WTA Moscow, Luxembourg: Preview and Predictions

This is the last week of regular WTA tournaments in 2014 and once again, i’m scratching my head wondering where the hell has 2014 gone?! The final two events will be held in Moscow and Luxembourg.  Both tournaments have end-of-season vibes with plenty of pull-outs.  Moscow has been hit hard with the likes of Caroline Wozniacki, Ana Ivanovic, Petra Kvitova, Angelique Kerber and Jelena Jankovic ALL withdrawing.  As Singapore looms on the horizon, i’m relieved that none of the eight are playing next week.  It’s been a LONG year and I am slightly tennised out.  Is that a word? Have I created one? I really don’t know.  Anyway, please excuse my predictions, but it’s the final week so i’m letting myself go a little.

WTA Moscow

Dominika CibulkovaPhoto by Jimmie 48 Photography

Moscow’s original entry list was fantastic, the best the tournament had attracted in years.  I think this was because many of the contenders for Singapore committed in case they needed points to qualify.  In fact, the race petered out weeks ago, which meant the withdrawals just kept on coming.  Along with the names mentioned above, Sara Errani, Carla Suarez Navarro, Bojana Jovanovski and Magdalena Rybarikova also withdrew.  So who actually has turned up? Dominika Cibulkova, Flavia Pennetta, Lucie Safarova and Ekaterina Makarova are the top four seeds in Moscow.

Cibulkova is the number one seed and will be looking to end the season on a high after a rough second half to 2014.  It was all going so well at the start, reaching a first Grand Slam final in Australia; however things have gone sour for Dominika, who has also had  injuries in the last month.  After a bye in the first round, she will play Olga Govortsova or a qualifier in the second round.  Her quarter features Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who has a tricky opener against Ana Konjuh.  Pavs’s form has been dire of late and she hasn’t won two matches at a tournament since Cincy in August.  Illness ended her last tournament in Beijing.  If she doesn’t sort her form out, Konjuh certainly has the weapons to stage the upset.  Tianijn champion, Alison Riske could await the winner in round two.  Perhaps I am high on end-of-season fumes, but this feels like the type of tournament where Konjuh could go on a run against weary and tired legs.  Going in her favour is that at all the WTA tournaments she has entered, Konjuh has performed extremely well.

Flavia Pennetta could face the Linz finalist and fellow countywoman, Camila Giorgi in the second round.  Pennetta, who has received the wildcard for Sofia after Jelena Jankovic pulled out through injury, has a 15-14 W-L record since winning the biggest title of her career in Indian Wells in March.  Pennetta’s section also features Karolina Pliskova, who has been brilliant in the fall season.  After winning another title in Linz, she will be dangerous in the draw.  She has proven that she can play back-to-back tournaments; however she did take a MTO in the Linz final and all the tennis she played in China *could* catch up with her.

Lucie Safarova and Svetlana Kuznetsova are the highest seeds in the third quarter.  Lucie’s last tournament saw her reach the third round of Beijing before being defeated by Serena Williams in three sets.  Kuznetsova went one step further in Beijing, earning an impressive victory over Angelique Kerber.  Kuznetsova takes on Klara Koukalova in the first round.  After a fantastic start to the year, Koukalova seems to be running out of gas and has won just four matches on the tour since Wimbledon.  Safarova’s first match of the week will be against Alexandra Panova or Ajla Tomljanovic.  In Tianjin, Tomljanovic had her best week since knocking Agnieszka Radwanska out of the French Open.  She reached the quarter-finals, losing out to Peng Shuai in a tight three setter.

The number two seed in the draw is Ekaterina Makarova, who will play Irina-Camelia Begu or Donna Vekic in her first match in Moscow.  At number 10 in the Race to Singapore, Makarova has had a brilliant year.  Caroline Garcia is the other seed in this section and plays one of the stars from this year’s US Open, Aleksandra Krunic.  Interestingly, Krunic hasn’t won a match since that majestic run, which saw her defeat the Wimbledon champion, Petra Kvitova.

1st Round Predictions: Konjuh d. Pavlyuchenkova in 3 sets, , Kuznetsova d. Koukalova in 2 sets, Garcia d. Krunic in 2 sets, Pironkova d. Kovinic in 3 sets and Vekic d. Begu in 3 sets

Final Prediction: Kuznetsova d. Pennetta

WTA Luxembourg

Petkovic

Andrea Petkovic and Alize Cornet are the headline acts in Luxembourg next week.  Petko will be hoping to recover from a disappointing first round loss in Linz to Camila Giorgi.  Her draw this week has been much kinder as she will play Pauline Parmentier in the first round.  Roberta Vinci is Petkovic’s projected quarter-final opponent and she opens against Tereza Smitkova.  Also within this section are Linz semi-finalist, Karin Knapp and Beijing quarter-finalist, Timea Bacsinszky, who could both do some damage.

Another German player looking to redeem themselves this week is Sabine Lisicki.  She plays the most high profile first round match against Daniela Hantuchova.  Lisicki lost in a third set tiebreak to Knapp last week in Linz.  Varvara Lepchenko is coming all the way from Tianjin and has a tricky opener against Julia Goerges.  The German player needed a wildcard to get into the Luxembourg main draw, but could be one to watch based on her previous form at this tournament (final in 2010, semi-finals in 2011).

Kirsten Flipkens and Barbora Zahlavova Strycova are the two seeds in the third quarter, which really could go any way with seven players all of similar quality.  In the final quarter, Alize Cornet bookends the draw.  She plays a qualifier in the first round.  There could be a rematch of the Guangzhou final between Cornet and Monica Niculescu in the quarters, which would bring joy to the tennis community.  Niculescu won Guangzhou, but her momentum was snapped by Andrea Petkovic in Beijing when she was unable to convert on match points in a crazy match.  Mona Barthel is in this section and plays recent doubles partner, Mandy Minella in the first round; Niculescu takes on Antonia Lottner.  This feels like the type of tournament where Barthel could go on a tear and win it.  Of course, she could also whimper out to Niculescu in the second round, 6-2 6-0.  Niculescu has done well in Luxembourg before.  But heyyy, it’s the final week so i’m taking a risk and backing Mona to win the whole caboodle.

1st Round Predictions: Petkovic d. Parmentier in 2 sets, Bacsinszky d. Beck in 2 sets, Vinci d. Smitkova in 3 sets, Lisicki d. Hantuchova in 3 sets, Goerges d. Lepchenko in 2 tight sets, Hercog d. Erakovic in 3 sets, Niculescu d. Lottner in 2 sets, Barthel d. Minella in 2 sets and Friedsam d. Bertens in 2 sets

Final Prediction: Barthel d. Petkovic

22 thoughts on “WTA Moscow, Luxembourg: Preview and Predictions

  1. Giorgi, please please please get a new coach. What is her dad telling her on the practice court and in his pep talks!? If she could develop a plan b, a slice, a steady rallying shot, ANYTHING, she would be so much tougher to beat. I only saw bits and pieces today but it looked absolutely there for the taking, especially after the MTO. Pliskova didn’t look that interested in covering the court all match long but Giori just kept going after her shots and making errors. So frustrating! She needs some external input big time.

    In terms of this week, I’m hopeful Safarova can grab herself a title and go out on a high this year.

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  2. I’m looking forward to Moscow actually. Safarova, Kuznetsova, Pliskova and Makarova have all been playing outstanding tennis when in form this year. I prefer watching these women to watching the likes of Sharapova.

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  3. For Moscow, Im backing Flavia to win her 11th title!!! For Luxembourg, Im with #TeamSabine, hope she qualifies for Sofia 🙂 Her current opponents for a spot are Sveta and Alize, hoping that they dont go deep in the draw 😦

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    • It’s all a bit up in the air. Stosur and Cornet are about to lose ranking points. Kuznetsova and Lisicki both have to defend semi finals points. If Pliskova can manage one more deep run then she could fly past all of them.

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    • To be honest, i’m glad that Lucie can’t qualify. I’ve got an issue with Sofia and I think it’s a complete waste of time. The off-season is too short as it is so I see it as an extra week to rest and prepare for 2015.

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      • I like Sofia to be honest and would like an ATP equivalent. I think it’s a great way of pushing ‘nearly there’ players to the next level.

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  4. I think its more concerned with money than pushing “nearly there” players to the next level. Ivanovic, Stosur, Wozniaki etc hardly fall into that category. And the fact they can hand a wildcard to any player they like is just stupid for something named “the tournament of champions.” Last year Ivanovic was given a wildcard despite not having won a title that season, and Pironkova was given one just because she’s Bulgarian, which is fine for a grandslam, or a regular tournament, but not for something that is supposed to be exclusively for title winners.

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    • Yeah, the wildcard thing bothers me.
      The money thing doesn’t. Being a tennis player is expensive work and is a struggle when you aren’t winning the top tournaments.

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      • Certainly some players do struggle to make ends meet and pay for all their travel and accommodation etc and barely scrape a living on the tour. But a tournament like Sofia that is added to the tour to reward the best players on tour (bar those who have qualified for the WTA tour finals, has no bearing on that whatsoever. If anything, it is part of the problem, as the very top heavy distribution of prize money is the reason those lower down the rankings struggle.

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      • Sofia isn’t there to reward the best players on the tour, that is what the WTA championships is for. It is there to recognise and reward the women who have competed and won International level events. Those don’t pay well and they don’t award much in the way of points. It gives women like Caroline Garcia and Karolina Pliskova something to fight for and it is the only reason that events like Moscow and Luxemberg still have ANY name players there.
        I said I don’t personally agree with the ‘wildcard’ system myself, but at the end of the day the event needs bums on seats and you need bigger names to draw in the crowds. The great thing here is that people going to see women like Ivanovic and Pironkova (home player) will be introduced to unlikelier names and hopefully follow THOSE women in future events.

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      • I just want to know, if its a waste to play in Sofia? How about Zhuhai next year? Some weird place that I have never heard of … Its gonna be for those who finished 9-20 in the road to Spore

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  5. Oh, and I nearly forgot. Last year, Pavlyuchenkova, Kirilenko and Vesnina all opted to play Sofia over representing Russia in the Fed Cup final (the 50th anniversary of the competition too) because they would rather pick up a big pay check and some rankings points than play for personal and national pride. I think Vinci, to her great credit, qualified for Sofia but decided she’d rather represent Italy than accept the invite, but we shouldn’t be in this position in the first place. It’s an unnecessary and purely financially motivated distraction in my eyes.

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  6. Let’s just agree to disagree on it’s merits then!
    To take a more positive tone, I’m really excited for both the men’s and the women’s tour finals, the lineups are looking the best they have for years. I’m hoping David Ferrer doesn’t make the cut as he just doesn’t have a chance of doing anything once he gets there. From a very selfish and British-centric point of view, I’d love them to bring the WTA finals to the o2!

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    • I’d love to see that too.
      I’m anxious over Serena at the year ends. I’d hate to see her lose her #1 ranking by default and I’d HATE to see Sharapova get it period.

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      • I share your concerns! I’m not a big serena fan but I’m even less of a Maria one, and, as you say, it’s never nice to see someone lose a title or top spot by default, especially to her!

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      • In spite of her odd losses this year, she deserves her top ranking based on the titles that she has won, which is still more than anybody else.
        I think she should suck it up and go. She could still win the tournament if she just stood and hit. Half the other women are battling recurring injuries also. Only really Wozniacki, Kvitova and Sharapova are one hundred percent.

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  7. I think Bacsinkszy should have called it a year after last week. I’ve only seen bits of her match with Beck, but yet again she looks tired and nowhere near the impressive level she managed to peak at a couple of weeks ago. She’s not used to playing this much tennis in a season having been hampered by injury so often, and I’d like to see her take a long break and recharge. She can have a really good season in 2015 if she recuperates and builds on what she’s achieved this year. In contrast, Beck looked fresh and very good in the few games I watched. She could cause Vinci a few problems in the next round if she keeps it up.

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