WTA Birmingham, Quarter-Final Preview: Simona Halep v Kristina Mladenovic

MladenovicThe highest seed remaining in the Birmingham draw, Simona Halep will take on the unseeded, Kristina Mladenovic in quarter-finals action on Friday. The Frenchwoman is enjoying an impressive few months on the tour; on the clay, Mladenovic reached the semi-finals of Marrakech and the final of Strasbourg, and reached the third round of Roland Garros, knocking out Eugenie Bouchard in the first round. Mladenovic has now made back-to-back quarter-finals on the grass after reaching the last eight in the Netherlands where she had match points in a lengthy match against Belinda Bencic. This week, Mladenovic has continued her good form with three notable wins over Alison Riske, Eugenie Bouchard and Barbora Strycova.

Against Bouchard, Mladenovic was the better player on the big points and she came through the third set with a bagel. Her third round match against Strycova was a fun one and demonstrates why she can be so brilliant and frustrating in equal measures. Mladenovic was dominating the first set, serving well and hitting her groundstrokes with power and precision. However, her inconsistency and concentration let her down when serving for the set and Strycova came back to force a tiebreak. Strycova was unable to capitalise in the tiebreak, serving a double fault on set point. Mladenovic has so many facets to her game (I mean that in a good way) and if she can improve the mental side to her game, she’s only going to keep rising up the rankings. It’s not unconceivable that Mladenovic could nick a seeding for Wimbledon if she goes all the way in Birmingham but if she doesn’t, the Frenchwoman will be one of the most dangerous floaters at SW19.

Halep has had a drama-free start to her grass court season with straight set wins over Naomi Broady (6-4 6-2) and Klara Koukalova (6-1 6-3). This will be her toughest match of the week so far. In their only previous match, Mladenovic beat Halep in Paris indoors last year, 7-6 6-4. I think Mladenovic has a real shot at winning this match. Her game is one of those that has the potential to cause Halep problems with a big serve that is effective on this surface and huge groundstrokes. My only concern is whether Mladenovic can stay focused and consistent if she gets into a winning position…

Prediction: Halep d. Mladenovic in 3 sets

WTA Birmingham Quarter-Final Predictions

Angelique Kerber d. Katerina Siniakova in 2 sets

Sabine Lisicki d. Daniela Hantuchova in 2 tight sets

Poll results: 89% of readers correctly predicted that Halep would beat Koukalova, 62% of readers correctly predicted that Suarez Navarro would beat Kuznetsova, 81% of readers correctly predicted that Kerber would beat Jankovic and 85% correctly predicted that Lisicki would beat Rybarikova. Well done to the majorities there đŸ˜‰

21 thoughts on “WTA Birmingham, Quarter-Final Preview: Simona Halep v Kristina Mladenovic

  1. She’s been holding her nerve until now which is quite shocking. In fact not only on grass but all this year. Maybe her breakthrough year? (Have a feeling its Babos’ friendship thats giving her a solid mental home-base) She’ll show considering who she’s up against and at the same time draw confidence beating her already in a tight match so the mental advantage won’t be there for Halep like it usually is. I think Mladenovic edges it just like the last time w a similar scoreline.

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    • If she can hold her nerve and beat Halep this time. I think this year could be her break through year. I always think she has lot of potentials.

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  2. Wow! Magnificent from Mladenovic. Her play in that third set especially was some of the best tennis played all year. I reeeaaally like her and she’s such a pleasure to watch. She could be top eight by this time next year if she can work on closing out sets/matches and put a bit extra on her second serve.
    I foresee her failing to back up such a massive win tomorrow against Pliskova though.

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    • Good for Kiki! I like her too, great game and very warm personality. I agree, I think she’s a future top ten player IF she can keep improving her consistency and mental side of her game.

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      • Thats a big IF still. She probably ends up in top 10 almost from talent alone and quickly falls out of it. But I hope I’m wrong and she doesn keep going in this department. Why not?
        Such a sweet person this Kikki. Almost not made for competitive sports imo. She could use a deep and inspiring run in a Grand Slam.
        Or maybe just mugging around in the burbs of one of the 4 major tennis cities w racquet in hand.
        She needs a rivalry. I’m thinking Sharapova.

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      • Nice girls can win big though. Just look at Kim Clijsters, Amelie Mauresmo, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Li Na, Petra Kvitova, Vera Zvonereva…

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    • If she plays like that, I can’t see her not to be a top 10 players. WTA is getting very excited with all these young promising players.

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  3. Great win for Mladenovic! think its not the best matchup for Halep esp when Mladenovic is consistent and patient from the baseline.
    I agree when it comes to iron will she has no chance vs Pliskova.
    Still lacks that killer instinct. She has to maintain any edge she has and leave all her sympathies behind.
    Pliskova will be busy eking out the win and Mladenovic will let her off the hook too often.

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    • Well I think Pliskova lacks some killer instinct too, actually. She should have wrapped the first set against CSN up with a bagel, really. But I don’t think her win felt as massive for her as Mladenovic’s must have done. And this is her fourth semi final in a Premier level event this year. She’s only failed to get through to the final on one occasion, in Antwerp, where she clearly ran out of steam.

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      • Yeah its amazing how Pliskova is able to dig deep and keep her focus-not very common for her age I think.
        Or maybe it goes hand in hand w her type of game-kind of like Sharapova’s. Huge groundstrokes and serve and relaxes after 2 breaks feeling very confident to risk losing one of them. I just hope Mladenovic will be up for this as much as Pliskova.

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      • Not sure I’d compare Pliskova to Sharapova, who wins matches by being ultra intense and treating every point like its the last. They both hit cleanly, but I feel Karolina’s power comes from her timing whereas Sharapova takes huuuuge swings and muscles the ball. It’s a big part of why she’s struggled with her shoulders so much, because she doesn’t extend and relax them/her arms when hitting and serving. Karolina however is very fluid and barely strains her muscles when she hits.

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    • I want both these players to win but leaning towards Mladenovic just because it should mean more to her as well as for her confidence. More Mladenovic is good for the WTA!

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      • I do think Kiki can beat Karo once Karo’s serve is not working. Also, Kiki has more varieties than Karo. I do agree that Kiki should win this tournament. She deserves it. I can’t choose – Karo, Kiki and Sabine. I love them all.

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      • I agree. I think Pliskova is a player who’s either magic or she’s not. Not to the extent that some of the other aggressive big hitters are. She has more of a plan B than Kvitova, Lisicki or Keys, but when she’s off, parts of her game just fall to pieces.
        I just think Kristina is going to really struggle to back up her Halep win with another top quality performance. And Karolina isn’t going to make it easy for her. She’s going to put the ball straight back up the centre of the court as close to the line as possible.

        One thing I find really strange about how Mladenovic plays is how loosely she seems to hold the racket. I’m shocked that it doesn’t shoot out of her hand, let alone that she’s able to get the power she does. It’s quite a contract to Pliskova, who really holds on tight.

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