The womens grass court season kicks off this week with the International event in Birmingham. I have tickets for Friday’s quarter-final play although the weather forecast is already looking horrendous so I have my fingers and toes crossed I get some play!
There have been a number of withdrawals from the competition including Kaia Kanepi, Peng Shuai, Petra Cetkovska and Simona Halep, but the draw has been boosted by the introduction of Francesca Schiavone and Jelena Jankovic as wildcard entries. Schiavone (1) and Jankovic (5) are two of the top eight seeds, which are rounded out by Sabine Lisicki, Daniela Hantuchova, Roberta Vinci, Mona Barthel, Christina McHale and Ekaterina Makarova.
In the top half, Francesca Schiavone is set to meet Jelena Jankovic in the quarter-finals, meanwhile Roberta Vinci is projected to meet Mona Barthel. Schiavone should theoretically beat anyone in her section although her form in 2012 has shown she could easily come unstuck. Jankovic too is not a dead cert for the quarter-finals and I actually think she will fall before then, most likely to the number 11 seed Iveta Benesova in the third round.
Mona Barthel has had a terrific year so far but performed poorly at Roland Garros. She plays her first match against either Michaella Krajicek or Andrea Hlavackova and has a number of tricky players such as Zheng Jie in her section. I think her game might translate well to the grass but some recent crushing losses have left me wondering what kind of form she is in. Roberta Vinci may have to contend in round two with Serena William‘s conqueror, Virgine Razzano who has done well on the grass before at Eastbourne. There are a barrage of British players with Heather Watson, Elena Baltacha and Anne Keothavong all residing in this section of the draw and likely to be dangerous on home soil.
The quarter-finals in the bottom half of draw are projected to be Ekaterina Makarova against Daniela Hantuchova and Christina McHale against Sabine Lisicki. The German Lisicki is the defending champion, but comes into Birmingham on a terrible run of form. It is very likely she could play Urszula Radwanska in the second round, who won the ITF tournament in Nottingham; unless Lisicki can resurrect her form on her favourite surface, she will be out of the door quickly. McHale has been steadily progressing and this could be a great chance for her to go deep in the tournament. Her biggest threats are likely to come from Elena Vesnina in the second round and Sorana Cirstea in the third round.
Daniela Hantuchova makes her long awaited return from injury after missing the clay court season through injury. She will play Melinda Czink or Anna Tatishvili in the second round, who will both smell an upset as the Slovak will no doubt be rusty although she does love the grass having made the finals here last year. Makarova also has a great game for grass having danced to the Eastbourne title in 2010. She will have to contend with the likes of Laura Robson, Ayumi Morita and Marina Erakovic in her section of the draw.
The majority of the seeds this week are in a slump of form so predicting the outcome of this tournament is really tough! I’m going for a string of surprises with Christina McHale winning her first ever WTA tour title, beating the qualifier, Zheng Jie in the final.
Final Prediction – McHale d. Zheng
Also this week… there is a tournament in the beautiful setting of Bad Gastein in Austria. It is a curious time to be holding a clay court tournament with just two weeks till Wimbledon but it has attracted the likes of Julia Goerges, Yanina Wickmayer and Carla Suarez Navarro.
This week I will just be focusing on the Birmingham tournament for the WTA tour and my full predictions can be found HERE