The late afternoon semifinal between the Orlando Storm and the expansion Chicago Smash should be a close match. Despite the teams sharing a 1-1 head to head record, the key to the Smash has been the monstrous doubles play of Bethanie Mattek-Sands and whatever partner with whom they team her up. Although the Storm beat the Smash, 21-16, on July 14, it was in large part due to Danielle Collins rolling over Sloane Stephens 5-0. In the loss, Mattek-Sands and Genie Bouchard managed a 5-1 victory against Pegula and Darija Jurak. When the Smash beat Orlando, 24-19 five days later, Mattek-Sands and Bouchard again beat Jessica Pegula, this time paired with Collins, by a 5-3 score.
No one expects Stephens to put in a poor performance against Jessica Pegula today and the men’s singles between Tennys Sandgren and Brandon Nakashima looks to be a draw. Pegula and Ken Skupski will have their hands full with Team Bethanie as well, with Mattek-Sands and Rajeev Ram on the other side of the net for the mixed doubles match.
Everyone’s favorite North American tennis superstar has gone all Taylor Swift on us, going on a date with a mere mortal. It all happened because she lost a Superbowl bet. Seriously, Genie, you bet on the Falcons? I think she secretly wanted this date or she had no idea about Patriots Coach Bill Belichick’s penchant to win at any cost.
Bouchard-Goehrke? Too long.
Here’s the publicists take on it:
“After losing a Super Bowl bet on Twitter, Genie Bouchard, who bet on the Atlanta Falcons to win, agreed to go on a date with a random fan. She made good on her bet by taking the fan, John Goehrke, a student at the University of Missouri, to the Brooklyn Nets vs. Milwaukee Bucks game at Barclays Center. The two enjoyed dinner in the venue’s Calvin Klein Courtside Club, and took in game from courtside seats. They even participated in a t-shirt toss!”
Even the t-shirt toss? In my country, that means you must get engaged.
And from a look at the pic below, it appears Lady Gaga was dancing on the roof of the Barclays Center last night. A sign from above, Genie. Time to settle down.
Dimitrov and Bouchard Fall on Tuesday at Citi Open Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
Fan favorites Grigor Dimitrov and Eugenie Bouchard crashed out of the Citi Open on Tuesday at the hands of Dan Evans and Camila Giorgi respectively. Dimitrov played with malaise in the afternoon heat, creating an opportunity for Evans that he seized upon. The Brit dictated with his one handed backhand and came away with a 6-4 6-4 victory in less than an hour and a half of play. Dimitrov was broken in the opening game of the match, then broken once more after breaking back. He had a chance at the end of the first set to get the match to 5-5, but failed to do so.
In the second set, it was more of the same, with Evans steady on his serve, snuffing out chances for Dimitrov. Evans attacked Dimitrov’s serve and ended up 5-2 up, and serving for the match. He had three match points serving 5-2, but Dimitrov clawed back, and made a late rally, holding at love to force Evans to serve for the match once again at 5-4. Despite the final game going to deuce, a fifth match point was finally the clincher for Evans, as Dimitrov’s baseline game simply broke down when it mattered. A woeful season continues for Dimitrov, while Evans is perhaps making his move into a regular ATP tour quality player.
Bouchard, another would be star who has had woeful results this season, fell to Giorgi 7-5 6-4. She was behind the entire first set, at one point 4-1 down, only to break back, before eventually being broken on her own serve when serving to force a first set tiebreak. In the second set, the story repeated itself, with Giorgi going 4-2 up, Bouchard breaking back, but losing her own serve at 4-5 with the match on the line. Giorgi only had one match point, but it’s all she needed to score a big win.
In other WTA results, Naomi Broady defeated Irina Falconi 6-3 6-4, Sabine Lisicki was all smiles against Kristina Kucova 6-3 7-5, Christina McHale got past the unorthodox Monica Niculescu 6-3 6-4, Tamira Paszek defeated qualifier Lauren Albanese 6-3 6-4, Monica Puig won the lone battle on the day against Oceane Dodin 6-2 4-6 6-3 in two hours, and Risa Ozaki stunned Sloane Stephens 6-2 6-1 in less than an hour. Stephens played one of her worst matches of the season, while Puig looked dominant until she didn’t against Dodin, and had to fight her way back.
In the lone ATP doubles match on the day, Lukasz Kubot and Alexander Peya won a tight battle against Brian Baker and Austin Krajicek 4-6 6-2 10-8.
As for ATP singles, there were a lot of close tiebreak matches on the day. Brian Baker needed two tiebreaks to defeat the big serving Sam Groth. Groth was poor on return, as is usual, but just a few points difference separated the two men, as a frustrated Groth easily could have been the winner instead. Fellow American Ryan Harrison didn’t play incredibly great, but he still defeated a likely jet-lagged Stephane Robert 7-6 6-3. Ivan Dodig retired down 6-2 4-2 against Yoshihito Nishioka, as he was also feeling the effects of fatigue.
Austin Krajicek lost twice on the day, as he also fell in singles at the hands of Rendy Lu, 6-1 7-6. Donald Young found himself in a tight contest with lower ranked qualifier Ernesto Escobedo, he eventually prevailed 6-4 3-6 6-3, as Escobedo had few chances in the third set to get back into the match. Tall American Reilly Opelka battled hard for what would have been a big win against Malek Jaziri, but Jaziri was steady on his own serve, despite his struggles against the American’s height. The match finished 6-7 7-6 7-6, as late in the third set, Opelka was experiencing shoulder pain and had to call the trainer. With as well as he played against an ATP tour regular, Opelka showed more than a glimpse of his potential.
Another young gun, Denis Shapovalov, put up quite the contest against an ATP regular. Lukas Lacko needed three sets against the young Canadian, winning 7-6 4-6 6-4. The first set of the match featured four breaks of serve, while the second had just one, which went against Lacko. Shapovalov tightened up his game as the match went on, while Lacko forced him to hit a lot of his one handed backhands, a lethal, but at times erratic shot for him. In the third, Shapovalov was serving to make it 5-5, but found himself broken on match point, sending Lacko into the next round by the skin of his teeth. Despite the loss, it’s clear Shapovalov has the game to compete well on the ATP tour as a young gun.
Alexandr Dolgopolov found himself in a two hour war against Jordan Thompson. Dolgo was cruising up 6-4 in the first set, and connecting on his blistering shots from both wings. He played a miserable second set however, losing it 6-1, and in the third set, he was a comfortable 5-2 up, before getting broken and eventually forced into a third set tiebreak, a tiebreak that he got ahead in, and didn’t look back, taking the match 6-4 1-6 7-6. Though he surely wished the match had been easier, Dolgopolov packed the stands with his exciting play.
In late action, Benoit Paire dominated Jared Donaldson 6-0 7-5, and Sam Querrey came back from a shock first set dropped against Bjorn Fratangelo to win 6-7 6-4 6-4. Querrey wasn’t broken in the match until late in the third set, and at that point he was still 5-3 up, and served the match out in his next service game to earn an important victory. Thunderstorms moved in late on Tuesday, interrupting Steve Johnson vs. Adrian Mannarino (4-2 for Johnson), Kristina Mladenovic vs. Samantha Crawford (6-2 1-3), and Lauren Davis vs. Shelby Rogers (4-4). Those matches will be completed today.
The tournament marches on today with big matches on both the ATP and WTA side as the top seeds take to the court.
2015 WTA Rogers Cup Toronto Preview and Predictions Niall Clarke, Tennis Atlantic
US Open preparations are now in full swing with the Rogers Cup next on the WTA calendar. The event is held in Toronto this year after being held in Montreal last season. The Premier event rotates between the two major Canadian cities, with the ATP event being held on the same week in the alternating city.
A whole host of all-time greats have won the Rogers cup. Chris Evert and Monica Seles lead the way with four titles each, followed by Martina Navratilova and Serena Williams with three. Agnieszka Radwanska in the defending champion.
The Rogers Cup
Location: Toronto, Canada
Prize Money: $2,377,305
Date: August 10th- 16th 2015
Top eight seeds who receive a first round bye (ranking)
1. Serena Williams (1)
2. Simona Halep (3)
3. Petra Kvitova (4)
4. Caroline Wozniacki (5)
5. Ana Ivanovic (6)
6. Agnieszka Radwanska (7)
7. Lucie Safarova (8)
8. Garbine Muguruza (9)
All the top players are here except Maria Sharapova, who withdrew due to a right leg injury.
First round matches to watch:
(14) Venus Williams vs Sabine Lisicki:
A big serving battle between Sabine Lisicki and 14th seed Venus Williams would have undoubtedly caught the eye of tennis fans across the world, and for good reason. This one has potential to be a barn burner if both are playing well, and could be an awesome display of power tennis.
Venus’ stint in Istanbul lasted all of one match as she would be upset by Kateryna Bondarenko in the opening round. Having not played on the American hard courts since the swing started, the world number 15’s form is unknown. The 35 year old has never won this event, but did make the final in Montreal last year.
Lisicki’s US hard court season started out with a disappointing loss to 44 year old Kimiko Date Krumm in Stanford. You never know what you will get from Lisicki, but her record in North America has been good this year with some good runs in Indian Wells and Miami.
The German leads the head to head 2-1 with the last meeting being in Beijing 2013. This match is a definition of a toss-up with the form of either player unknown, but it could turn out to be one of the best matches of the year if they both play to their capabilities.
Belinda Bencic (Photo: Chris Levy @Tennis_Shots)
Eugenie Bouchard vs Belinda Bencic:
Eugenie Bouchard will look to get out of her slump when she faces talented teenager Belinda Bencic the opening round of her home tournament.
Bouchard will undoubtedly have the support of the Toronto crowd, but her form has been nothing short of shocking this year. After lighting the tennis world up with her deep grand slam runs in 2014, the Canadian has slumped in 2015 winning only one of her last ten matches.
Bencic on the other hand continues her rise up the world rankings, and will look to prepare her US Open semi-final defence with a good run in Toronto. The Swiss won her first title in Eastbourne, and followed it up with a fourth round run at Wimbledon. She recently feel early in Washington however.
Bencic leads the head to head 1-0 with hr victory over Bouchard in Eastbourne. The 18 year old is the favourite going by form, but the home crowd could boost Bouchard back in to form. Can the Canadian find herself again, or will the slump continue?
Victoria Azarenka vs Elina Svitolina:
Two of the best unseeded players in the draw have had the misfortune of facing each other in the opening round, as former world number one Victoria Azarenka plays rising youngster Elina Svitolina.
Azarenka saw her 2014 season plagued with injury, and now with that behind her the former world number one is looking to regain her position amongst the elite. The Belarusian was scheduled to play Washington, but pulled out prior to the tournament. Therefore she has not played since losing a tight quarter final to Serena at Wimbledon. Hard courts suit Vika more than any other surface, but she has never won this event.
Svitolina will be riding fairly high after a semi-final run in Stanford. She was routine by Angelique Kerber in the final four, but it was still a good form booster for the 20 year old. The Ukrainian has aspirations of winning all four grand slams (her words), and a good start towards achieving that would be to beat a two time Australian Open champion.
Azarenka was taken to three sets in their only prior meeting in Doha earlier this year. The world number 19 ran out a 6-3, 6-7, 6-1 winner that day, though she will hope this match will be more routine. Svitolina will look to avenge that loss as she continues her ranking ascension. It should be a great battle especially in the backhand rallies which is both players’ biggest weapon. Which one will hold up best?
World number one Serena Williams is returning to action since playing only the single match in Bastad a week after Wimbledon. The top seed is preparing for an historic US Open where she could potentially achieve the calendar year grand slam and win her 22nd Grand Slam title. Williams will receive a first round BYE courtesy of her seeding and will play either Flavia Pennetta or Gabriela Dabrowski in the second round. The other seed in this mini section is Andrea Petkovic who is coming in off a loss to compatriot Mona Barthel in Stanford. The German will look to get the ‘Petko dance’ going against home favourite Francois Abanda in round one and a qualifier in round two before her likely showdown with Serena in the third round.
Seventh seeded Lucie Safarova failed to really build on her run to the French Open final during grass season, but now back on hard courts the Czech can start to re-find that Roland Garros form. Like Serena, Safarova receives an opening round BYE due to her seeding and will begin her campaign in round two against Sam Stosur or Daria Gavrilova. The Aussie showed good form in her title win in Bad Gastein, though a loss to Sloane Stephens in Washington might have dented that confidence. Karolina Pliskova- who is fresh off an excellent week in Stanford is the other seed in this section of the draw. She faces a qualifier in round one with Roberta Vinci or Karin Knapp awaiting the Czech in the second round. It is possible we could see an all Czech encounter in round three with the winner possibly facing Serena in the quarter finals.
Former champion Caroline Wozniacki is one of the bigger beneficiaries of Sharapova’s withdrawal having been granted a fourth seed as a result. Bouchard or Bencic will await the Dane after a first round BYE in one of the more anticipated second round potentials. Venus could be the third round opponent. The American has a tough draw however with Lisicki in round one and the winner of Varvara Lepchenko vs Barbora Strycova in round two.
Ana Ivanovic will be trying her hand at a new coach this week. The first test of their relationship will be against either a qualifier or Irina Begu, who has had a solid year so far. Ekaterina Makarova is the projected third round opponent, though Alison Van Uytvank could pose an interesting challenge in round two. Makarova vs Ivanovic will most certainly be a tight one.
2012 champion Petra Kvitova had a disappointing defence of her Wimbledon crown, but the third seed is back to get her season on track. She could potentially have a blockbuster round two against Azarenka if the Belarusian can survive the tough test of Svitolina in the first round. A potential for a top seed to drop out very early there. Sara Errani will look to take advantage though Kristina Mladenovic could easily spring a surprise in round one. The winner of that should make the third round, but it hard to see them going any further.
All eyes will be on eighth seed Garbine Muguruza who is playing her first tournament since making the Wimbledon final. How will she cope with the added pressure on her shoulders? First indications will be seen in the second round against a qualifier, but the first major test will come in the third round where she is projected to face Timea Bascinszky who is having a great year. Muguruza has won their two meetings this year.
Simona Halep originally planned to skip this event, but due to her bad form in recent months the world number three has taken a wildcard and will be the second seed. She will have a first round BYE, but could have a troubling second round against the winner of Caroline Garcia vs Jelena Jankovic. Angelique Kerber will be the favourite the make it out of this section, but the German could be tired after a long final in Stanford. She should make round three with both her opening two rounds being qualifiers, but fatigue and the bad form of Halep could open the door for Garcia or Jankovic to make a surprise run.
That could also open the door for sixth seed Agnieszka Radwanska to make the semi finals. The Pole has got her season back on track after an impressive grass season which has seen her re-enter the top 10. Zarina Diyas or Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova will await in round two, both of which could be troubling in different ways. Carla Suarez Navarro is the projected third round opponent but the winner of Sloane Stephens vs Dominika Cibulkova could easily upset the Spaniard.
Defending Champion Madison Keys Falls in Eastbourne Elliot Cornish for Tennis Atlantic
Belinda Bencic brought Madison Keys’ reign at the Aegon International in Eastbourne to a swift end, beating the American 6-2 6-2 in under an hour.
The Swiss youngster took full advantage of an error-strewn showing from Keys, breaking her opponent twice in each set. The defending champion failed to find any consistency on her forehand, an essential facet of her game, and hence unforced errors were aplenty throughout the match.
Bencic ensured she kept the ball in court with regularity, forcing Keys to play the extra shot, and also produced some exquisite tennis of her own, including a couple of exquisite lobs.
The win continued Bencic’s strong grass swing, backing up her final appearance in s’Hertogenbosch earlier in the month.
She said: “It feels very natural for my game [grass courts] so I don’t have to change everything. I think it suits me well.”
Britain’s Johanna Konta knocked out fourth seed Ekaterina Makarova in straight sets, in the first match of the day on Centre Court.
Konta – who is ranked 146 in the world and was wildcarded into the tournament – backed up an impressive performance over Zarina Diyas at the weekend, breaking her Russian opponent five times in a 6-2 6-4 win at Devonshire Park – her first against a top-10 player.
The Australian-born Briton was dominant on serve in the opening set, not having to face a single break point, and while Makarova pegged her back twice in the second, a crucial breakthrough at 4-4 proved pivotal, and she closed out the contest in her following service game.
“On paper it is my best-ever win,” said Konta. “I had to play some of my best tennis out there and I managed to do that.”
The victory moves her into the third round where she will take on Garbine Muguruza, who battled back from a set down to best Polona Hercog, winning the final set 6-0.
There was more British success in the form of Heather Watson’s gritty fightback to overcome Elina Svitolina, in the final match on Centre. Trailing by a set, the British number one dug in from a break down in the second to pinch it 7-5, and despite wasting one break in the final set, she took her next opportunity with the Ukrainian serving at 4-5, sealing the win on her first match point.
Eugenie Bouchard found a much-needed win over America’s Alison Riske, accelerating well after a tight first set. The opener went to a tiebreak which the Canadian won 7-5, and she broke midway through the second to record a 7-6(5) 6-3 triumph.
The 21-year-old will suffer a heavy ranking drop if she fails to defend the 1400 points she received upon making last year’s Wimbledon final, and her readiness for SW19 is sure to come under much more thorough examination in Eastbourne this week.
Bencic will play Bouchard in the last 16, and after her clinical dismissal of Keys, the latter will have to be wary since her style of play is not unlike the American’s.
Wozniacki moves through
Jarmila Gajdosova was unable to maintain her strong start as Caroline Wozniacki moved through the gears to collect a straight-sets win. The former was a break up early in the match but was broken while serving for the first set. Wozniacki then edged through a shaky tiebreak before cruising through the second 6-2.
“I know that Jarmila is a really tough opponent and I’ve had tricky matches against her in the past and she plays very powerful tennis, good serves, so for me it was all about just keeping my mental toughness and just go for the right shots,” said the former world number one.
Svetlana Kuznetsova, who won the title here in 2004, will meet Wozniacki on Wednesday after she dispatched Italy’s Flavia Pennetta 6-3 6-4.
Meanwhile, last year’s finalist and Birmingham winner, Angelique Kerber, withdrew from the event on Tuesday due to a “viral illness”. As a result, Monica Niculescu was given a spot in the main draw, but she lost to Coco Vandeweghe 7-5 2-6 6-1.
Birmingham runner-up Karolina Pliskova arrested a second-set slide to come through in straights against Casey Dellacqua. The eighth seed took the first set 6-4 but slipped 5-2 behind the Australian in the second, before rolling off five consecutive games to move through to round three.
Dominika Cibulkova’s comeback picked up pace with a 7-6(7) 6-4 victory over recent French Open finalist Lucie Safarova. The Slovakian staved off two set points on her opponent’s serve in the tiebreak before prevailing, and then an early break in the second gave her a lead she would not relinquish.
Ninth seed Agnieszka Radwanska breezed past American qualifier Irina Falconi on Court 1, winning love and two in a mere 57 minutes. The Pole, who reached the Wimbledon final in 2012, is due meet Pliskova in the next round.
Elsewhere, grass specialist Tsvetana Pironkova took out Sam Stosur in two tight sets on Court 2. The Bulgarian broke late in the first to win it 7-5, and she won all seven points in the second-set tiebreak to progress.
Sloane Stephens made sure Carla Suarez Navarro’s stay in Eastbourne was a short one, dumping out the fifth seeded Spaniard 6-1 7-5 in the second match on Court 1. Her last 16 match will be against home favourite Watson.
France’s Caroline Garcia’s continued her patchy start to the grass season as she fell easily in two sets to Germany’s Andrea Petkovic. The world number 31 was broken four times in a 6-2 6-4 loss, as the 10th seed strolled through in just one hour and 20 minutes.
Sara Errani and Daria Gavrilova also booked a third round clash after beating Barbora Strycova and Camila Giorgi respectively in deciding sets.
The Aegon International moves into the last 16 on Wednedsay with four singles matches to be played on Centre Court and Court 1.
Bouchard will open proceedings on Centre against Bencic, with Muguruza-Konta and Kuznetsova-Woznacki to follow, before Watson once again is the final match on when she challenges Stephens.
On Court 1, Cibulkova versus Pironkova will kick off the action at 11.00am. Radwanska then takes on Pliskova, with Vandeweghe and Petkovic to play match three. Gavrilova and Errani will then conclude the day.
The doubles also continues tomorrow with the top seeds set to enter the tournament. Martina Hingis/Sania Mirza are fifth on Centre Court against Hao-Ching Chan/Flavia Pennetta, while Ekaterina Makarova/Elena Vesnina are last on Court 2 when they meet Eugenie Bouchard/Marina Erakovic.
A Look at Top WTA Young Guns By Niall Clarke Niall Clarke, Tennis Atlantic
With Serena Williams capturing the French Open last weekend, I couldn’t help but think ‘Why is a 33 year old dominating the tour like this.’ After all, most athletes are past their peak when they reach the north side of thirty.
Of course, Serena is not your average athlete. She is unique, and truly one of a kind. She is arguably the best of all time, and of course with her tennis ability combined with her physical gifts you really do have a special player on your hands.
It’s not Serena’s fault that the rest of the tour can barely touch her at the moment, but you must wonder when the next generation of players will come through.
We have seen glimpses of what the likes of Eugenie Bouchard, Madison Keys and Garbine Muguruza can do, but isn’t it time these players started competing for grand slams?
After all, the Williams dominance can’t last forever. These girls may be the future faces of the WTA, and their rivalries might be sending us into the next decade.
From: Montreal Quebec, Canada
Height: 5’10 (1.78m)
Weight: 134lbs (61kg)
Plays: Right handed (two handed backhand)
Career high rank: 5 Achievements:
– Semi Finals at the Australian Open and Roland Garros (2014)
– Runner up at Wimbledon last year (L. Kvitova)
– Titles: 1 (Nurnberg 2014)
Of all the girls that appear in this article, Genie Bouchard is the one that has made the biggest breakthrough thus far. 2014 was a huge year for the Canadian, making her first major breakthrough at the Australian Open where she made the semi-finals (l. Li). She then went on to repeat that result at Roland Garros (l. Sharapova). Bouchard went on to make Canadian sporting history by becoming the first player from Canada to reach a grand slam final at Wimbledon (l. Kvitova). 2014 was also the year, where Bouchard won her first title in Nurnberg and reached a career high ranking of five in October.
Year so far:
Despite a hugely successful 2014, Bouchard has failed to cement her breakthrough in 2015. The year did not start badly, as the 21 year old made the Australian Open quarter finals but from there it seemed to all fall apart. From Indian Wells, Bouchard went on to lose six straight matches before finally breaking that duck in Rome against Zarina Diyas. She went on to lose the following round to Carla Suarez Navarro, but even more worrying was the round one exit at the French Open to Kristina Mladenovic. The failure to defend her semi final points has seen Bouchard slip outside the top 10. She currently stands 39 in the race rankings
– Early ball striking
– Ability to control opponent’s power
– Forehand technique
The curious case of Eugenie Bouchard still goes on. Once touted as the most marketable athlete in sports, Genie needs to find the way to win before that could ever come to fruition. From being labelled as the future face of the WTA last year, The Canadian is wilting under pressure and if not careful she could see herself slump further and further down the rankings.
Bouchard will likely go on to have a good career, but not to the expectations of many. The pressure is clearly affecting her performance on court, and to be frank her game could do with a lot of work too. She struggles to handle power, and her technique could do with some tweaks especially on the forehand side. IF she sorts out her current mess she will likely be top 10, and may win a grand slam or two which will be considered a success. If not then she might have one or two more big runs, and then she might head for an early retirement.
From: Odessa, Ukraine
Height: 5’9 (1.74m)
Weight: 132lbs (60kg)
Plays: Right handed (two handed backhand)
Career high rank: 17 Achievements:
– Quarter Finals at Roland Garros (2015)
– Titles: 3 (Marrakech 2015, Baku 2014, 2013)
Whilst people talk about their Keys’, Muguruza’s and Bouchard’s, they seem to forget that a young Ukrainian is slowly making her own way up the rankings. Prior to Roland Garros, Svitolina was almost the forgotten youngster but her quarter final run at the French has put everyone on alert. In 2013, Svitolina made her top 50 breakthrough finishing as world number 40. She also won her first WTA title in Baku that year. 2014 saw more improvements for the Ukrainian, as she finished inside the top 30 for the first time in her career. That was helped by defending her title in Baku and making the semi-finals of three other WTA events
Year so far:
The ever improving Svitolina has continued on the right path in 2015. Starting with a semi-final run in Brisbane (L.Sharapova), the 20 year old has rose to a career high ranking of 17 after an impressive quarter final run at the French Open. Svitolina also claimed her third WTA title in Marrakech defeating Timea Babos in the final. She currently lies 13th in the race rankings.
– Lack of fire power
– No major weapons
Svitolina has one thing that a lot of her fellow rising stars don’t have; consistency. With a solid all round game, Svitolina is perhaps the most likely of the lot to reach her full potential. The problem is, how much potential does she have? Despite the solidness, Svitolina lacks any real firepower and weapons which means she may find it difficult to topple to top players at the biggest stage.
So far, Svitolina has been slowly climbing up the rankings, and after a top 30 finish last season she is looking on course for a top 20 finish this year. Like stated previously, Elina is the most likely to fulfil her potential but unfortunately the potential isn’t as great as the others in her age group. Svitolina will be top ten, and will be around for a long time but any grand slam win would be considered a huge success.
From: Rock Island Illinois, USA
Height: 5’10 (1.78m)
Weight: 145lbs (66kg)
Plays: Right handed (two handed backhand)
Career high rank: 16 Achievements:
– Semi Finals at Australian Open (2015)
– Titles: 1 (Eastbourne 2014)
Undoubtedly the biggest hitter on this list, and perhaps on tour, Madison Keys has been touted by many to have huge success in the future. Keys first made herself known when she made the second round of the US Open as a 16 year old, but 2013 was her first major breakthrough as she made the top 40 for the first time. In 2014 the American made even more strides by winning her first title in Eastbourne which resulted in a career high ranking of 27 at the time.
Year so far:
Keys made her first big grand slam breakthrough by making the semi-finals of the Australian Open at the start of the year. That result was backed up by a final run in Charleston (L.Kerber) and career high ranking of 16 in May. Keys currently lies 16th in the race rankings.
Keys possesses so much firepower, it is hard to see her not winning a grand slam. If she catches fire for two weeks then there are few players who can handle the serve and the powerful groundstrokes. Her best chance will likely be Wimbledon where her already big first serve becomes an even bigger weapon.
Like any other player, she has weaknesses that can be exploited. The biggest is probably her movement, and with her play style consistency will also be an issue. With her weapons though, a few big grand slam runs are not out of the question.
From: Barcelona, Spain
Height: 6’ (1.82m)
Weight: 161lbs (73kg)
Plays: Right handed (two handed backhand)
Career high rank: 19 Achievements:
– Quarter Finals at Roland Garros (2014,2015)
– Titles: 1 (Hobart 2014)
2014 was a breakthrough year for Garbine Muguruza, as she announced herself as one of the brightest prospects on tour. Her 2013 season was marred by injury, but the start of 2014 couldn’t have been much better. A title win in Hobart was followed by a fourth round run in Melbourne (L.Radwanska). Her biggest result came at Roland Garros where Muguruza made the quarter finals (L.Sharapova). On her run to the last eight she inflicted Serena Williams’ biggest grand slam defeat. From there, the Spaniard stagnated and failed to build on that impressive result.
Year so far:
After defending her Australian Open points (L.Serena), Muguruza went on to represent Spain in the Fed cup for the first time. Despite her two singles victories, Spain lost to the tie to Romania 3-2. After a semi-final run in Dubai (L.Pliskova), Muguruza’s season took a downturn as she struggled to put together victories, but she found her form in time to make the quarter finals of Roland Garros for a second straight year. Muguruza is currently 16th in the WTA race rankings.
– First Serve
– Second Serve
Some people think that Muguruza all things considered has the biggest potential of this current crop of players. She has the makings of a top player, but there are a few things that need ironing out. For starters he first serve despite being a weapon is inconsistent, and recently she has been getting down on herself too easy but that might just be a confidence issue.
Garbine will probably win at least one Roland Garros title, and maybe the Australian Open. Right now it’s hard to see her winning anything big on the faster surfaces but she has time to make improvements. She has potential to do well, but I think the mental side will hold her back from ever fulfilling her potential.
From: Lyon, France
Height: 5’10 (1.77m)
Weight: 134lbs (61kg)
Plays: Right handed (two handed backhand)
Career high rank: 25 Achievements:
– Titles: 1 (Bogota 2014)
– Finalist: 2 (Acapulco, Monterrey 2015)
Roland Garros 2011, everybody was introduced to the talents of Caroline Garcia. Leading Sharapova 6-3, 4-1 Andy Murray tweeted that Garcia is a ‘future world number one’. Four years later, we are still waiting for the true emergence of the Frenchwoman. 2013 would be Garcia’s first top 100 season, rising from 114 to 99 after Roland Garros and finishing the year as world number 75. 2014 would see further improvements, being Garcia’s first top 40 season and winning her first WTA title in Bogota (d.Jankovic).
Year so far:
2015 has been a decent year for Garcia. She made the third round of the Australian Open which is her best result in Melbourne. The 21 year old also made back to back finals in Mexico, but twice lost to a resurging Timea Bacsinszky. Otherwise, it has been very erratic and inconsistent which has become somewhat expected from her. Garcia currently is ranked 22 in the race rankings.
– All round game
– Mental fragility
Of the five assessed so far, Garcia is perhaps the most talented of the lot. Unfortunately she is also the worst mentally. Despite possessing a great all round game with a fantastic serve, Garcia has not yet found a way to put it all together. Her shot selection (especially on return) is often times questionable, and she has stated herself that the pressure of playing on Phillip Chatrier court is too much for her to handle.
If Caroline Garcia can get a coach to work with her instead of just having her dad there, then I feel she can make great strides. Having someone to help with game planning and the mental side of the game will only benefit Garcia in the long run and help get the maximum out of her great talent. Right now, I feel she might be top ten with a few big grand slam runs. If she can get a coach, or mature as a player then who knows what she might achieve.
Belinda Bencic: At 18 years old, Bencic is slightly younger than the other players mentioned in this article. But being ranked 33 in the world she is certainly among them. The talented Swiss made her big breakthrough at the US Open last year, making the quarter finals, which helped her rise to the top 40. Her main weapon is the backhand but her game still needs ironing out. Right now it’s too early to really predict how far she will go but I will say top 10 at least for now.
Zarina Diyas: Diyas is solid, consistent and still young. At 21 there is still time for improvement, but with the Kazakh’s lack of any major weapons it’s difficult to see her rising any higher than the top 20. Her ceiling is quite low compared to the rest, but she is the closest to fulfilling her potential at the moment.
Anna Schmiedlova: The ever improving Slovak won her first WTA title in Katowice this year and made the final is Rio. Schmiedlova suits the clay courts very well and will likely have a fair level of success on the dirt, it’s whether she can adapt her game to other surfaces that will determine her level of success.
2015 French Open Week 1 Women’s Preview and Predictions (@RolandGarros) Niall Clarke, Tennis Atlantic
2015 French Open Women’s Preview
It’s finally time for the pinnacle tournament of the clay court season, the second grand slam of the year, The French Open.
First held in 1881, the French Open was originally held in Paris’ Stade Francais club, and only accepted French club members. It was until 1925 that the French Tennis Federation allowed overseas entrants. In 1928, it was decided that the tournament needed a new site and thus it moved to the Porte d’Auteuil, where it has stayed ever since. 40 years a later after seeing victors from across the world, the French Open became the first Grand Slam to embrace professionalism.
From then a whole host a champions lifted La Coupe Suzanne Lenglen, with the likes of Martina Navratilova, Steffi Graf, and Chris Evert winning multiple titles in the following years. In the following decades, Monica Seles, Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, Justine Henin and Serena Williams captured multiple French Open titles. Most recently Maria Sharapova lifted La Coupe Suzanne Lenglen for the second time in 2014, defeating Simona Halep in a classic final. Her previous triumph came two years earlier. Serena Williams won the title in 2013.
French Open Tier: Grand Slam Location: Paris, France Surface: Clay Prize Money: $15,980,135 Date: May 24th- June 7th 2015
Top 8 seeded players (Ranking)
1. Serena Williams (1)
2. Maria Sharapova (2)
3. Simona Halep (3)
4. Petra Kvitova (4)
5. Caroline Wozniacki (5)
6. Eugenie Bouchard (6)
7. Ana Ivanovic (7)
8. Carla Suarez Navarro (8)
The only main draw player out of the tournament is Kateryna Kozlova. All the top players are entered into the main draw.
(15) Venus Williams vs Sloane Stephens:
I am sure this stood out to everyone who has looked at the full draw. Venus vs Sloane, with a potential round four with Serena at stake? That is quite the Hollywood blockbuster.
Venus Williams has only played one clay court tournament leading up to the French Open, and that was Rome two weeks ago. The world number 15 made the round of sixteen before slumping to a 6-2, 6-1 defeat at the hands of Simona Halep. Clay has traditionally been the weakest surface for Venus, but she is a former finalist at Roland Garros 13 years ago. On that occasion she lost to her sister Serena in straight sets. The 34 year old lost to Anna Schmiedlova in a crazy second round last year, which also saw her sister lose that same day.
Sloane Stephens is still going strong in Strasbourg as I write this. The American is currently in the semi-finals with potential to go all the way and win it. The 22 year old was once touted the future of women’s tennis, but she has failed to live up to them expectations, and now finds herself ranked 41 in the world. After a good run in Strasbourg, Stephens will be full of confidence heading into this match. Stephens has made the fourth round in her past three French Open appearances, so she knows her way around Roland Garros.
These two have never met before even though they were touted to face each other in Miami two years ago. The match should be very forehand orientated, with both players looking to dictate from that wing. In an extremely packed section, this is the round one highlight and should produce a very interesting and potentially great match that could go either way.
(6) Eugenie Bouchard vs Kristina Mladenovic:
2014 semi-finalist Eugenie Bouchard has failed to bring her 2014 form into this season, and as a result, the Canadian is in a mini slump. With semi-final points to defend it’s time for Genie to kick into gear, but unfortunately for the sixth seed she has drawn home crowd favourite Kristina Mladenovic in the opening round.
Bouchard’s performances in the biggest tournaments earned the Canadian a top eight seeding, but this year has thus far been a poor one for Genie. Starting from Indian Wells, Bouchard lost six straight matches. The losing streak was finally snapped in Rome, where Bouchard managed to defeat Zarina Diyas in straight sets. The Canadian lost to Carla Suarez Navarro in the following round, but she took the inform Spaniard to three sets, which was encouraging signs for the Genie army. Bouchard’s impressive run to the semi-finals was halted by eventual champion Maria Sharapova last year.
Kristina Mladenovic is still going strong in Strasbourg, as she guns for her first career title. The 22 year old is in good form, and in front of a home crowd when she faces Genie Bouchard, and that is why this match is so interesting. The Frenchwoman is no stranger to upsetting top players at Roland Garros as she dumped former champion Li Na out last year in the opening round. Mladenovic’s run to the third round last year is her best result at her home grand slam. If she is to go one further, she must upset Bouchard in the opening round.
This match is a must watch because of the sheer upset potential. Bouchard is not in great form, and Mladenovic is in good form. Couple that with the French crowd being completely behind the world number 54, Mladenovic could easily upset Bouchard like she upset Li Na last year.
(7) Ana Ivanovic vs Yaroslava Shvedova: To continue the upset trend, Ivanovic has been dealt a round one clash against the enigma known as Yaroslava Shvedova.
Ivanovic’s resurgence towards to the top of the rankings has stagnated in recent weeks. The Serbian has found herself 2-3 so far in the clay season, which is a poor record for a top eight player. Most recently, the former world number one lost to Daria Gavrilova in three sets in Rome. Despite the recent form, one would be a fool to count Ivanovic out. She is a former champion at Roland Garros, so she knows what it takes to go the distance. With a top eight seeding, the Serbian will look to go further than the round of 32 where she fell last year.
Shvedova fell a round earlier in 2014 to Pauline Parmentier, and the Kazakh’s recent form is not encouraging. However, Shvedova is a former two time quarter finalist at this event and with her known talents, she can beat almost anybody in the world on her day. The 27 year old has lost three straight matches on the clay, but she can peak at any time as shown by her 2012 run from qualifying all the way to the quarter finals. That run included a three sets win over then defending champion Li Na.
The potential of Shvedova to randomly peak against an out of a form Ivanovic makes this match very intriguing. The Kazakh has the talent to blast her opponent off the court, but of course she has to find some good form for that to happen. The head to head reads 1-1, so both players know how to beat the other. Look out for this one because it could be interesting.
Where do I start with this one? The world number one Serena Williams has been dealt with a tough section, which could see her play Victoria Azarenka and sister Venus before the quarterfinals. The path to round three looks relatively simple for the top seed, but when the round of sixteen beckons things will get very interesting. Only a few weeks ago in Madrid, Victoria Azarenka came within millimetres of defeating the world number one. Three match points on serve came and went, and soon a deflated Azarenka fell in the tiebreak. With a potential rematch on the horizon, the Roland Garros crowd will be relishing the opportunity to see the rematch.
The winner of that epic round three encounter could face either Sloane Stephens or Venus Williams In the round of sixteen. The American pair will compete in the pick of the opening round matches. The winner might be favourite to make the fourth round against Serena or Vika, but Barbora Strycova might have something to say about it. The 22nd seed has a crafty game, and could easily catch Venus or Sloane off guard. First, the Czech must defeat Tsvetana Pironkova and the winner of qualifier/Allertova in round two. Either way, Williams or Azarenka will have a difficult round four opponent.
Caroline Wozniacki comes into Roland Garros with no points to defend after around one defeat to Yania Wickmayer last year. However the fifth seed has shown improvements on her worst surface under the tutelage of Aranxta Sanchez Vicario, making the final of Stuttgart and the quarter finals in Madrid. Dangerous Italian Karin Knapp is the round one opponent, and then the Dane will be tested by a big serve in round two as she will face either Coco Vandeweghe or Julia Goerges. The projected round three is Jelena Jankovic, but the Serb pulled out of Strasbourg in the build up to Roland Garros so her condition is unknown. That could open the door for a qualifier or Irina Falconi to make the third round. With Wozniacki’s improvements on clay it’s difficult to see her not making the fourth round unless a Vandeweghe or Goerges zone in.
As well as Jankovic, Andrea Petkovic pulled out of Nurnberg this week citing injury, so the German’s condition is also unknown. Susan Rogers in round one or Cristina McHale in round two will look to take advantage of any potential injuries to the world number ten, but the biggest beneficiary will be former finalist Sara Errani. The Italian was runner up in 2012, and has proven hugely difficult to hit through on the clay. Alison Riske will test the defence of Errani in round one, as will Carina Witthoeft in round two, but the world number 17 should grind her way through. Petkovic’s unknown injury status will make Errani the favourite to make the fourth round and potentially face Caroline Wozniacki in a match between two of the best movers on tour.
After triumphing in Madrid, many people put Petra Kvitova as one of the favourites for the French Open title. But with Petra you never know, and with some dangerous seeds in her section such as Timea Bacsinszky, Irina Begu and Madison Keys, there’s potential upset in the early rounds. Kvitova opens against Marina Erakovic, before moving on to either Sylvia Soler Espinosa or Pauline Parmentier. Irina Begu’s recent good form was highlighted by a straight sets victory over Angelique Kerber in Rome, and a quarter final run in Madrid. Her great run in the Spanish capital was halted by her projected round three opponent Petra Kvitova. The Czech was successful in straight sets that time around, and you would expect the word number four to repeat that success here.
Round four will be interesting choose which way it goes. Bacsinszky vs Keys will be the projected and likely round three, but there are plenty of players who could spoil that party by defeating the American and the Swiss in the opening rounds. Belina Bencic, or Daniela Hantuchova could face Keys in round two providing she defeats Vavara Lepchenko in round one. Bacsinszky faces tough opposition in the form of Lara Arruabarrena whose good form as earned her a semi-final position in Nurnberg. The Swiss’ good form has somewhat faded, making her more prone to an upset. Despite that, she should at least make round three and potentially round four. Kvitova will rightfully be favourite to advance from this section, but there will be potential banana skins in there.
Section four is wide open for a surprise quarter finalist. The top seed in this section is Eugenie Bouchard, whose recent form and first round opponent makes her prone to an upset. If Mladenovic can capitalise on the Canadian’s poor form and the home crowd advantage, the section will open up hugely. A Mladenovic, Schmiedlova or Diyas could find themselves in the fourth round if they can successfully get through the opening rounds.
Perhaps the favourite to advance from this section is 2009 champion Svetlana Kuznetsova, who re-discovered her grand slam winning form with a final run in Madrid. A leg injury that hampered her against Kvitova forced the Russian to withdraw from Rome, but with two weeks rest behind her Kuznetsova will be prime and ready for the French Open. An interesting round three against Karolina Pliskova stands out as one of the better potential third round clashes. The big hitting Czech is having her best season to date as she continues her climb towards the top ten. Kuznetsova on clay is a difficult task, but with the Russian’s known inconsistencies there is a good chance that Pliskova could make a quarter final run.
Simona Halep’s bid for her first grand slam title continues as she reaches the place where she made her first grand slam final. Maria Sharapova proved too much last year, but with that experience can the world number three take that final step towards Grand Slam success? To do so she may need to face the woman who spectacularly knocked her out of Madrid a few weeks ago, Alize Cornet. Providing Halep gets past Rodina and then the winner of Lucic Baroni/Davis, the Frenchwoman could be staring at a rematch, only this time in front of a home crowd. Cornet has a difficult round one against Roberta Vinci, and then Alexandra Dulgheru will provide a tough test in round two. With this being a grand slam you would expect Halep to have that extra motivation to get her through to round four.
Her opponent at this stage is projected to be Agnieszka Radwanska, but the Pole’s decline in form this year has seen her fall outside the top 10 for the first time in years. Radwanska could face a succession of Germans in round one and two with Annika Beck and Mona Barthel waiting in the wings. Things will get interesting for the Pole in the third round where Elina Svitolina could be waiting. The Ukrainian has Yania Wickmayer in round one, who upset Li Na at this stage last year. If Svitolina can get past the Belgian and her round two opponent, we could be treated to an intriguing round three match between two consistent baseliners. The winner will have a round four match against Simona Halep, who should prove too strong.
Ana Ivanovic hasn’t had the best of clay seasons so far, and drawing one of the WTA tours most erratic yet dangerous unseeded players may just make it worse. Former quarter finalist, Slava Shvedova will be gunning for the upset, and even if Ivanovic overcomes that test, she’ll have an even bigger one in round three. Caroline Garcia defeated the Serbian three times in a row in Mexico and Stuttgart. With that in mind, the Frenchwoman upsetting Ivanovic for the fourth straight time doesn’t seem unreasonable.
The recent good form of Carla Suarez Navarro saw Ekaterina Makarova lose her top eight seeding, but despite being the number nine seed the Russian has a good draw to possibly make the quarter finals. The first two rounds should provide no problem for Makarova, but the third round might give the world number nine her first real test. Shuai Peng is the projected opponent, but the Chinese player has struggled with injuries that have seen her not have much clay practice leading in to the tournament. That could open the door for Elena Vesnina or Kirsten Flipkens to make the third round. It would be surprising to see Makarova not make the fourth round, and with Ivanovic prone to an upset in the first three rounds, she could find herself the favourite to make the last eight. Makarova and Vesnina are frequent doubles partners.
Maria Sharapova will open her defence against Kaia Kanepi in what could be a tough first round match-up for the second seed. Kanepi is a former top 20 player, so if the Estonian can channel that form she will provide the defending champion a difficult test. From there, the Russain shouldn’t have a difficult test until round three where she could face Sam Stosur. Sharapova has a commanding head to head of 14-2 over Stosur, but the Aussie pushed the second seed to three sets last year.
Lucie Safarova is the likely fourth round opponent of Sharapova. The Czech faces the inconsistent Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the first round, and then likely faces Kurumi Nara in round two. Sabine Lisicki is touted for the third round, but the German aggressive style leaves her prone to errors, especially against her first round opponent Monica Puig. The Puerto Rican has struggled this year, but if she can stay consistent she can frustrate an out of for Lisicki. Sharapova vs Safarova will be a good round four clash, which has potential to go three sets, but as Sharapova has shown over the years, she has the fight and determination to get through these difficult three set matches. I expect more of the same there.
Carla Suarez Navarro’s excellent final run in Rome has earned the Spaniard an eighth seed position, but that has not made for an easy draw with the potential of facing Flavia Pennetta, Angelique Kerber and doubles partner Garbine Muguruza. First, Navarro faces crafty Romanian Monica Niculescu. The Spaniard should have too much experience to fall for the spin variation that Niculescu provides. Virginie Razzano in round two could be interesting with the Frenchwoman no stranger to upsets at Roland Garros. In 2012, she knocked out Serena Williams in a dramatic encounter, but I don’t see it repeating against Suarez Navarro. Pennetta will likely await in round three, but with Carla’s recent form, anything less than a round four appearance will be disappointing.
From the round of 16 onwards it will get very interesting for the world number eight. Angelique Kerber vs Garbine Muguruza could be an interesting round three clash providing they can weave their way through some difficult round two clashes. Kerber opens against Timea Babos, before moving onto an Australian clash against either Casey Dellacqua or Alija Tomljanovic. Muguruza on the other hand faces a qualifier in round one and then the winner of the Camila Giorgi vs Tatjana Maria. The Spaniards recent form has been concerning, and it almost feels she needs a good run here with quarter final points to defend. The round two match I feel is key to her tournament, as Muguruza needs momentum and confidence for a good run. She can blast Kerber off the court as proven earlier this year, even though she eventually went on to lose the match. Either way it should be a fascinating round four against Carla Suarez Navarro for either Kerber or Muguruza.
Round of 16:
Serena d. Stephens
Wozniacki d. Errani
Kvitova d. Bacsinszky
Kuznetsova d. Schmiedlova
Garcia d. Makarova
Halep d. Radwanska
Suarez Navarro d. Muguruza
Sharapova d. Safarova
Serena d. Wozniacki
Kvitova d. Kuznetsova
Halep d. Garcia
Sharapova d. Suarez Navarro
Serena d. Kvitova
Halep d. Sharapova
Final: Serena d. Halep
With the tough draw, Serena will be tested early and therefore will be ready when the latter stages come around. I see either Serena losing to Azarenka or going all the way, and I chose the latter because it is the safer bet. That is unless Kvitova repeats her Madrid performance and defeats the world number one for the second straight time
Halep will get revenge of Sharapova for last year’s final defeat, but yet again she will fall at the last hurdle as Serena will be too much to handle.
The draw has opened up for a surprise quarter final run by Garcia, but Halep will prove too difficult to hit through on the clay. Kuznetsova will also have a good run.
So Serena will be the Queen of Roland Garros yet again according to my predictions, but it should be an interesting tournament none the less.
60 Second Interview with @GenieBouchard at @FamilyCircleCup #FCC2015 Steve Fogleman, Tennis Atlantic
I got a little nervous on Saturday when Genie Bouchard pulled up in practice and gingerly walked off the court with some sort of apparent pain in her right leg. Her camp seemed pretty concerned about it at the time, but there was no sign of trouble when we caught up with Genie on Monday at media hour at the Family Circle Cup in Charleston, South Carolina.
Genie Bouchard (C) Tennis Atlantic
On the change of agent and coach
I think you almost have to expect sometimes that things won’t get worse, but maybe you’ll have a bit of a down before you have an up, especially with a coaching change. I think maybe that’s what happened a little bit. Change is hard. You have to adapt and get used to new things. You kind of get thrown out of your routine and maybe you’re put more into an uncomfortable position. But that’s what I wanted. I wanted something new to take me to a different level. I’m very happy that I made it, I’m liking the changes I did.Now I just need to keep going with it and everything will get better
On the practice situation
“It was more of a scare than anything else. As an athlete, you always freak out if something happens, especially a traumatic event on the court when you fall a little bit. But I’m fine for now.”
2015 WTA Antwerp (@WTAdiamondgames) and Pattaya City Previews and Predictions Niall Clarke, Tennis Atlantic
The WTA tour took a week long break following the conclusion of the Australian Open, so the first round of the Fed Cup could be played. And after an exciting weekend of nationalistic action, the tour is back with visits to Belgium and Thailand, both are hard court events with Antwerp indoors and Pattaya City outdoors.
2015 WTA Antwerp Preview
The tour returns to Antwerp for the first time since 2008 for the BNP Paribas Fortis Diamond games. The tournament director is none other than Belgian tennis legend Kim Clijsters, who won this title 11 years ago. Other previous champions include former grand slam champions: Venus Williams, Justine Henin, and Amelie Mauresmo. So who will join them on the honours list this year?
BNP Paribas Fortis Diamond Games
WTA Premier Series
Feb 9-Feb 15, 2015
Prize Money: $731,000
Top 4 seeds (Who receive first round byes) (WTA ranking in parentheses)
Four top 15 players get byes into the second round making it a fairly strong field.
First round matches to watch:
(5)Carla Suarez Navarro vs. Camila Giorgi
These two met in Katowice last year, and it was the big hitting Italian who came out on top 7-6,6-4. Despite that, Suarez Navarro will head into this match as the bookies favourite as she’s the higher ranked player and more experienced of the two. The Spaniard is a rare player in that she plays with a single handed backhand. It’s a shot that will be crucial if she is to overcome Giorgi as the Italian is one of the biggest hitters on tour. The 23 year old will look to dictate from the baseline with her powerful ground strokes, whilst on the other side of the net, Suarez Navarro will look to use her variety to move Giorgi around the court and not let her slip into any rhythm. A contrast of form, and style here, so this should be an interesting match the follow.
(7)Alize Cornet vs. Belinda Bencic
Bencic hasn’t had the best of starts to 2015. In fact she has yet to win a single set so far this year, but don’t let that stat fool you; the girl is still very talented. The world number 37 faces world number 19 Alize Cornet in the opening round in Antwerp. Cornet has lost 2 tour matches this year to Agnieszka Radwanska and Dominika Cibulkova, but unlike her opponent she has also won two matches, both of which at the Australian Open. The two met in the Fed Cup last year with Cornet coming out on top, but the landscape has changed since then. Bencic has improved, meaning this match has potential to be a good one, if the Swiss’ form has improved of course.
The number one seed Eugenie Bouchard has the fortune of a bye to the second round. She will meet either Mona Barthel or a qualifier in her first match under new coach Sam Sumyk. It will be too early to see any improvements, but it’s still interesting to see where the Canadian’s form lies after the Australian Open. Barthel can be dangerous, especially from the backhand side, but she’s still finding form after an injury. In the second section of this quarter, Cornet will be the bookies favourite, but there’s a lot of talent who could send the Frenchwoman packing. Belinda Bencic is in terrible form, so it’s hard to back her against the 7th seed, Cornet. Awaiting her will be the winner of Yania Wickmayer and Barbora Zahalova Strycova. The Belgian is in good form after making the fourth round in Melbourne, and will no doubt have the backing of the crowd. Strycova is the better player overall however, and has made a positive start to the season. With the home crowd behind her, I can see Wickmayer defeating her higher ranked opponent in the first round. But the Belgians will be disappointed to see her lose to Cornet in round two. Bouchard should make the quarter finals without much trouble to face the Frenchwoman for a semi final spot. Power players seem to give Bouchard the most trouble, but Cornet isn’t a big hitter. I feel Bouchard will make the semi final from this quarter.
Third seed Andrea Petkovic headlines the second quarter, and like Bouchard, The German has a bye to the second round. She will face either wildcard Alison Van Uytvanck or Magdalena Rybarikova in round two in a match the 27 year old should expect herself to win, no matter who she faces. Sixth seed Dominika Cibulkova is the other seeded player in this section. The 2014 Australian Open runner up will face a qualifier in round one before likely meeting Tsevtana Pironkova in round two. The Bulgarian met Cibulkova at the Australian Open, but unfortunately it was rather a blowout for the Slovak. 6-2,6-0 was the final result, so I will favour Cibulkova to make the quarter finals here. The German leads the head to head 2-1, with their last two meetings ending in straight sets wins for Petkovic. But Cibulkova is in far better form at the moment, so I feel she should make the semi finals.
Second seed Angelique Kerber is the only other top 10 player in the draw, and the German receives a bye into round two. Klara Koukalova will likely await the world number nine there, as the Czech faces a qualifier in round one. Koukalova has only won one match in 2014, and with Kerber being overall the stronger player, the German should make the quarter finals without much fuss. Fifth seed Carla Suarez Navarro finds herself in this quarter, and has a tough round one prospect in Camila Giorgi. The Italian is in the better form, and won their last meeting so I can see the Spaniard taking an early exit. Belgium will pin their hopes on former Wimbledon semi finalist, Kirsten Flipkens to take the title in Antwerp, but she faces crafty Romanian Monica Niculescu in round one. Only two places separate them in the rankings, but with the head to head 2-0 in favour of the Belgian I will go with Flipkens to make round two with the home crowd backing her. Giorgi vs Flipkens will be interesting, as the Belgian has the fans and the head to head on her side. In good form, Giorgi is just very powerful and dangerous so I will predict the Italian to make the Quarter Finals. That will set up the first meeting between Camila Giorgi and Angelique Kerber. This match will be the classic big hitter vs counter puncher encounter and therefore it will be interesting to see which style wins. I think this one has three sets written all over it, and I will predict a come from behind win for Kerber. Something we have come to expect from the German recently.
Number four seed Lucie Safarova receives a bye into round two where she’ll face either Kristina Mladenovic or Silvia Soler-Espinosa. Mladenovic shouldn’t have many problems dispatching her Spanish opponent to meet Safarova in round two. Safarova lost to Yaroslava Shvedova in Melbourne so isn’t in great form, but she should have enough about her to power through the Frenchwoman and reach the quarter finals. Rising star Karolina Pliskova will look to make it a great two weeks for the family. Her sister Kristyna won the Glasgow ITF event this week, and Karolina will look to do the same in Antwerp. The 8th seed faces experienced Mirjana Lucic-Baroni in the opening round. If Pliskova can show the form that lead her to the Sydney final then she shouldn’t have much trouble making the quarter finals. It will likely be Annika Beck in the second round, who is a good solid player, but the German doesn’t really have many weapons to trouble the Czech. I believe we will see an all Czech quarterfinal, which will undoubtedly be a big hitting contest. My prediction will be Pliskova because she showed better form in Australia, and Safarova is very inconsistent.
Semis: Cibulkova d. Bouchard in 3 sets
Kerber d. Pliskova in 3
Cibulkova showed good form at the Australian Open, and I expect her to continue her good play here. Cibulkova hits the ball hard and Bouchard has shown she can be prone to players who can over-power her.
Pliskova defeated Kerber in Sydney, but I can’t see that performance being replicated here. The likely outcome is that the German grinds down the Czech for a three set win.
Kerber d. Cibulkova in 3
This is a good chance for Kerber to win her first title of the season, and I believe she will take it. The German lost early in Melbourne, so she’ll use this tournament to put herself back on track.
the Thailand open has grown in stature since its debut on tour in 1991. In 2009 the event was upgraded to an International from a tier IV tournament. Previous champions include the likes of Cochita Martinez, Daniela Hantuchova, and Vera Zvonareva. Last years edition was won by Ekaterina Makarova.
PTT Thailand Open WTA International Series
Pattaya City, Thailand
Feb 9-Feb 15. 2015
Prize Money: $250,000
(3)Zarina Diyas vs. Daniela Hantuchova
Third seed Zarina Diyas could have hardly asked for a tougher draw in round one than Daniela Hantuchova. The pair met in Hobart, and Diyas was victorious in straight sets, however Hantuchova’s form has improved since, and she’s a former champion here, so this one should be a closer encounter. Diyas has stagnated since making a climb up the rankings last year, with her main issue being her incapability to beat higher ranked opponents. The young Kazakh is fairly good at handling lower ranked players though, so I think she’ll win yet again, but it will be harder than last time.
(2)Elina Svitolina vs. Kimiko Date-Krumm Not all matches to watch are on the basis on how competitive they are. The story of Date-Krumm just keeps going on and on, just like her career. The Japanese start turns 45 this year, and yet she is still playing in the main draws at WTA events. Her opponent Elina Svitolina is young enough to be her daughter, and the Ukrainian leads the head to head 1-0. Svitolina should win this comfortably on her title quest, but it’s always great to see Date-Krumm on court.
Headlining the top half of the draw will be world number 21 Shuai Peng. The 29 year old should have no problems reaching the quarter finals, as none of her potential opponents before that stage should offer any problems. The other seeded player in this quarter is young gun Monica Puig. The number seven seed showed some promise in 2014, but like Diyas, hasn’t kicked on since. The Puerto Rican has a tough round one against talented Swiss Stephanie Voegele. The head to head is 2-1 in the favour of Puig, so it’s hard not to back her here. A Voegele win wouldn’t be any sort of surprise however. The likely round two opponent will be Elena Vesnina, who has fallen down the rankings since reaching a career high 21 in 2013. Puig is currently the better player, so I expect her to reach the quarter finals. I don’t see the young star going any further though, as she’ll likely fall to top seed Peng in the quarter finals.
Fourth seed Kurumi Nara will start her tournament against local wildcard Nicha Lertpitaksinchai. I predict Yulia Putintseva to meet the Japanese in round two, where I’d expect Nara to be too good for the Kazakh. Jarmila Gadjosova is the sixth seed and will face a qualifier in round one. Facing a qualifier is always a lottery because there are a lot of dangerous players who are lower ranked on the WTA tour, but I am not sure there are many who could beat the Aussie. Ajla Tomljanovic wil be her probable round two opponent. This will be interesting as it’s an all Aussie clash, and there’s a fair chance of an ‘upset’ here. Either way both like to strike the ball hard, and it should be a tight battle. I believe the winner would beat Nara, who has a steady game but lacks real weapons. If I had to predict a winner from this quarter I will go for Gadjosova, as she is in good form after the Fed Cup.
Second seed Elina Svitolina is the favourite for the title in many people’s eyes. She should beat 44 year old Kimiko Date-Krumm in the opening round without too much trouble. In the second round I believe she’ll face Marina Erakovic. The New Zealander won their last meeting in 2013, but Svitolina is much improved since then so I expect the young Ukrainian to make the quarter finals at least. The other seed in this section is Shuai Zhang. She’ll face an out of sorts Donna Vekic in the opening round, and with the Croatians recent form at the Fed cup, I predict Zhang to win comfortably. Former Wimbledon finalist Vera Zvonareva has received a Wildcard into the main draw, and she hasn’t got a bad draw. I’d actually make her the favourite to reach the quarter finals where she will likely loose to the consistent Elina Svitolina.
Zarina Diyas is the third seed here, and the favourite to advance from her quarter, but there is some tough competition for her in this section. Firstly the Kazakh must work her way through Daniela Hantuchova. As I touched on in my matches to watch section, this should be closer than their previous meeting, but I expect Diyas to be too consistent for the Slovak. Sasai Zheng will await in the second round. Zhang played well in Shenzhen, even defeating Diyas in the quarter finals. The Chinese player hasn’t won a match since however. Their last match was close, so I will go with Diyas in three to make the quarter finals. There I predict her to meet fifth seed Yaroslava Shvedova. The talented Kazakh is one of the most dangerous players on tour, and recently had a decent run in Melbourne. In this all Kazakh clash we will see a mix of styles as Shvedova looks to be aggressive whilst Diyas will look to be consistent and counter Slava. With Shvedova’s recent form I believe she will have enough about her to beat Diyas on this occasion.
Gadjosova d. Peng in 2
Svitolina d. Shvedova in 3
Gadjosova pushed the Germans to their limits in the Fed Cup, so comes into this tournament in good form. Peng is consistent, but Gadjosova possesses the bigger weapons so I will predict the Aussie to win in 2 sets. Shvedova vs Svitolina will likely be a close battle, but with Shvedova’s tendency to struggle to close matches out from winning positions, I expect the Ukrainian to prevail from a set down.
Tennis Atlantic’s hosts Steen Kirby and Courtney Massey were joined by Tennis Atlantic life on tour player Jean-Yves Aubone, Joey Hanf of The Tennis Nerds, and Valerie David of Tennis Inside Out to discuss the halfway mark of the 2015 Australian Open on the men’s and women’s side. Watch the crew break down all the action during the first week of the tournament, and analyze the week ahead in Melbourne, including picks for champion on both the men’s and women’s side. Nick Kyrgios, Tim Smyczek, Roger Federer’s loss to Andreas Seppi, Andy Murray, Denis Kudla, Madison Keys, and more were all topics of discussion among our analysts.
Thanks for watching and enjoy the rest of the Australian Open! We’ll be back next with a new panel and a break down of everything AO week 2.