WTA Monterrey and Kuala Lumpur Previews
Niall Clarke, Tennis Atlantic
The WTA stays in Mexico and continues its tour of the Middle East for a pair of international events leading up to the Indian Wells and Miami double.
WTA Kuala Lumpur
The tour of the Middle East moves from Doha to Kuala Lumpur for the BMW Malaysian open. With its inaugural staging being in 2010, the BMW Malaysian open is one of the youngest events on the WTA tour. Since its inception we have seen 5 different winners including rising stars Karolina Pliskova and Donna Vekic.
The 18 year old Czech became the youngest title winner in seven years when she overcame Dominka Cibulkova in the final last year.
BMW Malaysian Open
Location: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Prize Money: $250,000
Date: March 2nd- March 8th 2015
The eight seeded players (Ranking)
1. Caroline Wozniacki (5)
2. Sabine Lisicki (28)
3. Casey Dellacqua (34)
4. Jarmila Gajdosova (54)
5. Klara Koukalova (58)
6. Kurumi Nara (60)
7. Bojana Jovanovski (63)
8. Julia Goerges (67)
As you would expect a week before two big events, there’s not a lot of higher ranked players. Therefore it’s a big opportunity for a lower ranked player to win a tournament.
First round matches to watch
(3) Casey Dellacqua vs Su-Wei Hsieh
Wild card Su-Wei Hsieh is a former top 30 player, and at one point was close to the top 20. It seems however, that the Chinese Taipei representative has her attention on the doubles. Don’t let that fool you though, because she is still capable of a big performance as she’s a former champion at this event. Hsieh brings an unusual game to the table, which has potential to cause big problems for her opponents as her rival on this occasion Casey Dellacqua knows all too well. The 30 year old has had an indifferent year in 2015, finding herself with a 3-3 win-loss record so far. However these two met at this event 3 years a go, and Hsieh won 6-1, 7-5. Since then though Hsieh has dropped off considerably, therefore making Dellacqua the favourite.
(6) Kurumi Nara vs Stefanie Voegele
Sixth seeded Kurumi Nara faces tough opposition in the form a Stefanie Voegele in the opening round. Nara isn’t in good form heading into the event, as she hasn’t been able to put together victories since Hobart. Voegele however qualified for Doha, and pushed rising star Karolina Pliskova in the opening round, so she’ll come into this match in good spirits. The pair met 3 years a go in an ITF tournament, and Nara came through in straight sets. With the respective form of both players an upset shouldn’t be counted out. Expect a close match here, and a potential upset.
The top half has the main event player Caroline Wozniacki headlining it. With the former world number one so far ahead of everyone else in the draw, she will automatically be made the favourite. The big ‘if’ however is the potential of Wozniacki pulling out during the tournament. With Indian Wells and Miami coming up, the Dane will want to remain fresh and therefore don’t be surprised to see her pull out of the tournament after the quarter finals. Her journey to the semi finals should be fairly easy however, with her biggest threat being Klara Koukalova. The Czech is on the decline though, so it should be easy pickings for Wozniacki.
The second quarter is a little more interesting with third seed Casey Dellacqua and seventh seed Bojana Jovanovski headlining it. Dellacqua has a potentially tricky round one against Su-Wei Hsieh, but it’s a match she should win without too much trouble. From there Dellacqua should make the quarter finals at least, as I don’t see Mestach or Eguchi challenging her. Jovanovski should get past her qualifier opponent in round one to set up a match against Yulia Putintseva. The 20 year old Kazkah is currently outside the top 100 and is 2-5 for the year thus far. Jovanovski hasn’t played since the Australian Open, so she might be a little rusty heading into this match. The Czech should win this, but with the WTA surprises are many. With that little rust and lack of form, Jovanovski will find this one tough but by this time she might have played herself into a bit of form. Still with roughly 30 places separating them, Dellacqua will be the favourite to advance.
Heading into quarter three we get the second first round match to watch as sixth seed Kurumi Nara faces Stephanie Voegele. I feel an upset here, and with that a decent run to the quarter finals for Voegele. Jarmila Gajdosova should meet the Swiss at that stage. The fourth seed faces Cagla Buyukakcay in round one. The Turk made the second round in Dubai, so she isn’t a slouch, but Gajdosova should be too strong for her, and Luksika Kumkhum in round two. That will set up an interesting quarter final showdown with Voegele. They met at Wimbledon last year, and Gajdosova was a straight set victor on that day. I don’t see it being too different this time around.
Second seed Sabine Lisicki took a wildcard into this tournament hoping to build some form into the big events. The German is known for her exploits on grass, but when her game clicks she is dangerous on any surface. She faces Alexandra Dulgheru in the opening round. This could be a tough one for the inconsistent Lisicki, as her Romanian opponent is a former top 30 player, and she beat Alize Cornet last week. I believe Lisicki at this point in time might be a little too much for her however, and I will be surprised if the German doesn’t make the quarter finals at least. Her opponent at this stage will likely be Julia Goerges, but that is far from set in stone. The eighth seed is in good form despite losing in round one to Flavia Pennetta in Dubai, as she boasts a 6-4 winning record in 2015. In her current form, Goerges should beat Alla Kudryavtseva in round one, and Kateryna Kozlova or Saisai Zheng in round two, but with Goerges you can’t be too sure. A battle of inconsistent German’s will make up the quarter final from this section, and I am unsure which way it will go. Both possess big serves and groundstrokes, and can be very dangerous on their day. It’s hard to predict, but I will go with the higher ranked Lisicki.
Dellacqua def. Wozniacki W/O
Lisicki def. Gajdosova in w
Lisicki def. Dellacqua in 3
I have been boring for the second week in a row and predicted the projected seeds to make the semi finals. However, I don’t see Wozniacki playing the full week here with the Indian Wells and Miami tournaments coming up, so an early retirement, walkover or tank will let Dellacqua advance to the final. If Lisicki gets a good run of form, she’ll do huge damage, and that’s exactly what I have predicted. Lisicki to build form throughout the tournament and take her first title of 2015.
Like the BMW Malaysian open, the Abierto Monterrey Afirme is a young tournament on the calendar, after only being established in 2009. The tournament was first won by Marion Bartoli, before the Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova dominance began. The Russian won three titles here in 2010, 2011, and 2013. Ana Ivanovic is the current defending champion.
Abierto Monterrey Afirme
Location: Monterrey, Mexico
Prize Money: $500,000
Date: March 2nd- March 8th 2015
The Eight seeded players (Ranking)
1. Ana Ivanovic (6)
2. Sara Errani (12)
3. Caroline Garcia (30)
4. Timea Bacsinszky (37)
5. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (40)
6. Alison Riske (43)
7. Daniela Hantuchova (45)
8. Magdalena Rybarikova (50)
A stronger field than Kuala Lumpur, but that may be down to the bigger prize money on offer. Defending champion Ana Ivanovic is here, as well as three time champion Pavlyuchenkova.
First round matches to watch
(7) Daniela Hantuchova vs Monica Puig
What is it with Monica Puig, and these interesting first round matches? She has featured a lot in my first round matches to watch, and here she is again. This time the young Puerto Rican faces Daniela Hantuchova in Monterrey. Puig looked to have found some form in Acapulco when she disposed of Sara Errani 6-1,6-1, but in the next round she lost a narrow match to world number 156 Sesil Karatantcheva. Hantuchova decided not to play last week, but her form this year has been very good, even picking up a title in Patteya. The form book says Hantuchova, but the head to head tells a different story with Puig winning their only meeting last year in Rome. Hantuchova is the slight favourite, but Puig can strike at any time, so don’t be shocked to see her defeat the Slovak.
(5) Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova vs Anna Schmiedlova
Pavlyuchenkova loves these courts more than anyone- after all she has won it three times! However, youngster Anna Schmiedlova will provide a stern test for the inconstant Russian. It’s interesting to know that Pavyluchenkova is only 23 years old as it feels like she’s been on the tour for a while. But 2015 hasn’t been a good year, as the Russian has only played two matches and she’s lost both of them. Schmeidlova however reached her first WTA final in Rio two weeks a go, but she failed to carry that form into Acapulco, where she lost in the opening round. It may have been fatigue, but her game didn’t click last week, so the 20 year old will be hoping to re-capture her Rio form here. No head to head to go by, making this the first meeting between the two players. Despite winning the title three times, Pavlyuchenkova will no doubt be rusty heading in, so she could be there for the taking.
Top seed Ana Ivanovic headlines the top half of the draw, with 6th seed Alison Riske joining her in the top quarter. One must question how committed she must be to the event due to the big Indian Wells and Miami events coming up. If the Serb is committed to going all the way however, it’s hard to see anyone stopping her in this quarter. The first test of any sort, should come in the quarter finals whether it would be in the form of Alison Riske, Vera Zvonareva, or Kristina Mladenovic. If Zvonareva channel her old form, then she should make it, but with the recovery still in progress it’s hard to predict where she’ll finish in this tournament. Riske hasn’t played since the Australian Open so she could potentially be a little rusty, and there she lost to the world number 183 Oceane Dodin in the opening round. Mladenovic lost to an even lower ranked opponent in the Doha qualifiers, so she won’t be in good spirits either. I feel Zvonareva may take advantage of that and make the quarter finals before losing to Ivanovic in the quarter finals.
Third seed Caroline Garcia made the final of Acapulco last week, but lost convincingly to Timea Bacsinszky. The Frenchwoman will be looking to have another deep run here, as she bids to maintain a seeding spot for Roland Garros. Her section is full of wildcards and qualifiers, but Magdalena Rybarikova is projected to meet her at the quarter finals. The Slovak pushed Maria Sharapova to three sets last week in the quarter finals of Acapulco, but that was her first good tournament to date. Garcia however is vastly inconsistent and she could lose to Karin Knapp or Fran Schiavone before she even makes it to Rybarikova. It will depend on how much her final loss last week has taken it’s toll, but I believe Garcia will meet Rybarikova and the Slovak will come through.
The Acapulco champion, Timea Bacsinszky is the number four seed and has been drawn into the third quarter of the draw. The Swiss has been playing incredibly well this year, which has seen her just shy of the top 30 in the singles rankings, and in the top 15 in the race rankings. Bacsinszky will be in good form, so she’ll be a big favourite to make it to the semi finals. Yania Wickmayer offers a stern round one test, but it should be passable for the fourth seed. I have Hantuchova reaching the quarter finals to face Bacsinszky. The Slovak is in pretty good form this year, and I don’t see her losing in the second round should she beat Puig. However, with the form Bacsinszky is showing lately it’s hard not to back her living up to her seeding.
Three time champion Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova has been drawn in the bottom half with second seed Sara Errani, but they must come through some tough tests before meeting each other in the quarter finals. Pavlyuchenkova must overcome rising star Anna Schmiedlova in the opening round. The Russian loves this tournament, but the form is with her opponent, and Schmiedlova will look to use that form to cause somewhat of an upset. However, with Pavlyuchenkova’s record at this tournament, it will likely be her that pulls through to the quarter finals. Lauren Davis will entertain Sara Errani in the first round. The head to head is tied at 1-1, with Errani winning their only hard court meeting last year. The Italian is consistent but her game style is vulnerable to being completely destroyed if her opponent is on form. Davis isn’t in good form though, so it should be Errani making It through round one, and round two as well. Errani vs Pavlyuchenkova will be an interesting clash of consistent tennis vs dangerous yet inconsistent tennis. Errani is in the better form in 2015, but Pavs has won three titles here and leads the head to head 2-0. With that in mind, I will predict the Russian to overcome the world number 12 and make the semi finals.
Ivanovic def. Rybarikova in 2
Bacsinszky def. Pavlyuchenkova in 2
Ivanovic def. Bacsinszky in 3
Timea will continue her good form, but this time I don’t see the top seeded player tanking. Therefore Ivanovic pulls through to claim the title and play herself into good form heading into the Indian Wells and Miami double.