Doha & Rotterdam, Thursday preview: Jankovic v Kleybanova, Gulbis v Dimitrov

The tennis action keeps on coming with all third round matches in Doha and remaining second round matches from Rotterdam to be completed on Thursday.  Doha saw some richly entertaining matches on Wednesday as Petra Kvitova beat Venus Williams and Simona Halep beat Kaia Kanepi in third set tiebreaks.  The end of the Venus v Kvitova match was absolutely terrific and the best tennis I have seen on the WTA tour in 2014 so far.

Poll results: 65% went for Williams over Kvitova.  I always have too much faith in Petra, but the one time I go against her and she comes good! In the other poll Tsonga was a clear favourite over Cilic, which I was not expecting.

1. Jelena Jankovic v Alisa Kleybanova (WTA Doha, R3)

Alisa Kleybanova

Doha saw a spate of upsets on Wednesday as Caroline Wozniacki, Sam Stosur, Ana Ivanovic and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova all lost.  There were three match-ups that I had planned to write about today, but all three didn’t materialise.  Therefore, I have decided to take the chance to write about the third round match between Alisa Kleybanova and Jelena Jankovic.  Kleybanova, currently ranked at world number 180, is still trying to fully make her way back on tour and faces the arduous task of having to qualify for tour events and rely on wildcards.  The signs have generally been positive; she earnt a handful of tough three set wins in 2013 and reached the quarter-finals of Moscow with a win over Carla Suarez Navarro.  In 2014, she lost her first two matches of the year, but has levelled that up with two wins in Doha.  She benefitted from a withdrawal by Dominika Cibulkova on Tuesday, but fully earnt her place in the last 16 with a straight sets win over Stefanie Voegele.

Kleybanova now plays her doubles partner in Doha, Jankovic, who strolled through her first match since the Australian Open, defeating Karin Knapp, 6-0 6-2.  Jankovic is my tip to make the final and she has looks good although is positioned in the much tougher top half.  Kleybanova and Jankovic have played some brilliant matches in the past.  Kleybanova has been a tough opponent for Jankovic with three wins from their first five encounters.  They last played at the US Open where JJ won 6-3 6-2.  I think this will be another win for Jankovic, but I am really encouraged by Kleybanova’s movements on the tour and am confident she can crack the top 100 once more.

Prediction: Jankovic to beat Kleybanova in 2 sets (1 tight, 1 easy)

2. Ernests Gulbis v Grigor Dimitrov (ATP Rotterdam, R2)

Dimitrov

Grigor Dimitrov

Thursday’s must-watch match from Rotterdam will be the first match on Centre Court between Grigor Dimitrov and Ernests Gulbis.  Dimitrov had a tough first rounder against good friend, Dmitry Tursunov, 6-2 1-6 6-4.  It was a brilliant match and I was very impressed with Dimitrov’s improving defence, which was exceptional at times.  Tursunov saved one match point on a marvellous rally; Dimitrov stretched from side-to-side before the Tursunov  finally forced the error from the Bulgarian.  Tursunov, who took a medical time-out before coming out to serve at 4-5 in the decider, had led by a break in the third set, but Dimitrov dug in well after a shaky second set.

Gulbis advanced past Denis Istomin in the first round, 6-4 7-6(4).  The Latvian world number 24 has made a solid, yet unspectacular start to the year.  In a first ever match-up on the ATP tour, this promises to be an exciting match.  Both possess evident streakiness, which would suggest this one is likely to go three sets; however I have already stated that I like Dimitrov’s chances in Rotterdam and I believe he’ll make a big improvement in the second round to reach the quarters.

Prediction: Dimitrov to beat Gulbis in 2 tight sets

WTA Doha 3rd Round Predictions

Li Na to beat Petra Cetkovska in 2 tight sets

Angelique Kerber to beat Klara Zakopalova in 2 sets

Petra Kvitova to beat Lucie Safarova in 2 tight sets

Simona Halep to beat Annika Beck in 2 sets

Sara Errani to beat Monica Niculescu in 3 sets

Yanina Wickmayer to beat Jana Cepelova in 3 sets

***

ATP Rotterdam 2nd Round Predictions

Juan Martin del Potro to beat Paul-Henri Mathieu in 2 sets

Tomas Berdych to beat Nicolas Mahut in 2 tight sets

Jerzy Janowicz to beat Tommy Haas in 2 tight sets

Michael Berrer to beat Igor Sijsling in 3 sets

Richard Gasquet to beat Philipp Kohlschreiber in 3 sets

Andy Murray to beat Dominic Thiem in 2 sets

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