This week’s WTA draws are… interesting. The women are heading to Baku in Azerbaijan and Florianopolis in Brazil, and both draws are somewhat lacking in quality. In particular, the draw for Florianopolis would likely be classed as a weak ITF draw, let alone WTA draw! This will be the last “quiet” week on tour before the North American summer swing kicks off next week… yay.
The top four seeds in Baku are Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Karin Knapp, Dominika Cibulkova and Kurumi Nara. Pavlyuchenkova suffered a miserable first round loss last week in Istanbul to Roberta Vinci where she won just three games against a player she had beaten four consecutive times. This was rather befitting of her year so far. Her first match in Baku against fellow Russian, Elizaveta Kulichkova feels like a 50-50 match. Draws like these can so easily break up. If Pavs falls early, the top half will be fun! Kateryna Bondarenko could be the one to benefit if Pavs does go. The Ukranian player beat Venus Williams en route to the quarter-finals in Istanbul.
The number two seed, Karin Knapp arrives in Baku after a gruelling week in Bad Gastein where she played two matches today (Sunday) beating Sara Errani in a rain-delayed semi-final before just coming up short against Sam Stosur in the final. Knapp has some huge strokes and she can be lethal when they are landing in the court. Inconsistency and nerves will always be an issue and she was struggling with an injury during the grass court season. Knapp opens against Stefanie Voegele in the first round.
Cibulkova continues to make her comeback from the achilles injury which forced her to have surgery back in February. It is encouraging to see Domi playing right now as it demonstrates she is fit and healthy, and ready to get stuck in. Her first rounder is one of the toughest she could have got in this draw against the lovely-to-watch, Margarita Gasparyan. The Russian player has won three ITF titles this year and successfully qualified for both the French Open and Wimbledon. I’d fancy the winner of that match to go deep in the draw. Lesia Tsurenko, the champion in Istanbul who produced a superb performance in the final to defeat Urszula Radwanska, has pulled out of Baku. Danka Kovinic has been bumped up to the number nine seed and will play Evgeniya Rodina in the first round. She has reached back-to-back quarter-finals on the clay in Bucharest and Bad Gastein. Kovinic has really impressed me this year but she hasn’t won a WTA main draw match away from the clay.
Final prediction: Cibulkova d. Bondarenko
Wow… this draw is something else. It’s hard to see Florianopolis lasting as a tour event for much longer with a draw like this. Tatjana Maria, the world number 64, is the number one seed and is just one of FOUR top 100 players in the draw. Maria’s quarter features Maria-Teresa Torro-Flor, Louisa Chirico and Anastasija Sevastova. The one to watch out for is Sevastova who is hurtling back up the rankings after making her comeback to the tour earlier this year having retired back in 2013. Sevastova has won 4 ITF titles and put in an admirable showing against the eventual champion, Sam Stosur in Bad Gastein last week. She’s a fun player to watch and it’s great to see her back competing again.
Ajla Tomljanovic is the number two seed and opens against a qualifier. Tomljanovic’s game has misfired for large chunks of the year. It had all started so promisingly for Tomljanovic with a top 20 win over Jelena Jankovic in her first match of the year down under in Brisbane and an appearance in the final of Pattaya City. Since then, the results have not really come for Tomljanovic as she has posted a 8-13 W-L record and lost to players outside the world’s top 100 on five occasions. Although Tomljanovic has struggled to beat players ranked below her it would be a surprise to see her fall before the quarter-finals in this draw. She is seeded to meet Bethanie Mattek-Sands in the quarters. BMS has been able to take advantage of the sub-standard field to get into a WTA draw. The American player had a great run at Wimbledon and opens against Mandy Minella as she continues her quest to rise back up the singles rankings. She is so much better than her current ranking of 115!
Annika Beck and Laura Siegemund are two players to watch out for this week. Beck snapped a four match losing streak (all three setters where she had won the first set) with a quarter-final showing in Bad Gastein. Her compatriot, Siegemund is enjoying her best ever year on the WTA tour with her career best ranking coming earlier this month. I watched her match against Flavia Pennetta in Marrakech earlier this year and she put up a great fight against a very experienced opponent. Siegemund is in the same quarter as Teliana Pereira who was forced to pull out of Bad Gastein last week with an injury.
Final prediction: Mattek-Sands d. Siegemund