Petra Kvitova and Flavia Pennetta are among the players aiming to close in on a place at the WTA Finals by challenging for the title at the China Open.
Only Serena Williams, Simona Halep and Maria Sharapova boast sufficient points to be guaranteed a berth at the season-ending tournament in Singapore.
And of that trio, Williams has had to withdraw due to injury, with six events of the regular tour season still to come, while Sharapova is in doubt after an arm injury forced her out of the Wuhan Open, as well as the following tournament in Beijing.
The Russian said: “I mean, obviously, Singapore and Fed Cup is a big priority for myself and I’ll do everything in order to be healthy for that.”
Kvitova, who is effectively ranked fourth of the active players targeting success in Singapore, exited the WTA’s previous event, the Wuhan Open, in the round of 16 at the hands of Roberta Vinci. The Czech will face another Italian, Sara Errani, in the first round in Beijing.
Andrea Petkovic, Eugenie Bouchard and Sam Stosur are all difficult potential third-round opponents for the two-time Wimbledon champion. The showdown between German Petkovic and Canadian Bouchard is among the pick of the first-round matches.
Another eye-catching clash will see world number seven Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland battle mercurial American Coco Vandeweghe.
Flavia Pennetta, who is eighth in the season points tally but seventh of the players yet to withdraw from the WTA Finals, will go up against China’s Han Xinyun, ranked a lowly 160th in the world but set to compete in front of a sympathetic home crowd.
Angelique Kerber has earned a bye through to the second round in Beijing after reaching the semi-finals of the Wuhan Open, where she lost to Garbine Muguruza.
Kerber will play either Dominika Cibulkova or Jelena Jankovic and could then face former world number one Caroline Wozniacki as early as the third round in a tough draw for the German.
Halep meanwhile should receive a simple first-round assignment against a qualifier in what is a relatively easy draw for the Romanian. A possible meeting with world number eight Muguruza in the quarter-finals is arguably the first serious obstacle for one of this year’s beaten US Open semi-finalists.