ana Ivanovic of Serbia. [Photo/chinaopen.com.cn]
Serena Williams, Russian world No 6 Maria Sharapova and Li Na, together with Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal are set to make the China Open the most star-studded in its 11-year history.
Current world No 1 Williams of the US is defending champion and favored for a third crown in Beijing while home favorite Li, third-ranked and the reigning Australian Open champion, is vying for her first title at home and a place in the year-ending finals.
The host country also boasts 33rd-ranked Zhang Shuai and Peng Shuai, who partnered Hsieh Su-Wei from Chinese Taipei to victory in this season's French Open doubles final.
According to the Women's Tennis Association (WTA), the 45 top-ranked players automatically qualify and nine of those traveling to Beijing are former world No 1s.
The tournament, from Sept 27 to Oct 5, will also be a milestone for the new generation of "post-1990s" players. The 24-year-old double Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic and second ranked Romanian Simona Halep, 23, will appear, together with 20-year-old Canadian Eugenie Bouchard, who stormed into the semi-finals of all three Grand Slams so far this year.
A re-run of last year's men's final is a mouth-watering prospect for Chinese fans. Serbia's Djokovic has appeared in four Beijing finals without leaving empty-handed while injury-plagued Spaniard Nadal, who has pulled out of the US Open starting on Monday with a wrist injury, will be seeking a return to the winners' circle after being out of action since Wimbledon.
Posing a threat to the big two's dominance, are 2011 champion Tomas Berdych and the promising Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov, who has claimed three ATP titles this year and also happens to be dating Sharapova.