2015 WTA Dubai Preview and Predictions
Niall Clarke, Tennis Atlantic
Originally launched in 1993 as a men’s event, the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships became a joint event in 2001 and has since become one of the best tournaments on the calendar. In 2001 the players voted it as the WTA’s Premier Tournament of The Year, an honour it was awarded again the following year.
Justine Henin holds the tournament record with four titles, followed by defending champion Venus Williams, with three. Other former champions include the likes of Lindsay Davenport, Elena Dementieva, Martina Hingis, Petra Kvitova, Amelie Mauresmo and Caroline Wozniacki.
Last year, Venus Williams tore through the competition to take the crown without dropping a set. The three time champion avenged her sister’s loss by defeating Alize Cornet 6-3,6-0 in the final.
Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships
WTA Premier Series
February 15-February 21,2015
Prize Money: $2,513,000
Top 8 seeds (who receive a first round byes)
1. Simona Halep
2. Petra Kvitova
3. Caroline Wozniacki
4. Ana Ivanovic
5. Agnieszka Radwanska
6. Ekaterina Makarova
7. Angelique Kerber
8. Venus Williams
Serena Williams and Eugenie Bouchard were scheduled to compete here, but withdrew at the last minute.
First Round Matchups to Watch
Elina Svitolina vs Coco Vandeweghe
The winner of this one will face Petra Kvitova in round two. These two youngsters possess different styles, with the American having the big serve and ground strokes, whilst her Ukrainian opponent offers a more consistent game. Svitolina recently withdrew from Pattaya, so who knows where her fitness is at this point. Vandeweghe hasn’t competed since the Fed Cup, where she lost in straight sets to Paula Ormaechea in Argentina. This will likely come down to how well the world number 32 serves. If the serve clicks for Vandeweghe, Svitolina will find it tough to break. If Vandeweghe is even a little off, expect Svitolina’s consistency to guide her to victory.
Vera Zvonareva vs Camila Giorgi
Former Wimbledon finalist Vera Zvonareva has used her protected ranking to enter the main draw in Dubai. Her first round opponent is big hitting youngster Camila Giorgi, one of the most unpredictable players on tour. The former world number two played fairly well in her quarter final run in Pattaya last week, and will be looking to continue that form on her journey back towards the elite. Giorgi suffered a round 1 exit to Carla Suarez Navarro in Antwerp, so her confidence may be low, especially as she led after the first set. The Italian will be looking to overpower her 30 year old opponent, whilst Zvonareva will look to use more variety, and is the vastly more experienced of the two. If Giorgi peaks, she’s ultra-dangerous, but that is a big if.
(11) Lucie Safarova vs Monica Puig
The Czech leads the head to head 2-0, but all previous meetings were on clay two or more years ago. Youngster Puig, will be fairly high on confidence after a semi-final run in Pattaya last week, where she eventually lost narrowly to Ajla Tomljanovic. Safarova made the quarterfinals in the Diamond games last week, where she lost to compatriot Karolina Pliskova in the quarterfinals. Expect the Czech to try over power the Puerto Rican, who will look to use that power against her opponent with her counter-punching style. Puig may have stagnated since last year, but if she’s high on confidence, the youngster could be a handful for the 11th seed.
The top half of the draw looks the weaker on paper, but it still offers a lot of interesting players and match-ups. Top seed Simona Halep will most likely be the favourite to advance from this section of the draw, but after a measly round one loss last yea, and a whole host of dangerous players in the draw, it won’t be simple at all.
The Romanian will find it tough against Mona Barthel or Daniela Hantuchova, who both showed good form last week, but she should make at least the quarterfinals. From there, it will definitely get more difficult for the world number three, as she could end up facing Ekaterina Makarova. The sixth seed destroyed Halep at the Australian Open earlier this year, but historically the Russian has always brought her best to the grand slam events. It is also no guarantee that Makarova will make it that far however, as she has been drawn in a tough section. Round two will likely be Hobart champion Heather Watson, and round three will be tough no matter who makes it out of Andrea Petkovic, Zarina Diyas and Annika Beck. Makarova will be the favourite in all of her matches due to her having the biggest game, but this is WTA and nothing is ever set in stone.
Third seed Caroline Wozniacki finds herself drawn in the same section as Angelique Kerber, who has just dropped out of the top 10 for the first time in a while. The former world number one should make it out of this section, even with some troubling opponents likely to await her. It will likely be Sam Stosur in round two, and Alize Cornet in round three, both of which I expect Wozniacki to win.
It should be Kerber awaiting in the quarterfinals, despite her poor form as of late. Former grand slam champion Svetlana Kuznetsova will provide a stern test for her in round two, but the German should expect herself to win that one. If Kerber doesn’t make the quarterfinals, I’ll be fairly surprised.
The bottom half seems to have the more dangerous players. Petra Kvitova is the number two seed and headlines this section. She is accompanied by the likes of Ana Ivanovic, Aga Radwanska, and defending champion Venus Williams; It’s a stacked section, no doubt.
Fourth seed Ana Ivanovic will face some difficult tests before she even makes the quarter finals here. Sabine Lisicki, Barbora Zahlavova Strycova and Karolina Pliskova have all been drawn into her daunting section. Lisicki can play great but is wildly inconsistent outside of Wimbledon, so Ivanovic should at least make it to round three. If Strycova and Pliskova make it past their round one opponents, you will be treated to one of the most interesting matches in the tournament. Pliskova will likely be too powerful for her, setting up a Pliskova-Ivanovic round three. The Czech will try to overpower the Serb, and serve big. Ivanovic will be the favourite due to her higher ranking and experience, but don’t be surprised to see an upset here.
Defending champion Venus Williams will also have it tough if she’s to make it to the quarterfinals. The eighth seed has been in good form this year though, and despite her advancing age, Williams is still one of the most feared players on tour. Her biggest rival in this section will be Lucie Safarova. The 11th seed has a fairly tough round one against Monica Puig, but the Czech should come through that and her round two opponent. The winner of Venus vs Safarova will be my pick to make the semifinals from this quarter. Both hit hard and would have played their way into form by time the quarterfinals roll around.
Second seed Petra Kvitova has no easy matches in her path to the semifinals. In the second round she’ll either face Elina Svitolina or Coco Vandeweghe. Both possess different challenges, but Petra’s power will likely guide her to a round three clash with Carla Suarez Navarro(?).
5th seed Agnieszka Radwanska might be the projected seed to meet Kvitova in the quarterfinals, but there is a name that sticks out just as much: Garbine Muguruza. The Spaniard is in good form this year, only losing two matches in 2015. Recently she disposed of world number three, Simona Halep in straight sets at the Fed Cup. Despite her good form, the Spaniard’s inconsistency still remains making it far from a guarantee that we’ll see this third round clash. Radwanska will potentially have a challenge of her own in round two against Caroline Garcia. The Frenchwoman is very talented but her lack of effort at times has been questioned. Garcia could throw a spanner in the works, but don’t bank on it. With Muguruza vs Radwanska looking likely in round three, we will be in for a treat in this clash of styles. Muguruza will look to overpower Radwanska from the baseline, whilst the Pole will look to use her court coverage and variety to frustrate the Spaniard and force her to leak errors. Muguruza won their last meeting without particularly playing well, so it’s hard not to back her if she is playing well. But with her known fluctuation in level, I can only say that this will most likely go the distance.
Kvitova d. Williams
Wozniacki d. Makarova
Wozniacki d. Kvitova