2017 WTA Charleston, Monterrey Previews & Predictions
Niall Clarke, Tennis Atlantic
After a compelling month of Premier mandatories in Indian Wells and Miami, the WTA moves to Charleston and down the border to Monterrey. Here is a preview for both of the week’s events.
The tour once again returns to the Green clay of Charleston. There is no tournament like this on the calendar and it promises to be another exciting edition of the Volvo Car Open with a wide open draw.
Madison Keys enters Charleston as the top seed but not the favourite given the surface. With her big serve and flat groundstrokes, clay can often nullify power players, but this is a faster clay court than the red clay of Europe, so Keys will be dangerous to anyone in the draw. The top seed gets a bye into round two where she could face fellow American Shelby Rogers. There could be an interesting quarter final against Naomi Osaka in the cards, providing the Japanese gets past Johanna Larsson and Shaui Zhang. Keys defeated the Japanese teenager handily in Indian Wells, and whilst I expect a closer match this time around, I expect the American to prevail.
As a former Roland Garros semi finalist, Kiki Bertens knows what it takes to succeed on clay. Can she have more success in Charleston? Bertens will be expected to make it to the quarter finals where she could face Mirjana Lucic-Baroni. The Croatian has been in good form this year, but despite that she can be streaky. However, she is the most reliable prediction in the section to make the last eight given how good her form has been. Keys in front of a home crowd could prove too powerful for Lucic-Baroni in the quarter finals.
Prediction: Keys def. Lucic-Baroni
Elena Vesnina put in a career best performance to win the Indian Wells title, but suffered a hangover in Miami where she lost in round two. Will she get back to form in Charleston? The Russian has a good draw to the quarter finals as her second round match will be against a qualifier. Jelena Ostapenko or Lauren Davis will provide a tough test in the third round, but I expect Vesnina to make it through.
Caroline Wozniacki had a good fortnight in Miami but unfortunately for her it ended in a final defeat to Johanna Konta. Can she make up for it in Charleston? Clay has never been her most successful surface, but the Dane is in good stead heading into the tournament. She will be expected to get past Louisa Chirico or Annika Beck, but Daria Gavrilova could pose a tough challenge in the third round. I have Wozniacki making the last four and setting up a great match against Keys.
Prediction: Wozniacki def. Vesnina
2004 champion Venus Williams enters Charleston as one of the favourites, but she has a tough draw ahead if she is to make it to the last eight. Laura Siegemund or Lesia Tsurenko will await in the second round, but the third is where it really heats up against former French open finalist Lucie Safarova. This is a close match to call as the Czech is naturally more suited to clay, but Venus is in better form and in front of a home crowd, so I will pick the American.
This quarter features another ex-champion, Andrea Petkovic, who is a potential second round opponent for the eighth seeded Anastasija Sevastova. The German has lost her way though and could lose in the opening round to Lara Arruabarrena. It should come down to the two seeded players in this section, and I am picking Yulia Putintseva over the Latvian. However, Venus should have too much in the quarter finals for the Kazakh.
Prediction: Venus def. Putintseva
The bottom half is headlined by Miami champion Johanna Konta, who enters Charleston fresh off her biggest title to date. Clay has not been the best surface for the Brit in the past, but the faster version of Charleston coupled with her confidence means that Konta may just be the pre-tournament favourite. She will open her campaign against Kayla Day or Alison Riske before moving on to what could be a difficult third round. Daria Kasatkina, Monica Puig and Katerina Siniakova are all capable of an upset and given the potential fatigue, that could very well happen.
That could leave the door open for a good run from Sam Stosur. The Aussie is a former French Open finalist and her game suits the clay with the heavy top spin forehand being her biggest weapon. Stosur could face former world number one Jelena Jankovic in the second round. Irina Begu is the projected third round opponent. I could see Stosur getting through this quarter and making the semi finals despite the tough draw.
Prediction: Stosur def. Kasatkina
Keys def. Wozniacki
Venus def. Stosur
Wozniacki may feel the effects of her Miami Open run so may end up losing to Keys. Venus vs Stosur is difficult to call but I am predicting Venus in the final.
Venus def. Keys
Experience will prevail in this All-American final.
The tour heads south of the border and down Mexico way for the Monterrey Open. World number one Angelique Kerber is the top seed.
The top seed is the heavy favourite to take home the title, and faces former grand slam champion Francesca Schiavone in the first round. The opening two rounds should be no problem for the German, but things will get tougher against fellow lefty Ekaterina Makarova in the last eight. The Russian has the tools to upset Kerber, but I think the top seed will advance this time around.
Prediction: Kerber def. Makarova
Carla Suarez Navarro has had a poor start to the year, but the Spaniard will look to climb back into the top 20 starting with a win in Monterrey. The fourth seed has tough matches from the get go though, as Alison Van Uytvanck awaits in the first round, then likely Eugenie Bouchard in round two. Alize Cornet is projected for the quarter finals, and with the recent struggles I can see the Frenchwoman upsetting Suarez Navarro.
Prediction: Cornet def. Suarez Navarro
Monterrey feels like a tournament for out-of-form players looking to turn their fortunes around. Caroline Garcia could be classed in that category of players needing a boost in confidence, and as the third seed she could find the wins she needs. Madison Brengle could be a tough match for the Frenchwoman in the second round, as could be Christina McHale in the quarter finals. But as a former finalist here, Garcia should be accustomed to the courts and will be favourite to make the last eight.
Prediction: Garcia def. McHale
Monterrey will also serve as a good chance for Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova to claim a title. The Russian is the second seed and will be confident of making the semi finals at the least, but her inconsistent nature may come back to haunt her. Timea Babos could take advantage and make the quarter finals herself if she plays well. This will be an interesting quarter final either way.
Prediction: Babos def. Pavlyuchenkova
Kerber def. Cornet
Garcia def. Babos
Kerber should be too much for the game Cornet in the semi finals. I favour Garcia over Babos on this court, but that is a tough match to call as both are inconsistent.
Kerber def. Garcia
A nice style contrast in the final, but surely this time the world number one will prevail. She needs a title win and with this field it should really come to Kerber. Garcia will have a good week but will collect another runners up trophy in Monterrey.