Shara-Porscha! Our 2017 @PorscheTennis Preview and Predictions
Niall Clarke, Tennis Atlantic
The Porsche Tennis Grand Prix of 2017 is not only one of the biggest clay court tournaments on the calendar, it also marks the return of Maria Sharapova from her doping suspension. Here is a run down of the draw.
World number one Angelique Kerber returns to her home country to defend the title she won last year and once again the German does not have it easy. After a first round bye, Kerber will face a tough challenge in the form of Kristina Mladenovic or Mirjana Lucic-Baroni. Both players have had good starts to the year and are among the most dangerous unseeded players in the draw.
Garbine Muguruza once labelled clay as ‘her territory’. She looked formidable last year at Roland Garros, but minus that triumph, the Spaniard has looked rather mediocre. Can she rediscover her best form on the dirt? Muguruza opens against compatriot and former doubles partner Carla Suarez Navarro before meeting Elena Vesnina or Daria Kasatkina for a place in the last eight.
On clay, Muguruza is a much bigger force to deal with, but her recent form is not great. I do not see her making it past Kerber.
Prediction: Kerber def. Muguruza
Sharapova’s return draw sees the former world number one drawn in the second quarter and set to face Roberta Vinci in the first round. It will be interesting to see what response the Russian receives and how she will play in her first match in well over a year. I think she will be victorious against Vinci, who is not great on clay, but will find Agnieszka Radwanska too much to handle in round two.
The winner of that heavyweight clash is projected to play Dominika Cibulkova in the quarter finals. The Slovak has a bye into the second round where she will face highly touted youngster Ana Konjuh. Clay is not Cibulkova’s favourite surface, but the indoor conditions suit her game and she could advance from this quarter.
Prediction: Cibulkova def. Radwanska
After battling in Fed Cup over the weekend, Johanna Konta and Simona Halep are set to meet again in Stuttgart, providing they get through the opening rounds. Halep has the advantage of a bye in round one, then it will likely be Barbora Strycova waiting in round two. The Czech faces a qualifier in her the opening round match.
Konta also faces a qualifier in her opener. The Brit is not at her best on clay, but should have enough to get through to the second round where she faces either Anastasija Sevastova or Sam Stosur. Konta will likely scrape through that one, but will find Halep too much on clay, and the Romanian will progress to the last four.
Prediction: Halep def. Konta
Karolina Pliskova has arguably been the best player of the year so far, but the Czech enters a territory that has not been kind to her. Clay has proven to be her weakest surface, but has she made the required improvements for this season? After a bye in the opening round she faces a fellow big server in CoCo Vandeweghe in round two, another player who is not great on the dirt. Pliskova should make the quarter finals, but from there it could get tough.
Svetlana Kuznetsova is a former French Open Champion and feels well at home on the dirt. The Russian faces Kiki Bertens before likely playing the story of last year’s tournament, Laura Siegemund. The German made an incredible run to the final where she ultimately would come up short against Kerber. I can’t see the same thing this year though, and Kuznetsova should have enough to make it through this quarter.
Prediction: Kuznetsova def. Pliskova
Kerber def. Cibulkova
Kuznetsova def. Halep
Kerber def. Kuznetsova
The home crowd will have a say whenever the German players are involved, and I can see them spurring Kerber to retaining the Stuttgart title.