Wickmayer headlines Hobart, Chakvetadze returns

The one striking thing from this weeks draw in Hobart is that there are no stand-out names and that it is a very level playing field; therefore I think there are a host of names that could go all the way and claim the title.  The number one seed is Yanina Wickmayer, who will play Marina Erakovic in the first round.  I’m still not entirely convinced as to whether Wickmayer is over the back injury that blighted her for much of last season.  She has been struggling to gather any kind of momentum since Wimbledon with an inability to back up early wins, which has largely been down to her injury.  This week, I think that Wickmayer will take a relatively early exit from the competition in the second round.  Like last week in Brisbane, i’m backing Galina Voskoboeva to have a good week.  Voskoboeva plays Casey Dellacqua in round one and I think this could be a great opportunity for her to go deep in the draw and potentially win her first title on the WTA tour.
Monica Niculescu is the number three seed and will play Anna Chakvetadze in the first round, who makes a welcome comeback to the tour.  Chakvetadze had a number of health issues last year, which caused her to retire from several matches with dizziness. She missed the second half of the season, but thankfully they found out that the reason for the dizziness was connected with an inner ear infection.  After flirting with Politics during a spell on the sidelines, she opens her 2012 campaign in Hobart using her protected ranking.  I think Niculescu will be too solid for Chakvetadze this time, but I hope if she can stay fit that she will start to make an impression on the tour soon.  Niculescu is projected to meet Shahar Peer in the quarter-finals, who has a tricky opener against Lucie Hradecka.  I think Peer could suffer an early exit before the quarter-finals as the winner of this first round match could play the in-form Auckland finalist, Zheng Jie.  I’m actually going to back Hradecka to make the quarter-finals; despite losing to Zheng in Auckland, I believe that Zheng will be tired from her exploits in Auckland and unable to keep the momentum going.
In the the third section of the draw, Angelique Kerber opens up against Elena Vesnina.  Kerber is one of the names who I think has a great shot at winning the title.  She has really strengthened her game following Wimbledon last year and looked solid last week in reaching the semi-finals of Auckland.  Kerber is projected to meet Ksenia Pervak in the quarter-finals.  Pervak will have a tricky opener against Sorana Cirstea, but it is a match I anticipate her to win.  It is interesting to note that the Wimbledon Junior Champion, Ashleigh Barty will play Bethanie Mattek-Sands in the first round.  I’m never truly convinced by Mattek-Sands’s all attacking game, but I fancy her to reach the quarter-finals this week…
In the final section of the draw, the number two seed Anabel Medina Garrigues will face her fellow Spaniard, Carla Suarez Navarro who has been handed another tough first round draw.  I think Medina will just have enough to progress and should make at least the quarter-finals where she should meet Jarmila Gajdosova.  Gajdosova plays Ayumi Morita in the first round and despite some tough times during her Hopman Cup experience including a 6-0 6-0 beating from Marion Bartoli, she did manage to beat Medina in one of the round robin matches.  You never quite know what you will get from Gajdosova, but she won the title here last year and I think she will reach the semi-finals this time, but not win the tournament overall.
My tip for the final
Angelique Kerber def. Galina Voskoboeva – I think Kerber has played some consistent tennis of late and is the safest bet for the win in Hobart. Voskoboeva is a little bit of a risk, but I feel she is one worthy of taking in what is a very open draw.
Watch out for…
Lucie Hradecka who had a good week in Auckland taking out the number two seed, Peng Shuai in the Singles and winning the doubles event with her partner, Andrea Hlavackova.  She has some  tricky opponents in her section of the draw, but she has the game to beat anyone on her day.  Her form in Auckland suggests she could be one to keep an eye on this week.
Worthy of a punt
Once again, I don’t see much potential with the bookmakers, but I would go for Lucie Hradecka to beat Shahar Peer in the first round (6/5 with most bookmakers).

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