2015 WTA Hobart Preview and Predictions
Niall Clarke, Tennis Atlantic
Many stars of the WTA venture to Hobart, Australia, to continue their preparations for the first Grand Slam of the year in Melbourne.
The tournament was launched in 1994. Interestingly it has produced a different winner every year. Hobart is usually won by rising stars or relatively unknown players who look to kick start their season. Past champions include the likes of Petra Kvitova, and Kim Clijsters. The 2014 edition saw young star Garbine Muguruza win her maiden title. The Spaniard came through qualifying and dominated the field en route to winning the Hobart crown.
WTA International Series
January 11-January 17, 2015
Prize Money: $250,000
Seeds (WTA ranking in parentheses)
1: Casey Dellacqua (29)
2. Zarina Diyas (32)
3. Camila Giorgi (33)
*4. Vavara Lepchenko (34)
5. Sloane Stephens (35)
6. Klara Koukalova (39)
7. Mona Barthel (41)
8. Alison Riske (43)
9: Roberta Vinci (44)
*Lepchenko withdrew and will be replaced by a lucky loser
Unfortunately, the original number 4 seed, Vavara Lepchenko was forced to withdraw from the tournament. She has been replaced by a lucky loser, and Stephens is now the number 4 seed. Roberta Vinci is the next highest ranked player and therefore gets seeding.
First round matchups to watch:
(1)Casey Dellacqua vs. Lauren Davis
The number one seed will return from Hopman Cup duty for the home Aussies in Perth to square off against American Lauren Davis in Hobart. What makes this match interesting is the respective form of the two players leading into the event. Dellacqua struggled in the Hopman cup, not winning any of her singles matches. Meanwhile, Davis started the year well by reaching the semi finals in Auckland before losing convincingly to compatriot Venus Williams. There is big potential of an upset here, so this certainly a match to keep an eye on. Dellacqua will no doubt be the home crowd favourite, but look for the 21 year old American to silence them.
Monica Puig vs. Kaia Kanepi
Not all interesting matches have to feature a seeded player, do they? Hobart has produced some interesting round one matches this year, but this particular match may fall under the radar. It is another one of those ‘Youth vs experience’ matches with Puig (21) facing Kanepi (29). Kanepi started the season with a Quarterfinal run in Brisbane, losing to Ana Ivanovic. Puig on the other hand lost her opener in Auckland to Marina Erakovic. Expect the Estonian to try and use her power to overwhelm Puig, who in return will look to use that power to counter Kanepi. I expect another tight 3 setter here that could go either way.
The top half of the Hobart draw is stacked with talent and potential winners. Number one seed, Casey Dellacqua will no doubt be one of those players looking to take the Hobart crown. However, the Aussie doesn’t come into the tournament in good form and might get dumped out earlier than you’d expect from a top seed. The winner of the Dellacqua-Davis will likely make the Quarter Final where I expect either Mona Barthel or Kirsten Flipkens will be waiting. Barthel is talented, yet inconsistent, and has also recently suffered from an injury. The 7th seed could be another player who is dumped out earlier than expected. I can see unseeded players, Davis and Flipkens making the Quarter finals here.
The second quarter is headlined by number three seed Camila Giorgi. The big hitting Italian is another young star who can do a lot of damage. The 23 year old will face Australian wildcard Storm Sanders in the first round. It should be a relatively comfortable match for Giorgi who should over power her opponent. Puig or Kanepi will await her in the second round in another potential slobberknocker (Copyright WWE’s Jim Ross). No matter which one of them advances, it will no doubt be one of the matches of the week should. Interestingly, I expect Kanepi to beat Giorgi, and Giorgi to dispatch Puig despite the 2-0 head to head in favour of the Puerto Rican. If I was to hazard a guess, I would say Kanepi makes the Quarter Finals. Giorgi’s form is unknown and Puig lost her opener last week. There, the Estonian will likely meet Czech Republic’s Klara Koukalova. The number six seed was a finalist last year so knows these courts well. She will face Kurumi Nara in an interesting round one battle. I expect the 32 year old to advance in a tight match despite a round one loss last week. Koukalova’s experience will likely guide her through to the quarterfinals, where I believe she will face Kaia Kanepi. Out of all the likely opponents I expect the Czech to bow out at this stage as the other section of this quarter is just too strong.
Zarina Diyas is the number two seed and therefore the automatic favourite to advance from this half. But tennis isn’t that simple, especially in the WTA. Diyas faces a qualifier or lucky loser in the first round, which isn’t as simple as it may seem. Qualifiers can often be streaky players, so It will be tough, but I believe Diyas will pull through. Daniela Hantuchova should await in the second round, but the lottery of the qualifier/lucky loser also awaits the Slovak in round one. I will stay safe and predict Diyas defeats Hantuchova in the second round. Any of the four potential quarterfinal opponents for the Kazakh could realistically make it to the last eight. The seeded player is Alison Riske. The 24 year old got off to a bad start in Brisbane where she was dumped out in the first round, so the American will look to kick start her 2015 with a win over fellow countrywoman Christina McHale. The world number 45 also lost in the first round of Brisbane, and will be looking for her first win of the season in Hobart. McHale lost to potential second round opponent Mirjana Lucic-Baroni in Brisbane. Baroni was the 2014 comeback player of the year and is the most experienced player out of the four. Her first round opponent is Bojana Jovanovski. The world number 57 lost to Kvitova in the Shenzhen 2nd round, so her form is also unknown. I will go with experience here, and say Lucic Baroni faces Diyas in the Quarter finals after battling through Jovanovski and Riske.
The 4th seed is Sloane Stephens from the USA. The American was once a highly touted youngster, but she was unable to build on her 2013 form. Sloane will look to start her climb back up the rankings with a successful run in Hobart. The 21 year old lost to fellow American Lauren Davis in the 2nd round of the ASB Classic, so doesn’t come into the event in any sort of form. She faces crafty Romanian Monica Niculescu in round one in Hobart. The 27 year old lost to Polona Hercog in the opening round in Shenzhen; a disappointing result for the Romanian. Sloane will be fairly confident of getting by Niculescu and her round two opponent, who I expect to be Heather Watson. The Brit will be returning from Hopman Cup duty, where she lost two of three matches, but I expect the 22 year old to squeeze past Magdalena Rybarikova. The replacement 5th seed, or 9th seed is experienced Italian Roberta Vinci. The 31 has one of the best slices in the game and will be a handful for her first round opponent, Olivia Rogowska. Vinci should be good enough to make the second round at least here, where she will face either Annika Beck or Jana Cepelova. Cepelova will be low on confidence after her thrashing at the hands of Venus Williams, so Beck will be the favourite to face Vinci In round two. Beck is one of the steadiest players on tour, but Vinci has more variety which will see her through to the Quarter finals.
Kanepi d. Davis
Diyas d. Stephens
Kanepi had a good week in Brisbane, and could have gone further that the Quarter Finals if it wasn’t for Ana Ivanovic. Davis went one further in Auckland, but lost comfortably to Venus Williams. I feel Kanepi will be a little too much for Davis here, and defeats the American in 3 sets. Diyas vs Stephens could be match of the tournament. Both are talented youngsters looking to really kick start their seasons by winning the Hobart title. Diyas is currently the higher ranked and better player of the two, so I will predict her to squeeze past Stephens in a very tight 3 setter.
Kanepi d. Diyas
The Estonian will build on a good Brisbane run to take the crown in the Hobart. Kanepi won their only previous meeting at Roland Garros in 2010. However, the Kazakh was raw at that time, so you can’t take much from that match. Diyas will be hoping to win her first WTA title here in her second final. That time she lost to Sam Stosur in Osaka, and I expect something similar here. Kanepi’s experience will see her beat Diyas in 2 or 3 tight sets and win the Hobart title.