2015 WTA Eastbourne Preview, Predictions
Niall Clarke, Tennis Atlantic
It is the final step towards Wimbledon as the players’ preparations for the third grand slam of the year come to a close before the big two weeks at SW19.
Eastbourne is the last stop before we reach Wimbledon, and it is where the players can find their form at the right moment.
The Aegon International is situated in Devonshire Park, which is Eastbourne’s oldest park and has hosted lawn tennis since the 1870’s. The facilities have been used for a host of Davis Cup ties and has been the home of the Aegon International since 1974.
Martina Navartilova has the distinction of holding the most titles at this event, winning it an incredible 11 times. Other all-time greats who took the title here include Tracy Austin, Kim Clijsters, Lindsay Davenport, Chris Evert, Justine Henin, Monica Seles and Virginia Wade.
Rising star Madison Keys was the 2014 champion. The American claimed her first WTA title beating Angelique Kerber in the final.
The Aegon International
Location: Eastbourne, England
Prize Money: $665,900
Date: June 21st- June 27th 2015
The 16 seeds who receive a first round bye (Ranking)
1. Petra Kvitova (2)
2. Caroline Wozniacki (5)
3. Lucie Safarova (6)
4. Ekaterina Makarova (8)
5. Carla Suarez Navarro (9)
6. Angelique Kerber (10)
7. Eugenie Bouchard (11)
8. Karolina Pliskova (12)
9. Agnieszka Radwanska (13)
10. Andrea Petkovic (14)
11. Elina Svitolina (17)
12. Madison Keys (18)
13. Sara Errani (20)
14. Garbine Muguruza (21)
15. Flavia Pennetta (22)
16. Sam Stosur (23)
Six of the top ten playing, 13 of the top 20 and all the seeds are seeded for Wimbledon too.
First round matches to watch:
Caroline Garcia vs Roberta Vinci:
What do you get when you put one the tour’s most talented youngster’s against a crafty and experienced Italian? The answer is this match-up between Caroline Garcia and Roberta Vinci.
Possessing a big serve and strong ground strokes, Garcia is one of the most talented players on tour, and at 21 years of age has yet to reach her peak. However the Frenchwoman is yet to mature mentally as shown by her results this year. After a disappointing loss at the French Open, Garcia took to the grass in Birmingham last week making the second round before falling meekly to Klara Koukalova.
Roberta Vinci is not the top twenty player she was, but with her crafty game and deadly slice, she can be highly dangerous on the grass. The 32 year old now has more time to focus on singles after splitting with doubles partner Sara Errani, but at this stage in her career the expectations are lower. She fared slightly worse in Birmingham than Garcia, losing in the opening round to Timea Babos.
There is always intrigue when Garcia steps on to court. Her talents will be on display, but it is a question of whether she can keep it going throughout the match. Can she cope with the Vinci slice, which can be a big weapon on the low bouncing grass courts? Conversely, can the Italian deal with her opponents serve? All questions will be answered Sunday when they step on to the court.
(WC) Naomi Broady vs Sloane Stephens
A transatlantic contest between Great Britain’s Naomi Broady and America’s Sloane Stephens will undoubtedly be of keen interest to the home crowd.
Broady has been spending most of her time playing ITF’s this year, but after receiving a wildcard into the Birmingham main draw, she defeated Alija Tomljanovic before losing to top seed Simona Halep. The Stockport native possesses a big serve which can be a huge weapon on this surface, but her movement issues and height may be an issue.
Once touted as the brightest prospect on tour, Sloane Stephens’ career has not panned out like many had hoped. Now ranked 42, Stephens is hoping she can sue the grass as a catalyst to boost her ranking back towards the top 20. This is the American’s first match since her fourth round exit to Serena Williams at the French Open. As a former Wimbledon quarter finalist, Stephens has proven she can go on the grass, and with that forehand and good movement you can see why.
Game wise, this should be a routine victory for the American however the crowd factor could make a big different. If Broady serves well with the crowd on her side then an upset is possible. I do predict a Stephens victory though, but one thing to remember is it is her first match on grass this season.
Irina Begu vs Barbora Strycova
Irina Begu is perhaps one of the more forgotten players on the tour, but her match against Barbora Strycova certainly provides interest.
Ranked number thirty in the world, Begu is having her best season to date, reaching a career high of 29 earlier this month. The Romanian had a good clay season highlighted by her quarter final run in Madrid. Her transition to grass did not start well, as she lost to Daniela Hantuchova in Birmingham last week.
Strycova is only ranked two places higher than her opponent, but she comes in with more confidence after a third round run at Birmingham last week despite a poor end to the clay season. The Czech made her big breakthrough last year, finishing inside the top 30 for the first time. Since then she has become a tricky customer for anyone on the tour.
Two Wimbledon seeds ranked so close together looking to get the perfect confidence boost before Wimbledon equals a good match. Their previous and only meeting went the way of the Romanian in Madrid, but on grass Strycova should be the favourite. Expect a tight contest between two very good players.
Defending Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova will begin her preparations as the top seed at Eastbourne. Looking to find the perfect momentum, and confidence heading in to Sw19, the world number two will kick off her tournament on the Tuesday or Wednesday as virtue of her first round Bye.
The round two opponent will be either Camila Giorgi or a qualifier, but it will most likely be the Italian, unless of course she enters Kamikaze mode. Giorgi decided to skip Birmingham after winning the Topshelf open the other week, so right now she will be full of confidence and very dangerous. She is not the type of player you want to face in your first match on grass. This will be a big hitting contest, and Kvitova will be forced to player her best tennis from the off. An upset is highly possible if the Czech is not on her game.
The third round test will likely be the winner of Barbora Strycova vs Irina Begu as 13th seed Sara Errani is not strong on the grass. Strycova is the most likely as she is the strongest grass courter of the three, but if the Czech can weave her way through this section, her tournament likely ends in round three against Kvitova or an in form Giorgi.
Carla Suarez Navarro was dumped out of Birmingham by Karolina Pliskova earlier than she would have liked, but her doubles run to the final has given the Spaniard some extra grass court preparation. After her bye in round one, Navarro will face the winner of the Stephens vs Broady match in the second round. Both present different problems. If Broady comes through I expect Suarez Navarro to be too much for the Brit, but if Stephens comes through things could get interesting. The Spaniard is not her strongest on grass, whilst Stephens has proven she can play on the lawn.
The winner will face either 11th seed Elina Svitolina, Heather Watson or Vavara Lepchenko. Svitolina will be making her first grass court appearance of the year, which means she is untested on the surface this year. The second round draw is kind to her however, especially given Watson’s elbow troubles. The consistent Ukrainian is an unknown on the grass, so it is hard to see her getting past the third round on this occasion.
Third seeded Lucie Safarova is enjoying the high life after her final run at Roland Garros- her best result to date. Now the Czech must get back to business as she prepares to defend her Wimbledon semi final points. Strong on the grass and full of confidence, Safarova should have no problems making to at least round three where Sam Stosur should be waiting.
Safarova may face a returning Dominika Cibulkova in round two, who has not played since Antwerp. Stosur on the other hand faces a bigger test from Tsvetana Pironkova, but it is one she should pass. The Czech’s new found confidence and ability on the grass should be enough to take her past Stosur whose game is perhaps more suited to hard courts and clay.
After a final run in Birmingham last week, one might wonder whether she will even show up at Eastbourne, or give 100 percent as she might be tired. But if she does, she is hugely dangerous as proven this week. With her big ground strokes and effortless power, Pliskova is suited to the grass. Her second draw is Anna Schmiedlova- who is more suited to clay, or Casey Dellacqua- who is a good player but should not trouble the Czech. Both of those matches are should-win for Plsikova and when she see’s struggling Agnieszka Radwanska as her third round opponent, the 22 year old might be able to get to the quarter final without much trouble.
Caroline Wozniacki made it to the semi-finals here last year, and the second seed will be looking to go two steps further this time around. Her section is fairly good as it is littered with qualifiers and players she should be beating. A qualifier will definitely be meeting the world number five in round two, then it should be Flavia Pennetta who will fancy herself to beat Svetlana Kuzentsova who is not in the best of form on a surface not suited to her game. Wozniacki’s 7-1 record against the Italian speaks for itself, and therefore the Dane will be expected to make it out of this section.
Angelique Kerber is in the same boat as Karolina Pliskova- they made the final of Birmingham, so how much effort if any at all will they put in to this tournament? Knowing Angie, she will put in 100 percent like she always does, but will it be enough? Coco Vandeweghe could pose problems in round two with the serve, but Kerber should have enough to overcome that weapon.
Andrea Petkovic’s injury issues mean that there is a big chance for Garcia or Vinci to make a fairly deep run here. The Frenchwoman especially is in dire need of confidence, and with an injured Petkovic and tired Kerber in her draw, the quarter finals is a possibility- if she can keep her head and emotions in check. She must of course find a way through a tricky Vinci before she can even consider a deep run, but the opportunity is there.
Ekaterina Makarova will like her section of the draw, which sees her projected round three opponent being Garbine Muguruza. The Spaniard struggles on the grass as it ruins her timing, and her movement is not good on the surface. Madison Brengle will be looking to take advantage of that in round two if she gets past a qualifier.
Makarova will either play Johanna Konta or Zarina Diyas in round two. The Brit will see that as a winnable round one, but Makarova will likely be too much for Konta. The Russian’s section looks good for her to reach the quarter finals, as she should beat Muguruza or Brengle in round three.
It has been a hard few months for Eugenie Bouchard whose slump has now reached comical levels. As a runner up at Wimbledon last year, the Canadian has proved she can play well on grass, however the form is not encouraging. It is a wonder when she will next win a match, and with a difficult round two against Alize Cornet or Alison Riske, it does not look like it will be in Eastbourne.
Defending champion Madison Keys got the best of all Wimbledon preparations last season, but an injury prevented her from making an impact at SW19. The big serving American faces a tough draw if she is to defend her title, starting with the winner of Belinda Bencic vs Mona Barthel. Bencic might have been on the receiving end of Sabine Lisicki’s record 27 aces in Birmingham, but before that she made the final of the Topshelf open.
The battle of two of the biggest prospects on tour is a very real possibility, and certainly one to watch. Keys will be favourite to make it out of this section, especially given that the other seed is a slumping Bouchard.
Kvitova def. Stephens
Safarova def. Pliskova
Keys def. Makarova
Wozniacki def. Garcia
Kvitova def. Safarova
Keys def. Wozniacki
Kvitova def. Keys
I feel Petra might reign in Eastbourne to get herself into the right gear for Wimbledon. She should make it past Stephens, and given her record against Safarova, I expect the Wimbledon champion to make the final at least.
I predict Keys to make the final and come close to defending the title only to be stopped by Kvitova. The American has the game for grass, which should be enough to overcome Makarova and over-power Wozniacki. I predict a good run for Garcia despite her form due to the kind draw, and possibility of a Keber withdrawal, but Wozniacki will be too consistent.
Kvitova seems to have a habit of stepping up in finals, and she will have too much game for Keys in the final.