The main draws in Birmingham, Queens and Halle all kicked off today. My first round predictions for Birmingham are following a similar trend to 2013. Looking at my full draw predictions, i’ve never seen such a solid cluster of red. There were a number of surprising results; one of the more eye popping was Victoria Duval defeating Caroline Garcia in her first WTA main draw match on grass. At Queens, Jeremy Chardy was the first seed to fall, losing to Sam Querrey, 6-7(4) 7-6(4) 7-6(5). It was a match that featured 56 aces, one break point and only took two hours and 4 minutes to complete three tiebreak sets… welcome to the 2014 grass court season.
1. Daniela Hantuchova v Belinda Bencic (WTA Birmingham, R2)
The fourth match on the Ann Jones Centre Court in Birmingham (NB 5pm-ish local time) will see the defending champion, Daniela Hantuchova face a stern test against rising teen, Belinda Bencic. In the first match of the 2014 Aegon Classic main draw, Bencic edged out last year’s finalist, Donna Vekic in straight sets, 6-4 6-4. Hantuchova was absolutely tremendous on the grass last year. I watched her quarter-final match with Francesca Schiavone live. She was a set and a break down, and had an injury, but she kept fighting and prevailed in one of the best and longest matches of 2013. It was one of the most impressive displays from any WTA player I saw during last year.
I think Hantuchova has a real soft spot for this tournament. On any other surface and at pretty much any other tournament I would go for Bencic. I’ve said before that I believe that Belinda is the real deal and she is very capable of pulling out big wins. Bencic won the juniors title at Wimbledon last year so she can obviously play on this surface. Hantuchova has been terribly erratic this year although she did manage two solid wins at Roland Garros. Normally, I am all for jumping on the Belinda bandwagon, but I have a feeling that Hantuchova may sneak out of this match.
Prediction: Hantuchova d. Bencic in 3 sets
2. Grigor Dimitrov v James Ward (ATP Queens, R2)
Queens kicked off with two wins for two Brits on day one. Both players face top eight seeds on Tuesday and the most enticing of those matches will see James Ward take on Grigor Dimitrov. Ward defeated Blaz Rola in the first round, 7-5 6-4. Ward had beaten Rola in French Open qualifying two weeks ago, winning 12-10 in an epic third set. The Brit has done well at Queens before having made the semi-finals back in 2011 with victories over Stan Wawrinka and Sam Querrey. Dimitrov has had a great year up till now although he was dropped in the opening round at Roland Garros. He also struggled on grass last year, posting a 2-2 W-L record. Ward will have the advantage of playing and winning a match. I’d still back Dimitrov to reach the third round.
Prediction: Dimitrov d. Ward in 2 tight sets
3. Ana Ivanovic v Mona Barthel (WTA Birmingham, R2)
Ana Ivanovic plays her first match in Birmingham against the potentially dangerous, Mona Barthel. I was concerned how Mona would respond to a crushing fourth round loss at Roland Garros to Pauline Parmentier. Mona got tight serving for the match and ending up losing 6-1 1-6 5-7. However Barthel kicked off her Birmingham campaign with a thoroughly encouraging 6-1 6-4 victory over Ajla Tomljanovic. Barthel lost to Tomljanovic in a third set tiebreak when they played in the final round of qualifying in Stuttgart last month. Barthel leads the head-to-head 2-1 with Ivanovic; Mona won in Stuttgart (2012) and Indian Wells (2013). Ana gained revenge in Fed Cup action last year on clay in Fed Cup action with a 7-6(5) 2-6 6-2 victory. This is a potential banana skin for Ivanovic considering she isn’t great on grass and hasn’t played a competitive match yet, and Barthel was so impressive on Monday. Mona has all the shots, but whether she has the mental game to get across the finish line… I am nervous for her!
Prediction: Ivanovic d. Barthel in 3 sets
WTA Birmingham 2nd Round Predictions
Coco Vandeweghe d. Yanina Wickmayer in 2 tight sets
Lauren Davis d. Victoria Duval in 3 sets
ATP Queens 2nd Round Predictions
Kevin Anderson d. Dan Evans in 3 sets
Tomas Berdych d. James Duckworth in 2 sets
Sam Querrey d. Denis Kudla in 3 sets
THE GRASS LOOKS AMAZING. The next four weeks are going to be marvellous 🙂