There are two WTA tournaments in the upcoming week with a hard court tournament in Istanbul, Turkey and a clay court tournament in Bad Gastein, Austria. I can never really get on board with this post-Wimbledon two week clay court stretch. The draw for Bad Gastein isn’t bad with Sara Errani and Sam Stosur the top two seeds. The draw also features Johanna Larsson and Anna Karolina Schmiedlova, the champions last week in Bastad and Bucharest. TV coverage for this tournament looks thin on the ground so I won’t be writing a full preview. I’ll be focusing attention on Istanbul as we slowly start to gear up for the summer hard court season. It’s a decent draw with some intriguing first round matches. I’m planning to blog for this week and then we’ll see if I have any motivation for Baku and Florianopolis next week…
The 2015 TEB BNP Paribas Istanbul Cup draw is headlined by the world number 15, Venus Williams. When I first saw the entry list I was surprised to see Venus’s name crop up. However it make sense with Venus not playing a great deal of tennis in the last few months and having finals points in Canada to defend on the horizon. She only played five matches on clay losing in the first round of Roland Garros to Sloane Stephens. She didn’t play any grass court warm-up tournament before reaching the second week of Wimbledon where she lost out to sister, Serena. Venus seems raring to go after playing World Team Tennis last Tuesday for the Washington Kastles.
Venus’s first round match in Istanbul will be against a qualifier. She could play the Bastad finalist, Mona Barthel in the second round and Daria Gavrilova in the quarter-finals. I can’t remember seeing Gavrilova seeded at a WTA tournament before, which marks the rapid progress she has made on the tour this year. Gavrilova finished the 2014 season at number 233 and is already up to 39 with few points to defend for the rest of the year. Gavrilova will play Lesia Tsurenko in the first round of Istanbul; Tsurenko has won their two previous matches in Moscow (2011) and the Australian Open (2013), both in straight sets.
The second quarter of the draw features the two stand-out first round matches; the number four seed, Alizé Cornet plays Yanina Wickmayer in the first round, while the number five seed, Camila Giorgi will take on Dominika Cibulkova. Both matches will be previewed on Moo’s Tennis Blog.
The third quarter of the draw features Jelena Jankovic and Tsvetana Pironkova. I did a double take when I saw Jankovic up against Radwanska in the first round… of course, it’s Urszula! Jelena’s last match was against Agnieszka Radwanska at Wimbledon in a fabulously entertaining fourth rounder. It was Jankovic’s best grass court season for years as she won eight matches on the green stuff and ousted Petra Kvitova at Wimbledon. Jelena’s only previous match against Urszula ended in defeat in Carlsbad in 2013. If JJ can earn a first win in that head-to-head, she will play the winner of a first round match between Yaroslava Shvedova and Bojana Jovanovski in the second round. JJ looks to have a nice draw going forward.
The final quarter houses the number two seed and world number 17, Elina Svitolina. All in all, it’s been a good year for Svitolina who reached her first Grand Slam quarter-final at Roland Garros. Her game is built around consistency but I still question whether she has the weapons to take it to the next level. Svitolina lost in the second round of Wimbledon to Casey Dellacqua where she was very passive. It will be interesting to see her tactics in Istanbul. Her first match of the week will be against Magdalena Rybarikova, who finally won her first match at Wimbledon after going 0-8 in previous years. Rybarikova played some wonderful tennis on the grass but her year has been largely forgettable with quarter-final appearances in Acapulco and Monterrey her best results in 2015. Svitolina beat Rybarikova at the start of the year in Brisbane, 6-0 6-2.
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova is the number seven seed in Istanbul and will play Roberta Vinci in the first round. Pavs hasn’t won more than two matches at any tournaments this year. She has one of the cleanest ball striking games out there and it is such a shame that she is yet to really fulfill her potential. Her first rounder against Vinci looks good on paper as she has won five of their last six matches. Vinci snapped a five match losing streak in Bucharest beating Timea Babos in the first round, but then won just two games in the next round against Aleksandra Krunic. Vinci has a beautifully flowing game when it’s on song but her form has been erratic over the last few years. She did well in Istanbul last year where she didn’t drop a set in her first four matches before running into an in-form Caroline Wozniacki in the final where she won again, just two games.
Pavs and Vinci are both unreliable so I wouldn’t be surprised to see an upset in this section. The world number 104, Elizaveta Kulichkova may be one to watch out for. The 19-year-old qualified to reach the quarter-finals in both Kuala Lumpur and Katowice earlier this year; in the latter, she thrashed Urszula Radwanska and Kaia Kanepi in the first two rounds for the combined loss of four games. Her form since that tournament has been ropey but she did score a confidence boosting first round win at Wimbledon, defeating Yanina Wickmayer 10-8 in the third set. Kulichkova plays a yet-to-be determined qualifier in the first round.
1st Round Predictions: Buyukakcay d. Hantuchova in 3 sets, Gavrilova d. Tsurenko in 3 sets, Karatantcheva d. Schiavone in 2 sets, Nara d. Diatchenko in 3 sets, Shvedova d. Jovanovski in 3 sets, Jankovic d. U.Radwanska in 2 sets, Pavlyuchenkova d. Vinci in 2 tight sets and Svitolina d. Rybarikova in 2 tight sets
Final prediction: V.Williams d. Jankovic