2017 WTA St. Petersburg, Taipei Previews and Predictions
Niall Clarke, Tennis Atlantic
After a thrilling Australian Open which saw Serena Williams make history by winning her 23rd major title, the WTA tour heads to St. Petersburg and Taipei as many players look to bounce back from their disappointment down under. Here is a rundown of the week’s upcoming tennis.
The tour returns to Russia for the second ever St. Petersburg ladies trophy which was won last year by Roberta Vinci. Simona Halep is the top seed in a field which also features Australian Open finalist Venus Williams.
To say Halep’s Australian open was a disappointment would be an understatement. The Romanian was bundled out in the opening round as her dreams of a first Grand Slam title were put on hold once again. The top seed will look to bounce back in St. Petersburg, but she has a very tough draw ahead of her. After an opening round bye she could face promising youngster Ana Konjuh or the tricky Monica Niculescu. Daria Kasatkina faces Belinda Bencic in the pick of the opening round matches with the winner likely going all the way to the quarter finals. With Halep looking in poor form down under, the upset is very much on the cards here, and I back the home favourite to get it done.
Prediction: Kasatkina def. Halep
It is hard to predict how Venus will approach this tournament as she will likely be in need of rest after making the Australian Open final. She has an opening round bye before a potential meeting with Kristina Mladenovic in the second round and from there, we could see the effects of a big run take shape. Defending champion Roberta Vinci lands in this section and is the most likely to take advantage of Venus’ likely fatigue. She faces big-serving Timea Babos in the first round before meeting Irina Begu in round two. It is difficult to predict the Italian to not make the quarter finals, and from there I believe she will take advantage of a tired Venus to progress to the last four
Prediction: Vinci def. Venus
Many will label Svetlana Kuznetsova as the favourite as she returns to her home country. However, the third seed has a tough opening match in the second round against Daria Gavrilova. Kiki Bertens may look at this as a chance of securing a first Premier title, but the seventh seed has some tough players in her draw. Annika Beck is the first opponent followed by either Johanna Larsson or Yulia Putintseva. There are a few players who can spring a surprise and make the last eight in this quarter, but I am backing Kuznetsova to get it done with some tight matches along the way.
Prediction: Kuznetsova def. Bertens
Dominika Cibulkova will head into St. Petersburg as one of the title favourites as she looks to claim her first tournament win of the year. The Slovak has a bye into round two where she will likely face Jelena Ostapenko. The Latvian had a good Australian Open and is a dangerous player to be drawn against. Another home crowd favourite will be Elena Vesnina, who is the fifth seed in the draw. She faces fellow Russian and doubles partner Ekaterina Makarova in the opening round with the winner likely going on to a meeting with feisty Frenchwoman Alize Cornet in round two. I can see Vesnina being an early upset, but Cibulkova will have enough quality to make the final four.
Prediction: Cibulkova def. Makarova
Kasatkina def. Vinci
Cibulkova def. Kuznetsova
Kasatkina will have a good tournament this week and she will make the final after a hard fought victory against Vinci. Cibulkoa vs Kuznetsova could go either way, but I am backing the second seed to get it done.
Cibulkova def. Kasatkina
Cibulkova’s experience and power will be too much for the younger Kasatkina who puts up a good fight but ultimately falls to the higher ranked player.
The Taiwan Open is making its debut as an International event this year and boasts a decent field with Elina Svitolina as the top seed.
The top seed is the heavy favourite to take home the title and faces Evgeniya Rodina in the opening round. Kateryna Kozlova or Lucie Hradecka will await in the second round. Shelby Rogers is the other seed in this section and she’ll meet a local wildcard in her opener. The American will then likely move on to face compatriot Nicole Gibbs in the following round. My prediction is Svitolina to make it through the section without many issue. Rogers is the biggest test, but it is one she should pass.
Prediction: Svitolina def. Rogers
2017 could turn out to be a big year for Caroline Garcia, who is still waiting on a breakthrough. Winning Taipei would not grant that, but it would be a step in the right direction for the Frenchwoman. Garcia opens against qualifier Marina Erakovic before meeting Jana Cepelova or Mandy Minella in the second round. This could lead to a quarter final meeting with Jelena Jankovic, who will have to make her way through Kurumi Nara and Magda Linette to get to Garcia. I feel the at this stage of their careers, Garcia will simply have too much for Jankovic.
Prediction: Garcia def. Jankovic
Anastasija Sevastova got some of her form back at the Australian so she heads into Taipei among the favourites to go all the way. The Latvian’s first test comes in the form of Lucie Safarova in round two. The Czech is riding high after winning the Australian Open doubles title, but she has yet to re-find her top ten singles form. That said, this is a good section for her to make an impact. Sorana Cirstea or Misaki Doi are the likely quarter final opponents, depending on which one can come through. Cirstea showed some good form in Melbourne, so she is the likely choice.
Prediction: Safarova def. Cirstea
Sam Stosur took a wildcard into Taipei to search for form. Danka Kovinic will be the Aussie’s first opponent, followed by a qualifier or Francesca Schiavone. A match between two former grand slam champions will be a must-see for the local crowd, but Stosur should have the advantage at this stage. Katerina Siniakova is the other seed in this section, and she faces Galina Voskoboeva then Saisai Zeng or Shuai Peng. There are plenty of players in this section that can upset Stosur, but I see the Aussie coming through.
Prediction: Stosur def. Siniakova
Svitolina def. Garcia
Safarova def. Stosur
Svitolina vs Garcia is a an interesting style clash as counter puncher meets aggressor, but at this moment the Frenchwoman lacks the consistency to beat the Ukrainian. Stosur has a terrible head-to-head record against Safarova, so I see the Czech getting win number 12 over the Aussie.
Svitolina vs Safarova
This is a good final for an International event, but the top seed will likely prevail.