WTA Nurnberg, Strasbourg Previews and Predictions
Niall Clarke, Tennis Atlantic
The WTA tour makes its last stop before the French Open with two tournaments in France and Germany this week.
With the second grand slam just around the corner, the week’s featured players will be looking to build form and momentum in time for Roland Garros.
With clay court tournaments in Nurnberg and Strasbourg respectively, this will be the perfect time to prepare for the French Open with most of the top players resting after a long two weeks in Rome and Madrid.
The Nurnberger Versicherungscup was first added to the calendar two years a go. Simona Halep won the inaugural event, and in the process captured her first WTA title. Eugenie Bouchard also won her first title at this event last year, so the tournament does have pedigree.
Location: Nurnberg, Germany
Prize Money: $ 226,750
Date: May 17th – May 23rd 2015
The eight seeded players:
1. Andrea Petkovic (9)
2. Angelique Kerber (11)
3. Sabine Lisicki (22)
4. Roberta Vinci (44)
5. Anna Schmiedlova (46)
6. Karin Knapp (51)
7. Kurumi Nara (54)
8. Carina Witthoeft (56)
A host of German talent on show, but apart from that it’s your typical pre slam line-up.
First round matches to watch:
Annika Beck vs Klara Koukalova:
Expect a classic clash of styles as the more consistent Annika Beck faces power hitter Klara Koukalova.
The form book does not read too well for the home crowd favourite. Beck has won only one of her past ten matches, and has not won a match on clay all season. The German’s progression has halted over the past 12 months, and she’ll be using this tournament to not only build confidence for the French Open, but also for the rest of the season.
Koukalova’s form book reads a little better than her opponent’s. The Czech is 4-6 in her past ten matches, including two clay victories. But now into her thirties, the world number 82 appears to be past her prime.
Koukalova possesses the bigger weapons, so you could say the match will come down to how well she plays compared to her more consistent opponent. But Beck will have the crowd behind her throughout, which will give the German an extra edge.
Yaroslava Shvedova vs Kiki Bertens:
Yaroslava Shvedova had the best of both worlds in Madrid. She failed to qualify for the main draw in singles, but in the doubles she went all the way with Casey Dellacqua. After skipping Rome singles entirely, the golden set girl is back with a tough round one against Kiki Bertens.
The Belgian finds herself 94th in the world, but her clay court form has so far been very good. Bertens won five straight matches on the dirt, including two singles victories in the Fed Cup against Australia before losing in the semi-finals of an ITF tournament last time out.
Shvedova recently made the final of Bogota before losing to Teliana Pereira at the last stage. That was followed by a disappointing loss in qualifying for the Madrid Premier tournament two weeks a go. After skipping Rome Slava will look to channel her Bogota form in time for Roland Garros where she is a former two time quarter finalist.
Shvedova leads the head to head 2-1, including two victories at Wimbledon, but the pair have never met on the clay. Shvedova is the better clay courter and is the rightful favourite, but you never know with Slava. What we do know is that the winner gets Andrea Petkovic in round two.
Andrea Petkovic’s Madrid campaign was cut short due to injury, and after skipping Rome the charismatic German is back in her home country to build form ahead of the French Open. The first test should come in round two against Shvedova. The Kazakh has some great results on her clay resume and can upset the top players at any time. Perhaps the most dangerous unseeded player, Shvedova will likely provide a stern test for Petkovic, but it’s a match the top seed should win if fit. That should lead Petkovic to the quarter finals where she’ll likely face either Karin Knapp or fellow German Tatjana Maria. Knapp is the seeded player, but Maria’s form has been quite promising. A final run in an ITF tournament last week has set her up nicely for this tournament, but she’ll be the underdog against Knapp. With Petkovic waiting in the wings, neither of these players will likely go past the quarter finals.
You never know what to expect from Sabine Lisicki. One match she looks unbeatable, the next she is losing to players outside the top 100. This isn’t grass, so Lisicki is not in her element. But the draw is nicely poised for the third seed to make a deep run. Timea Babos in round two could be a test for Lisicki, but the German should at least make the quarter finals if she does not wilt under the home pressure. The home pressure won’t be so big if she faces compatriot Carina Witthoeft in the quarter finals. The eighth seed is coming in off an ITF title win, so is full of confidence. Being the eighth seed will make her the projected opponent for Lisicki which would be an interesting quarter final showdown.
In a tournament full of Germans, the most successful of recent times is second seeded Angelique Kerber. The world number 11 got her clay season off to the perfect start with title wins in Charleston and Stuttgart, but troubling losses to Sam Stosur and Irina Begu has stalled her momentum. Being the second seed in a fairly weak field will give Kerber the perfect platform to build some confidence ahead of the French Open. Anna Schmiedlova on the other hand hasn’t tested her trade on clay since Marrakech, after skipping Madrid and Rome. The Slovak comes into the tournament as the fifth seed, and the projected quarter final opponent of Kerber. Schmiedlova has shown that she can certainly play good tennis on the clay and a first time meeting between the world number 46 and Kerber will no doubt be intriguing. But before we can talk about that match-up, these two players must defeat their early round opponents. Kerber and Schmiedlova shouldn’t face too many problems in round one, but round two could provide some interesting matches. Kerber will face either Beck or Koukalova, whilst Schmiedlova will go against the winner of Bojana Jovanovski and Shuai Zhang.
Roberta Vinci might not be the top 20 player she once was, but she’s still in decent form and the fourth seed at this tournament. The Italian has one of the craftiest games on the tour, and it’s one that should see her to the quarter finals at least. Kurumu Nara is the seventh seed and the projected opponent of Vinci in the quarter finals. Nara faces some tough challenges in the form of Polona Hercog, and Stephanie Voegele, so the Japanese could find herself on the wrong end of a surprise defeat.
Petkovic def. Lisicki
Kerber def. Vinci
Kerber def. Petkovic
The Internationaux de Strasbourg debuted in 1987 as the final preparation before Roland Garros. Silvia Farina Elia, and Anabel Medina Garrigues are tied for the most titles with three each. Other champions include ennifer Capriati, Lindsay Davenport, Steffi Graf, Jana Novotna and Maria Sharapova.
Internationaux de Strasbourg
Location: Strasbourg, France
Prize Money: $ 226,750
Date: May 17th – May 23rd 2015
The Eight seeded players:
1. Madison Keys (17)
2. Jelena Jankovic (20)
3. Sam Stosur (27)
4. Alize Cornet (28)
5. Zarina Diyas (34)
6. Coco Vandeweghe (35)
7. Madison Brengle (36)
8. Mona Barthel (38)
First round matches to watch:
(1) Madison Keys vs Christina McHale:
An all American clash in the first round of Strasbourg is certainly one to look out for. Madison Keys faces Christina McHale in a difficult opener for the top seed.
Keys is one of the biggest hitters on tour, and with her huge groundstrokes and serve she has the ability to hit through any surface. The world number 17 made the final of Charleston last month, but since then her results on the clay haven’t been stellar. Early exits’ in Madrid and Rome have stopped her momentum, therefore Keys will look to get back on track in Strasbourg.
Christina McHale got plenty of wins under her belt with some good runs in Madrid and Rome. The American came through qualifying in both events, and made the round of 32 and quarter finals respectively. With the good form behind her heading into this tournament, McHale will be looking to carry that into Roland Garros with another good result here.
With Mchale’s form, this match has potential upset written on it. Keys could easily blast her compatriot off the court, but the problem with that style is that if you are not playing well, errors start spraying.
(5) Zarina Diyas vs Alison Riske:
Neither Zarina Diyas or Alison Riske set the world alight with their performances in Madrid and Rome, but they will get the chance to potentially have a good run in Strasbourg as they are pitted against each other in a Hobart rematch.
Zarina Diyas’ steady play has seen her climb on the cusp of the top 30, but at the age of 21 it is now time for the Kazakh to make the next step. Three wins in her past ten doesn’t scream good form, but with the seeding in Strasbourg, this tournament could set her up well for Roland Garros.
Alison Riske holds the advantage of winning their only meeting back in January at the Hobart tournament. The American isn’t exactly in the best form herself, boasting the same record as her opponent in the past ten matches.
Having already beaten Diyas, Riske will be confident that she can repeat that performance in Strasbourg. The fifth seed might be in for an early exit, which is why this is a match to watch.
Madison Keys hasn’t hit the heights she is capable of reaching since making the final of Charleston, but the big hitting American is one of the favourites as she bids for a second career title. The top seed has a tough quarter to go through if she is to make it to the latter stages with the likes of Zarina Diyas, Alison Riske, and Christina McHale looking to spring an upset. Diyas could face an upset of her own against Alison Riske, so it’s a good opportunity for her or Kristina Mladenovic to have a good run. Keys is the favourite to advance from this section, but there will be some banana skins along the way.
Alize Cornet will be the home crowd favourite heading in to the tournament, and with the fourth seeding behind her she could go deep before her home grand slam. Standing in her way is the likes of Elena Vesnina, Mona Barthel, and former French Open champion Francesca Schiavone. Barthel’s recent form may see her lose to Frenchwoman Virginie Razzano in the opening round, which could open the door for herself, Schaivone or Lauren Davis to make the quarter finals. Cornet will have troubles with Elena Vesnina in round two, but I expect the fourth seed to make the quarter finals.
Jelena Jankovic hasn’t been in bad form herself recently winning six of her last ten with one of the losses being a walkover. The former world number one starts her tournament off against Irina Falconi who is coming off a first round defeat to Kristina Mladenovic. The world number 84 should fall to her higher ranked opponent. Jankovic could have an interesting quarter final match against the winner of the Sloane Stephens-Coco Vandeweghe round two clash. Neither player are at their strongest on clay, but Vandeweghe does have a 2-0 head to head advantage. With Jankovic being the better clay courter, she should advance from this section.
Sam Stosur must be rueing her loss to Svetlana Kuznetsova given what the Russian went on to achieve that tournament. The Aussie didn’t have the best of luck against another Russian the following week in Rome as she bowed out to Pavlyuchenkova in the Italian capital. Stosur now faces young gun Monica Puig in the opening round, but the Puerto Rican hasn’t been her best so far this year. The section is good for Stosur to go deep and build some much needed confidence ahead of the French Open where she is a former finalist. Alija Tomljanovic could spring an upset against Madison Brengle and make a good run herself.
Keys def. Cornet
Jankovic def. Stosur
Keys def. Jankovic