2020 Australian Open Week 1 Women’s Preview, Predictions, Long Shot R1 Picks Steve Fogleman, Tennis Atlantic
It’s been a bummer summer down under: On the upside, Serena Williams ended a three-year title drought by winning in Auckland, and the leftovers of the Hopman Cup produced some exciting matches. The downside: No Hopman Cup, and the optics of players having to retire due to smoke from devastating bush fires at qualifying in Melbourne. It’s not a good look when you’re supposed to be in the business of protecting your hard assets, the players, by playing dumb during a natural disaster.
And that’s exactly what Tennis Australia has done. Perhaps the Australian tournaments have given Ozzies something to take their mind off of the daily troubles of worrying about their friends and loved ones. The Australian Open has dealt with the disaster on a reactionary basis, waiting for players to speak out before they do. My heart goes out to Australia and a Shake-My-Damn-Head goes out to Tennis Australia.
In the meantime, let’s turn the page on pre-Open action, get this major on and get this sport out of here so this country can get back to recovery.
Alas, the first “jewel” of the Grand Slam is upon us.
Whether Serena William’s title in Auckland will break the floodgates here and get her back to Grand Slam glory remains to be seen. As close as she has been in New York in back-to back years tells me it’s been a cerebral condition and flat out, I expect to see her in the semifinals at worst.
Naomi Osaka is the #3 seed, and she’ll be tested if she wants to reach the semis. After an opening round match against Marie Bouzkova, she’ll likely square off against Saisai Zhang before heading to the third round against one of Venus Williams, Coco Gauff, Sorana Cirstea or Barbora Strycova. I’ll predict that she’ll face Cirstea in R3 before falling to Serena Williams in the quarters.
Serena’s path is far more manageable than Osaka’s to win the section. After an opening round match against Anastasia Potapova, Williams may face Qiang Wang for a second round win. In the third round, I’ll go with Dayana Yastremska after surviving Johanna Konta in the second round. A win over Yastremska to reach the quarters is no easy feat, but Williams should prevail.
R4: Osaka d. Kenin
R4: Williams d. Yastremska
QF: Williams vs. Osaka
2020 Adelaide champion Ashleigh Barty has a surprisingly easy ride to the semifinals in her quarter. Her main challengers, Petra Kvitova and Madison Keys, face difficult early round contests and it will be impressive if Kvitova and Keys can even make it to the quarterfinals.
R4: Barty d. Riske
R4: Kvitova d. Linette
QF: Barty vs. Kvitova
Simona Halep’s section of the draw is also a glide path to the quarterfinals, provided she gets by the plucky Jen Brady in R1, which I expect. Belinda Bencic should face her in the quarters of what would shape up to be an upset free quarter of the draw, but I’m going with Kontaveit to upset her in the third round before Kontaveit loses to Sabalenka in the fourth round. Just a hunch here.
R4: Sabalenka d. Kontaveit
R4: Halep d. Muchova
QF: Halep vs. Sabalenka
Karolina Pliskova already has a trophy in the bag this year with a 3rd Brisbane title. That’s good for her because the draw is filled with spoilers. World #6 Elina Svitolina is the least of her problems should she reach the final.
Pliskova starts with the unpredictable Kristina Mladenovic. A second round match would see her facing the winner of the Siegemund-Vandeweghe contest. After that, she could hit a speed bump against Pavlyucheckova, Vondrousova, Giorgi, or even Kuznetsova.
R4: Bertens d. Svitolina
R4: Vondrousova d. Pliskova
QF: Vondrousova vs. Bertens
And finally, it’s time for a new segment called “Potentially Worthy Picks”. These are big upset bets with big paydays. Remember that this is for amusement purposes only, and if you actually place a real bet and it doesn’t win, please don’t flame me on twitter.
Potentially Worthy First Round Upset Picks
Viktoria Kuzmova (+300) d. Julia Goerges
Daria Kasatkina (+420) d. Madison Keys
Fiona Ferro (+180) d. Van Uytvanck
Sorana Cirstea (+140) d. Barbora Strycova
Simona Halep, Citi Open 2017 (Photo: Tennis Atlantic)
2019 @WTA @SydneyTennis Preview, Predictions Steve Fogleman, Tennis Atlantic
Hopman Cup was pure entertainment. Brisbane and Shenzhen were just lovely, but we don’t think the season really gets underway until the big dogs show up at the party. The real Aussie Open warm-up begins this week as World #1 Simona Halep and World #2 Angelique Kerber begin the 2019 campaign at the Sydney International, a Premier level WTA tournament.
As Simona Halep approaches a solid year at number one, we have to wonder if she can retain that ranking in 2019, but we’ll have some serious hints at that proposition before long. She opens with a bye before facing the winner of Jelena Ostapenko and 2018 finalist Ashleigh Barty. Barty is on a career-high and looks to move to world #14 on Monday. Ostapenko is an upset threat every time she takes the court and has beaten Halep, but never on hard courts. Luckily for Halep, I predict Barty will emerge as her second round opponent and the home country favorite will lose in straight sets to the world #1, just as she did in Montreal and Cincinnati last year.
Anett Kontaveit (#20) and Elise Mertens (#12) are both at career-high rankings entering their first round match at Sydney. The only problem for Mertens is that she got to the top 20 without winning much over higher ranked opponents. She went 3-10 against top 10 opponents in 2018, and Kontaveit is known as a giant slayer. Take Kontaveit to advance to a matchup against 2015 finalist Karolina Pliskova, who should defeat a streaking but fatigued Lesia Tsurenko. Pliskova has the weapons to defeat Kontaveit and face Halep in the quarterfinals. Halep is 5-1 on hard courts against Pliskova and should defeat the Czech handily.
Sloane Stephens’ quarter is steeped with pitfalls as she attempts to return to the top 4, but she wouldn’t have it any other way. She’ll open with a qualifier before likely facing wildcard Daria Gavrilova, who she hasn’t played in nearly three years. Stephens handled her in Charleston on the green clay in 2016 and on the grass at Eastbourne in 2015, but this is the first meeting between the two on hard courts—and we know what hard courts mean to Sloane Stephens. Expect her to advance in straights.
This is where things could get tricky for Stephens. Anastasija Sevastova should handle Kiki Bertens in a close one on their first match on hard courts, and her opponent in the second round will be a Spaniard, as Garbine Muguruza faces Carla Suarez Navarro. These two played each other in back-to-back tournaments in February 2015 and haven’t met since, with the pair splitting the meetings. Carla Suarez Navarro should prevail in this battle to set up a meeting with Sevastova. Sevastova, most remembered for bouncing defending champion Sloane Stephens from the 2018 US Open, should provide another handful for Stephens. Normally, we’d see Sevastova advancing to the quarterfinals in three sets, but we’re going with the “how you like me now” and picking Stephens in three.
Naomi Osaka, 2018 US Open (Photo: Tennis Atlantic)
We expect Naomi Osaka to suffer a bit of a hangover in 2019 as so many other first time grand slam champs have before her, yet she already hit the semifinals in Brisbane so that portends well for her. The draw in her section could give her another boost headed into Melbourne. Osaka opens with Timea Bacsinszky, who she should handle with aplomb. Her next opponent should be Dominka Cibulkova, who drew Sam Stosur. Cibulkova wrote herself back into the game in 2018 and will defeat the home crowd darling before Osaka dispatches Dominika in round two. On the other side, three qualifiers and Daria Kasatkina will vie to face Osaka in the quarters and we can confidently predict that Kasatkina will face Osaka and Osaka will reprise her straight sets win over Kasatkina at Indian Wells last year.
With a 2 seed like this, who needs friends? Defending champion Angelique Kerber may wish she’d drawn the 3rd seed. Poor Kerber will need to conserve her energy. While she’s awarded a first round bye and a second round match against Ajla Tomljanovic or Camila Giorgi, the big test comes in the quarters, where she will likely face 2015 champion Petra Kvitova or the player who frightens everyone in the early rounds, Aryna Sabalenka. Sabalenka started 2019 in excellent form in winning Shenzhen, and looks to repeat the stunning straight sets victory over Kvitova at last year’s US Open. Sabalenka should prevail and vanquish her second round opponent, Su-Wei Hsieh or a qualifier. In the quarterfinal, the first meeting between Kerber and Sabalenka should be a gem. We go with lightning in a bottle here, and that means the Belarusian in three.
Aryna Sabalenka, 2018 Connecticut Open (Photo: Mike Renz for Tennis Atlantic)
Sloane Stephens hasn’t beaten Simona Halep since 2013, but their last two matches have gone to three sets. We’d like to say the third time’s the charm for Stephens, but she hasn’t done anything lately for us to justify predicting such a personal career accomplishment. We’re going with Halep in three sets.
Naomi Osaka and Aryna Sabalenka stunned the tennis world in 2018 with their dominating performances. Sabalenka almost stunned Osaka herself at the 2018 US Open by winning the second set of their round of 16 match before losing the third, 6-4. If Sabalenka had won that close match, Osaka’s career arc could have changed dramatically. It was their only career meeting, but it was a popcorn match and we’ve got to go with REVENGE, served up by Shenzhen champion Sabalenka on the scorching courts of Sydney. In three, of course.
Aryna Sabalenka won’t hit the wall, as it’s way too early in the season for that, but her power will meet a higher power in Sydney under the Romanian’s racket and Simona Halep will notch her first title of the year in straight sets before (spoiler alert) lifting her second grand slam trophy in Melbourne.
We hit Madrid for one of the biggest tournaments of the season at the Caja Magica. It is an event I have covered a few times over the years and it rarely disappoints. Unfortunately, I can not make it this year, but there is still plenty to be excited about when it comes to the women’s draw, so let’s get to it.
The Mutua Madrid Open has been a kind tournament to Simona Halep who enters as the defending champion. The Romanian opens against dangerous lefty Ekaterina Makarova in the first round, who can be a tricky customer especially on the faster clay courts of Madrid. Young Belgian prospect Elise Mertens is a possible round two opponent with Madison Keys also in the mini section. The 13th seed has not done well here traditionally but her draw to the third round is very soft.
Karolina Pliskova has never been known as a traditional clay courter, but her win in Stuttgart may signal she is turning a corner on the surface. She is the sixth seed and will face Elena Vesnina in the first round. The big story in the section, however, is the return of Victoria Azarenka, Pliskova’s potential second round opponent. The Belarusian faces Alexsandra Krunic in her opener and there will be plenty of eyes on that one. This section is quite stacked and Sloane Stephens could be waiting either Pliskova or Azarenka in the third round.
That said, I am picking Halep to continue her good form in Madrid and win this section over Pliskova in the quarter finals.
Prediction: Halep def. Pliskova
Despite this being her home tournament, Garbine Muguruza has a mental block in Madrid. Despite being one of the best clay courters on the tour, the Spaniard has never made it past the second round here and has meekly gone out on several occasions. She will be hoping to change her fortunes this year starting with Shaui Peng then the winner of Vekic vs. Garcia Perez. Daria Kasatkina is the potential third round opponent, but she has a tough draw against Qiang Wang who did well here last year.
Clay has never been Venus Williams’ territory and given the lack of playing time, it will be difficult to expect much of the American in this draw. Annett Kontaveit is a tough opener even if she has not been at her best so far this season. This could open the door even more to former champion Petra Kvitova, who might be the favourite to make the semi finals out of this section. The 10th seed had a good week in Prague and the quicker Madrid clay courts suit her power focused style of play.
Petra Kvitova (Photo: Tony Callaio)
Muguruza vs Kvitova would be a hard-hitting quarterfinal battle and one to really get excited for, but I give the edge to the Czech here. She is a former champion and Muguruza’s Mental Madrid Block has to be taken into consideration.
Prediction: Kvitova def. Muguruza
Elina Svitolina enters Madrid as the fourth seed and one of the tournament favourites, but Madrid has not been a kind tournament for the Ukrainian in the past. Alize Cornet is the first round opponent with Barbora Strycova or Carla Suarez Navarro in the second round. There are no big hitters there but plenty of solid players with variety to open the tournament for Svitolina. Madgalena Rybarikova is the other seed in this section and she faces Johanna Konta in the first round. The Brit struggles on clay so this could be a good opportunity for the 16th seed, who faces a qualifier if she gets by Konta.
Caroline Garcia made her first semi final in Stuttgart before losing to Coco Vandeweghe, so she will be hoping to build on that result in Madrid after a so-so start to the season. She faces Dominika Cibulkova, a player she threw a 6-0, 3-0 lead away to two years ago here in the first round. The tough draw continues with Svetlana Kuznetsova or Petra Martic in the second round, but things could get really interesting with big hitting Julia Goerges in the third round.
I expect Svitolina to make it to the quarter finals, but Garcia–not so much. The Frenchwoman might be the favourite in her section but she can lose to anyone at any time, so I am picking Svitolina to make the semi finals.
Prediction: Svitolina def. Garcia
Caroline Wozniacki heads to Madrid with the World number one ranking in her sights. Clay has not been her best surface however, despite her more defensive style of play. Daria Gavrilova is a difficult opener with Ash Barty completing the Aussie double in round two. Anastasija Sevastova is not an easy third round draw either with her solid game, so it is a tough road for Wozniacki as she aims to top the rankings once more.
Jelena Ostapenko (Photo: Tony Callaio)
Jelena Ostapenko is back on the clay as she aims to build form ahead of her French Open title defence. The Latvian’s game should suit Madrid so she could have a decent run here if she plays well. That said, a big match against Maria Sharapova is on the cards for the second round. Coco Vandeweghe heads into Madrid In good form after a surprising final run in Stuttgart, but she has a potentially tough opener against last year’s finalist Kristina Mladenovic. Naomi Osaka is also in this section.
This is a tough quarter to predict but an in-form Ostapenko might have enough to make it past Wozniacki in the last eight.
Prediction: Ostapenko def. Wozniacki
Semi Finals/Finals Prediction:
Kvitova def. Halep
Svitolina def. Ostapenko
Kvitova def. Svitolina
Kvitova is a former champion here and of all the clay court tournaments, this will probably suit her the best. Add on top of that her good form, then you have the reason why I pick the Czech to win in Madrid
2018 @PorscheTennis WTA Stuttgart Preview, Predictions Niall Clarke, Tennis Atlantic
Clay season arrives in style with the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart. The field is always stacked here as the top players aim to find their footing on the clay and this year is no exception. It is one of the best tournaments of the year, so let’s get to it.
Simona Halep goes into the tournament as the number one seed and arguably the favourite to go all the way. The Romanian is considered to be the best clay courter on the tour by many people, but she is yet to add a French Open title to her collection. Building momentum for Roland Garros is a big aim during this stretch of the season and it starts in Stuttgart. Daria Kasatkina is the likely second round opponent which is a difficult starting match for anyone, but she is also probably her biggest test in this section.
Sloane Stephens has also landed in this section as she aims to kick off her clay court season. She is coming in off the Fed Cup semi final against France and that is why it is funny she has drawn her team-mate Coco Vandeweghe in the first round. Laura Siegemund, who has made big runs here in the past, is a potential second round opponent.
Halep is the strongest clay courter in this section, and despite some tough challenges early on I think she should come through this section.
Prediction: Halep def. Siegemund
Elina Svitolina is another player who comes into this tournament as a favourite to go all the way. The Ukrainian is usually very efficient at picking up titles such as Stuttgart so she should come into the tournament with a fair degree of confidence. After her opening round BYE, Svitolina will face the winner of Julia Goerges vs Anastasija Sevastova, two players who have a complete contrast in styles. Goerges will have the home crowd cheering for her and the indoor conditions favour her powerful game, but Sevastova is a tricky player who is hard to hit through.
Caroline Garcia has not kicked into gear in 2018, but she is a very capable clay courter who can do a lot of damage here. She has got the Sharapova draw however in one of the most high profile round one match-ups. The winner of that match should be a safe bet for the quarter finals with Antonia Lottner or a qualifier waiting in the wings.
There is plenty of talent in this section, but I have Svitolina being too stable for an erratic Garcia in the quarter finals.
Prediction: Svitolina def. Garcia
Jelena Ostapenko (Photo: Tony Callaio)
French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko will be happy with the draw she has gotten here. The Latvian has points to defend with her French Open win and this is a tournament where she could make some up and get some nice form heading into Roland Garros. She has a BYE then the winner of two qualifiers in the second round, so despite being inconsistent, you have to favour the Latvian to get through.
Karolina Pliskova has not had a great start to 2018 and clay is not her best surface. However, you can not count the Czech out. The fifth seed opens against Kiki Bertens, a very capable clay courter who can do a lot of damage during this stage of the season, then potentially faces Carla Suarez Navarro in the second round.
This is a section where we could see an unseeded player come through. Bertens comes alive on the clay and given Pliskova’s struggles in the surface we could see an upset there. Ostapenko is also very inconsistent in matches so I think the Dutchwoman will prevail here.
Prediction: Bertens def. Ostapenko
This is a stacked quarter headlined by Garbine Muguruza. The Spaniard is on her best surface again fresh off a title win in Acapulco so will have a degree of confidence heading into Stuttgart. However her section is stacked with power players, bot least of which is Madison Keys who she could face in the second round. Muguruza will need all her clay court prowess this tournament due to players being able to outhit her in this section.
Petra Kvitova is the other seed in this quarter and she will be one half of another big round one match against Germany’s own Angelique Kerber. The former champion has had a resurgence this year and is playing like a top 10 player once again after a disappointing 2017. The winner faces either Kristina Mladenovic, last year’s finalist or Anett Kontaveit , a dangerous big hitting Estonian. There is not easy match-up in this section.
With the home crowd advantage and being a former champion, I fancy Kerber to make her way through this section. We do not know which version of the other women will show up, so I think the more steady Kerber will fight her way past Muguruza in the quarter finals.
Prediction: Kerber def. Muguruza
Semi Finals Finals onwards Prediction:
Halep def. Svitolina
Kerber def. Bertens
Halep def. Kerber
As usual, Stuttgart is stacked and difficult to call but I am going with the number one seed to overcome the home favourite in the final.
2017 WTA Western & Southern Open Preview and Predictions Niall Clarke, Tennis Atlantic
The tour heads south of the Canadian border to Cincinnati for the second Premier event in two weeks. Here is a rundown of the draw for the Western and Southern open.
Karolina Pliskova returns to Cincinnati to not only defend her title, but also her number one ranking. The Czech receives an opening round BYE before playing a qualifier in the second round. Kristina Mladenovic is the first seeded player in her section, but the Frenchwoman has struggled with injury lately and could face an early exit to either Daria Gavrilova or Katerina Siniakova.
Caroline Wozniacki heads into Cincy in fine form after her Rogers cup run last week, but going deep in back to back tournaments can be tough. Elena Vesnina or Caroline Garcia will welcome the Dane to Ohio in a difficult second round either way. Venus Williams is also in this section and will no doubt be the home favourite for the tournament.
Embed from Getty Images
Garbine Muguruza has found a little more consistency since winning Wimbledon, but she has yet to go all the way in a tournament in North America. The Spaniard could face America’s Lauren Davis first in the second round in a section full of home crowd favourites. Madison Keys and Coco Vandeweghe will meet in round one with the winner likely facing Daria Kasatkina. This is most definitely a stacked section.
Svetlana Kuznetsova had a disappointing Toronto campaign and will look to bounce back in Cincinnati in the upcoming week. The Russian could face Yulia Putintseva in round two then Jelena Ostapenko in the third round. Maria Sharapova was originally drawn to face the Latvian In round one, but the former world number one withdrew from the tournament.
Elina Svitolina’s fine year continued in Toronto and the Ukrainian heads into Cincinnati as one of the title favourites. She will have a tough second round opponent in the form of Lesia Tsurenko or Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova before potentially meeting Agnieszka Radwanska in the third round. The Pole has a difficult opener against Julia Goerges who has resurged this season though and could face an early exit.
Angelique Kerber’s poor season ahs left her outside of the top 10 in the race to Singapore, and with her US Open title defence incoming, she needs to find form and fast. The German faces either Ekaterina Makarova or Barbora Strycova in the second round, both present different but equally difficult challenges. Petra Kvitova’s comeback continues in Cincy where she will face the young and rising Anette Kontaveit In round one. The winner will face either Sloane Stephens or Lucie Safarova in the second round, a rematch of their Toronto quarter final.
Simona Halep, 2017 Citi Open (Photo: Tennis Atlantic)
Simona Halep is battling for the world number one ranking this week and is coming in off an overall positive week in Toronto that ended in disappointment. The Romanian has a good draw however with a qualifier in round two then Anastasija Sevastova in round three. The Latvian herself opens against Shuai Peng before meeting the winner of Timea Babos vs Roberta Vinci.
Johanna Konta lost at the first hurdle in Toronto so will be hoping for a more positive week south of the Canadian border. The Brit faces either big hitting Oceane Dodin or Kiki Bertens first in the second round before being projected to face Dominika Cibulkova in round three. The Slovakian has a tough draw however with young players such as Ana Konjuh and Cici Bellis in her section.
It is interesting to see where this tournament goes as there are so many possibilities, so it may come as a surprise that I have predicted the top seed to defeat the second seed in the final. The faster courts here suit Pliskova and I expect the two finalists from last week to have some mental and physical fatigue here, so their performances will not be as strong.
It is fair to say that Madrid did not go to plan for Angelique Kerber. The world number one is still trying to find her feet this season, but clay is not her best surface. Kerber should be good for the third round, but things get interesting form then on. She could possibly meet Maria Sharapova in round three, providing the Russian cat beat Christina McHale then the winner of Lucie Safarova vs Mirjana Lucic-Baroni. With Kerber’s struggles this year, Sharapova could make the last eight here, but the world number one will still be the favourite given how soon the Russian is in to her comeback.
Simona Halep once again had a good run in Madrid, so her participation in Rome may slightly be in doubt. Players can often do well one week then withdraw the next so it will be interesting to see if the Romanian heads to Rome. If so, Halep will be one of the favourites. Laura Seigemund or Naomi Osaka will welcome Halep to Rome. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova is projected to face the sixth seed in the third round, but she has a tough draw with Sam Stosur and Anastasija Sevastova in her section.
Prediction: Halep def. Kerber
Dominika Cibulkova failed to defend her final points in Madrid, so Rome could be a big tournament for the Slovakian. She will want to avoid another early exit when she faces the winner of Roberta Vinci and Ekaterina Makarova in the second round. The first seeded player projected for Cibulkova is Kiki Bertens. The Dutchwoman played well to make the quarter finals in Madrid and could be a handful for the fourth seed should they meet in the third round. Bertens opens against Monica Niculescu, then will likely face Misaki Doi in the second round. There are some tough matches but Cibulkova will be the favourite to make it to the quarter finals.
Svetlana Kuznetsova had another good run in Madrid where she made the semi finals. Clay suits the Russian’s game and given the quarter she will fancy another semi final appearance in Rome. Katerina Siniakova or Shuai Zheng will be her first opponent, then possibly Madison Keys in round three. The American could have a difficult match against Caroline Garcia in round three, providing the Frenchwoman is fit after her back injury. But Keys is a former finalist here and could set up an interesting clash with Kuznetsova in the third round.
Prediction: Kuznetsova def. Cibulkova
The third quarter is headlined by a player who is out of form, and another who struggles on clay…this could get messy. Johanna Konta has never adapted well to the dirt, and her early exit in Madrid was not a surprise. It will not be a shock to see the Briton struggle against Monica Puig or Yulia Putintseva in round two. Venus Williams is another player who struggles on clay, and she has a dangerous draw against Yaroslava Shvedova. It is a hard section to call as almost every player could make the quarter finals.
Garbine Muguruza’s year did not get any better in Madrid where she lost in round one. The Spaniard did go deep in Rome last year, though, and will be looking to repeat that result in 2017. Muguruza should be good for the third round, but Kristina Mladenovic in the round of 16 could be a bridge too far, if she is not feeling the effects of her run in Madrid. The Frenchwoman has been in fine form this year, and could have a good result again in Rome. Mladenovic opens against Julia Goerges, then plays Alison Riske or Jelena Jankovic in round two.
Prediction: Mladenovic def. Venus
Karolina Pliskova is another player who often struggles to adapt her game to clay, so there could be another upset on the cards in the fourth quarter. Pliskova was soundly beaten by Sevastova in Madrid, and Carla Suarez Navarro could be a tough match too in the second round of Rome. Barbora Strycova is scheduled for the third round, but the Czech has a tough opener against Daria Kasatkina, then possibly Timea Bacsinszky.
Elina Svitolina exited Madrid shockingly early, but the Ukrainian could respond well in Rome. The eighth seed faces Alize Cornet or Sara Errani in the second round, two difficult opponents but players she should beat. Elena Vesnina is the projected third round opponent, and the Russian should make it too with a host of qualifiers in the section. It is a good draw for Svitolina, though, who should make the semi finals and possibly go further.
It is a tough tournament to call because there are so many unknown factors. Halep and Mladenovic are the form players but will their Madrid run leave them fatigued for Rome? The draw is open to a lot of upsets too but I am picking the in-form Halep to go all the way.
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.
The 50-Foot Petko!
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.
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.
The Premier Mandatory double reaches its second leg in Miami this week, with Elena Vesnina entering as the Indian Wells champion. Can the Russian do it again?
Serena Williams’ withdrawal means Angelique Kerber will keep her number one ranking despite not being in the best of form. The German is still searching for her first title of the season in Miami, and could face one of the players that has gotten the better of her thus far in the third round. Daria Kastakina has landed in Kerber’s section once again. Can the top seed get her revenge? If she can get past the Russian, then it is hard to see the German losing in round four. It is likely either Kiki Bertens or an out of sorts Carla Suarez Navarro in waiting.
Svetlana Kuznetsova (Photo: (C) 2014 Chris Levy @tennis_shots for TennisAtlantic.com)
Svetlana Kuzenstova will enter Miami in good form after making the final of Indian Wells last week. The Russian Is set to meet Roberta Vinci in the third round, but has a tough test in a confident Kristyna Pliskova in the second round. It is hard to look past Kuznetsova making the fourth round where she is projected to meet Venus Williams. The three time champion could end up with a tough third round against the in-form Kristina Mladenovic. Kuznetsova will be favourite however, and given Kerber’s so-so form, I see the Russian progressing to the last four again.
Prediction: Kuznetsova def. Kerber
Simona Halep’s 2017 has been a non-starter due to poor form and injury woes. Can she kick start her season properly in Miami? The Romanian could face rising youngster Naomi Osaka in what could be a testing second round match. Ekaterina Makarova is projected for round three. Sam Stosur is the seeded fourth round opponent, but the Aussie has a tough draw ahead with Eugenie Bouchard or Ashleigh Barty in round two, then possibly Caroline Garcia in round four. This is a wide open section with the potential of a surprise quarter finalist.
Madison Keys will look back positively on her Indian Wells run given it was her first tournament on the year. The American will look to go even further in Miami where she likely kicks her tournament off against Tsvetana Pironkova. Irina Begu is the first seeded opponent, so it looks like a good draw for Keys to make the fourth round, but there is when it gets interesting. Johanna Konta voiced her disappointment after her loss to Garcia in Indian Wells and aims to be in better form for Miami. The Brit could meet another Frenchwoman in round two in Alize Cornet. Timea Babos is the projected third round opponent before an interesting clash with Madison Keys. The American’s form is still unknown at this point so I am predicting Konta to make it out of this match and out of the quarter.
Prediction: Konta def. Halep
There were positive signs for Garbine Muguruza in Indian Wells. She showed more aggression and despite another loss to Karolina Pliskova, she came out of the tournament with a positive mind set. The Spaniard has some tough players in her section such as Christina McHale, Belina Bencic and Shuai Zhang, but if Muguruza can play her best tennis then she will be favourite to advance. Where it could get interesting is against Caroline Wozniacki in round four. The Dane is not a given to make it to the last 16 with players such as Monica Puig and Anastasija Sevastova in her section, but a match against Muguruza in round four will be an enticing affair.
Fourth seeded Dominika Cibulkova will look at Miami as a chance for another big title, but she has a tough draw ahead if she is to do so. Whilst Misaki Doi should not be much of a problem, highly touted youngster Ana Konjuh could be in the third round. Indian wells champion Elena Vesnina has also ended up in this section of the draw. The Russian herself could have a difficult third round match against Lucie Safarova or Daria Gavrilova. Vesnina’s confidence will be sky high after winning the Indian Wells title, but will it be enough to get past Cibulkova? I believe the winner of this will make the quarter finals with Muguruza’s indifferent form.
Prediction: Cibulkova def. Muguruza
Karolina Pliskova is once again one of the tournament favourites heading into Miami. The Czech will open against Jelena Ostapenko in round two then face Yulia Putintiseva in the third round which is a decent draw for Pliskova to the last 16. There she could be in for an all Czech battle against Barbora Strycova, but the 15th seed could find herself being overpowered by Coco Vandeweghe in the third round.
Agnieszka Radwanska’s season has been less than stellar, but she is the latest person to win the event in the draw. Can she do it again? The Pole has a good second round draw, but her third round opponent is the ever dangerous Mirjana Lucic-Baroni. Based on form, Elina Svitolina may be the one to make it to the quarter finals. The Ukrainian has some tough matches ahead against the likes of Katerina Siniakova and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, but she should make the fourth round against Radwanska. I feel Svirolina will beat the out of form fifth seed, but will find Pliskova too much in the quarter finals
2016 Dongfeng Motor Wuhan Open Niall Clarke, Tennis Atlantic
Tier: Premier 5
Location: Wuhan, China
Prize money: $2,288,250
Date: September 25- October 01
Top eight seeds who receive a first round Bye
Carla Suarez Navarro
Serena Williams was originally scheduled to play here but recently withdrew.
First round matches to watch
(16) Sam Stosur vs Caroline Wozniacki: Wozniacki has finally found some form in 2016 after struggling for most of the season. The Dane is set to play the final in Tokyo after defeating Radwanska in the semi finals.
Stosur is a tough round one though, and the head to head shows how close these contests are. Wozniacki leads 6-5 in the series with the latest match going the way of the Aussie via retirement.
A few of their meetings have gone the distance, so there is a fair chance of that happening here. One must wonder how Wozniacki will be physically after her efforts in Tokyo, but when you are in good form it can sometimes matter little.
(15) Roberta Vinci vs Monica Puig: Vinci’s ranking may have dropped post the US open, but the Italian is still a crafty player that is difficult to beat.
The former US Open finalist will be met by the Olympic Champion, Puig, in the opening round which will pit style vs style. The slice and dice of Vinci vs the power of Puig will be an interesting contest, and one that could go either way.
This will be only their second meeting, and the first on a hardcourt. It must be noted the difference between Puig this year compared to last, and that could be the difference.
Kerber’s quarter: The US Open champion is back in action as the number one player in the world. Who would have thought that 12 months a go? However, being the top seed has not done her many favours with the draw as she will face either Kristina Mladenovic or CoCo Vandeweghe in round two, both of whom are capable of an upset. The first seed Kerber will meet is Kvitova, but of course nothing is certain with the Czech.
Suarez Navarro is still reaping the rewards of consistency with her seventh seeded position in the draw, a position that grants her an opening round BYE. The second round prospect does not look bad with either Yania Wickmayer or Shelby Rogers awaiting the Spaniard. Johanna Konta has done a lot this year to convince the Tennis world that her form last year was no fluke. The Brit has improved tenfold over the past 18 months and may like her chances of a deep run here. Konta first must get through Annika Beck then a home favourite before her clash with Suarez Navarro.
Halep’s quarter: Halep has had a steady season that has kept her in the top five. The Romanian will head into Wuhan looking to ad another Premier title to her name. She could meet compatriot Irina Begu in the second round, but her recent struggles have been documented. Vinci is the other seed in this section, but her half is littered with dangerous unseeded players such as Puig and Yaroslava Shvedova who found form over the summer.
It seems like the tennis world has been waiting forever for the big Keys breakthrough that has been promised since she burst onto the scene. A title win in Wuhan would go a long way to that breakthrough, but the American must focus on her dangerous second prospect in the form of Caroline Garcia or Mirjana Lucic-Baroni. Timea Bacsinszky is the other seed in a section littered with qualifiers. Louisa Chrico is first for the Swiss, then it is either Daria Kasatkina or Julia Goerges.
Radwanska’s quarter: The third seed failed to defend her Tokyo title but she can make up lost points with a title run in Wuhan. The Pole will play either Ekaterina Makarova or Sabine Lisicki in round two, so there will be a big hitter to welcome Radwanska to Wuhan. Stosur is the other seed in this section, but it is perhaps Wozniacki who should be the most feared. The Dane is back in form and beat Radwanska in Tokyo. Katerina Siniakova and Timea Babos will meet for the right to face either Stosur or Wozniacki in round two.
Defending champion, Venus, has been drawn into this quarter. The American reeled back the years 12 months a go, can she do it again? Yulia Putintseva or Anastasija Sevastova will give the former world number one a tough match in the second round. Then it could be a meeting with two time grand slam champion Svetlana Kuznetsova in round three. The Russian faces the injury plagued Belinda Bencic in her opener before meeting either Madison Brengle or Heather Watson
Muguruza’s quarter: The Spaniard’s struggles have continued into Tokyo, and now the pressure is ramped up with lots of points to defend for the rest of the season. Muguruza faces Jelena Jankovic or Daria Gavrilova in her opening match, both feisty battlers. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova is the other seed in this section, and she faces Misaki Doi then either Sara Errani or Barbora Strycova before a possible Muguruza meeting in the third round.
Pliskova failed to build on her US open final run in Tokyo, but the bigger stakes in Wuhan might bring the Czech back into form. She will likely meet compatriot Lucie Safarova in the second round who is a tough match for anyone. Dominika Cibulkova will be kicking herself for not taking advantage of her draw in Tokyo, but she can make amends in Wuhan. The Slovak faces Alize Cornet then either Laura Siegemund or Danka Kovinic before a potential clash with Pliskova.
Kerber def. Konta
Halep def. Keys
Venus def. Radwanska
Pliskova def. Strycova
Kerber def. Halep
Venus def. Pliskova
Kerber def. Venus
It is a tough tournament to predict, but when in doubt you go for the top seed.
2015 Busan, Aix en Provence, Cali, Karshi and Rome Challenger Previews & Predictions Chris De Waard, Tennis Atlantic
ATP Challenger Tour
Busan, South Korea
4-10 May 2015
Hardcourt, Rebound Ace
Prize Money: $100,000
Seeds (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Yen-Hsun Lu (67)
2: Sam Groth (85)
3: Go Soeda (87)
4: Hyeon Chung (88)
5: Dudi Sela (90)
6: Tatsuma Ito (97)
7: Lukas Lacko (99)
8: Ryan Harrison (122)
The last direct acceptance is Takuto Niki, ranked 283rd. Ryan Harrison withdrew due to the ankle injury he attracted last week.
Second round match-up to watch
(4) Hyeon Chung – Denis Kudla
Chung cracked the top 100 for the first time after winning the Savannah Challenger two weeks ago and now faces an interesting opponent in Kudla here. Kudla seemed to be heading the same direction as Chung, but has shown to lack consistency after beating Viktor Troicki and taking world #14 Feliciano Lopez to 8-10 in the decider at the Australian Open to start off the year. He is now closer to dropping out of the top 150 than reaching the top 100.
Just a year ago, top seed Yen-Hsun Lu would have been the overwhelming favorite here. But after his surprising loss last week and the rise of some other players, he might be ‘just’ one of the contenders. It isn’t unreasonable to put Chung up as the slight favorite, followed by Lu and with Dudi Sela closely behind the two. Tatsuma Ito and Grega Zemlja can be seen as outsiders.
The top section seems to be a clear prey for Go Soeda, especially with the seed here getting replaced by a qualifier after Harrison’s withdrawal. However, he faces a tricky second round opponent in John-Patrick Smith, who is playing the best tennis of his career. The bottom section is very interesting, with two titlists of last week being there, Franko Skugor and Sam Groth. Groth might be able to keep his good run going, while that is very doubtful in Skugor’s case. Also in this section are Lukas Lacko, Luke Saville and Iliya Marchenko, who could all very well cause surprises and upset a tired Groth. Although we should remember that this is the venue where Groth hit the unofficial fastest serve of all time three years ago.
Chung d. Lu
Groth d. Soeda
Groth d. Chung
Open du Pays d’Aix
ATP Challenger Tour
Aix en Provence, France
2-10 May 2015
Prize Money: €64,000
Seeds (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Blaz Kavcic (77)
2: Malek Jaziri (84)
3: Lucas Pouille (95)
4: Robin Haase (101)
5: Filip Krajinovic (104)
6: Norbert Gombos (111)
7: Andrey Golubev (117)
8: Alexander Zverev (119)
The last direct acceptance is Mathias Bourgue, ranked 214th. Former world #18 Florian Mayer received a wild card.
First round match-ups to watch
(6) Norbert Gombos – (WC) Florian Mayer
Tough break for Gombos, as he isn’t the favorite to win his first round match, despite being seeded. Mayer has already shown decent tennis after coming back from his one year injury lay-off, almost taking out world #10 Marin Cilic in the second round of Monte Carlo, falling 6-3 in the third set. It certainly is nice to have the jumping backhand dropshots back on tour again.
(7) Andrey Golubev – Aleksandr Nedovyesov
An interesting match-up between two players with similar high risk playing styles. Put them together and they can work wonders, as they showed by beating Federer and Wawrinka in doubles at their Davis Cup meeting last year, but on their own it’s a struggle. Golubev is 3-9 on the main tour this year, while Nedovyesov has failed to impress since reaching the Bergamo final in early February.
This appears to be a fine draw for Alexander Zverev to make a deep run. The 17-year-old has a kind draw with Michal Przysiezny in the first round and a wildcard or qualifier in the second, while his potential quarterfinal opponent #3 seed Lucas Pouille comes off a disappointing loss last week and might be a bit more vulnerable here. In the top half it’s perhaps last week’s Ostrava winner Inigo Cervantes who has the best shot, being surrounded with players who are not that fond of clay, but for someone who is not used to perform two weeks in a row this might be a bit too much. This might be a good opportunity for Gastao Elias to pick up some form and make a deep run.
A rare occurence, but I’m picking the wildcard as the favorite here. Florian Mayer should be able to fend off the rest of the contenders here, with unseeded Albert Montanes perhaps being his main competitor. The two are projected to meet in the quarterfinal of the bottom section. From the top section Robin Haase should be able to come through, despite him being capable of losing to a wide variety of players these days.
Zverev d. Elias
Mayer d. Haase
Mayer d. Zverev
Seguros Bolivar Open
ATP Challenger Tour
4-10 May 2015
Prize Money: $50,000
Seeds (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Blaz Rola (93)
2: Niels Desein (161)
3: Chase Buchanan (163)
4: Nicolas Jarry (189)
5: Guido Andreozzi (204)
6: Christian Lindell (222)
7: Juan Ignacio Londero (235)
8: Jose Hernandez-Fernandez (240)
The last direct acceptance is Ryusei Makiguchi, ranked 502nd.
First round match-up to watch
(6) Christian Lindell – Nicolas Barrientos
The two played a very close match last year in Italy, with Lindell taking it 6-4 in the third set. After Lindell’s final run last week and with Barrientos playing in his home country, there might be an upset in the making here.
Top seed Blaz Rola is by far the highest ranked player here and it’s hard to look past him. Second seed Niels Desein is ranked sixty-eight spots below him, which is a lot. If Rola fails to reach the final here it would be a huge disappointment, since every loss is an upset. If I had to pick one player capable of pulling it off it would be #7 seed Juan Ignacio Londero, who is projected to meet Rola in the quarterfinal.
Nicolas Jarry’s form has not been convincing lately, but this is a golden opportunity for him to gain momentum and a lot of ranking points. The only player who should be able to threaten him is #5 seed Guido Andreozzi in the semi-final, which is likely to be a close match. #2 seed Niels Desein is not a fan of clay and has had some bad losses on the surface as of late, making it unlikely he will be able to live up to his seeding.
Rola d. Lindell
Jarry d. Andreozzi
Rola d. Jarry
ATP Challenger Tour
4-9 May 2015
Prize Money: $50,000
Seeds (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Teymuraz Gabashvili (100)
2: Farrukh Dustov (108)
3: Adrian Menendez-Maceiras (118)
4: Aslan Karatsev (166)
5: Evgeny Donskoy (196)
6: Ti Chen (203)
7: Brydan Klein (205)
8: Yuki Bhambri (216)
The last direct acceptance is Vladimir Ivanov, ranked 424th.
First round match-ups to watch
(6) Ti Chen – Matthew Ebden
Tough draw for the seed, with Ebden seeming to pick up some good form in his last two tournaments, reaching a quarter- and semi-final. If he plays to those standards, he should be able to beat Chen and make another deep run.
(5) Evgeny Donskoy – Ramkumar Ramanathan
Former world #63 Donskoy is sinking deeper and deeper, now even disappearing out of the top 200. Granted, Ramanathan’s development seems to be stagnating a bit and his results have been lacking, but against this Donskoy anything is possible.
Top seed Teymuraz Gabashvili is playing his first hardcourt event after a respectable clay court stretch. The scheduling is a bit remarkable, giving that Roland Garros is around the corner, but he is probably looking to pick up some easy points. This should be doable, but he has a very dangerous quarterfinal opponent in Yuki Bhambri, who I think should be able to surprise Gabashvili, who will be lacking hardcourt rhythm. The two of them are very likely to decide the finalist from this half.
Adrian Menendez-Maceiras has been playing the tennis of his career at the ripe age of 29 and is showing no signs of slowing down. He could very well rack up another final here, with fellow seeds Donskoy and Chen very uncertain to perform well, while #2 seed Farrukh Dustov is already out by the time I am writing this, making him a pretty strong favorite to do so.
Bhambri d. Karatsev
Menendez-Maceiras d. Ebden
Bhambri d. Menendez-Maceiras
Garden Open 2015
ATP Challenger Tour
4-9 May 2015
Prize Money: €42,500
Seeds (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Aljaz Bedene (91)
2: Dustin Brown (102)
3: Radek Stepanek (120)
4: Kyle Edmund (130)
5: Marco Cecchinato (150)
6: Taro Daniel (164)
7: Konstantin Kravchuk (167)
8: Elias Ymer (171)
The last direct acceptance is Miroslav Mecir, ranked 216th. Russian sensation Andrey Rublev received a wildcard.
First round match-up to watch
(6) Taro Daniel – Gerald Melzer
This is bound to be a great match. Melzer lucked out at Munich last week, getting a bye into the second round as a qualifier, where Pablo Andujar retired against him in the first set. However, he showed he was deserving of that luck by beating world #44 Dominic Thiem in the quarterfinal, before falling to #26 Philipp Kohlschreiber in the semi-final after a long battle, 2-6 6-1 6-4. Daniel comes off a tournament win at Vercelli, so he is well at home on the Italian clay. They faced each other twice last year, splitting the matches, both in straight sets.
Top seed Aljaz Bedene has not been convincing on clay so far, so it’s hard to make him the clear cut favorite. One of Melzer or Daniel should be able to beat him in the quarterfinal, for instance. The finalist is likely to be one of those three, however, with the bottom section (headed by #4 seed Kyle Edmund) being considerably weaker.
17-year-old Andrey Rublev has shown he can hang at ATP level after beating three top 100 players in just as many events, so he might well be able to continue that good run here. He is projected to face Marco Cecchinato, last week’s Turin winner, and Radek Stepanek, but names like that shouldn’t frighten him and he might even be the favorite against both men. The bottom section is headed by the always unpredictable Dustin Brown, who might find another youngster on his path to the semi-final, 18-year-old Elias Ymer.