1. Jelena Jankovic v Caroline Garcia (Toronto, R1)
The 2015 season has gone a little sour for Caroline Garcia. The 21-year-old made a promising start to the year; she took out a seed at the Australian Open, reached two finals in Acapulco and Monterrey, and beat Ana Ivanovic three times. Since pushing Maria Sharapova all the way in an excellent third round match in Madrid, Garcia has won just two matches. In Stanford, Garcia lost to Nicole Gibbs in the first round, 6-4 7-5. Garcia will make errors with the ultra-aggressive game she adopts but she was especially erratic in the first set against Gibbs. She improved in the second set and was dominant on serve until she served for the set… she didn’t win another game.
Garcia is still in that mode where she tries to hit a winner of most balls. On return, she kept going for the big winner and although every now and then one stunning return would land in, the rest didn’t! On the match point, Garcia was in complete control of the point but kept hitting back to Gibbs rather than playing into the empty space and eventually hit wide. Her game looks technically brilliant but tactically, it’s a bit of a mess right now. I think Garcia is a prime example of how important the mental aspect of tennis is these days because she has the tools to be much higher than her current ranking of 36.
Garcia faces Jelena Jankovic in the first round of Toronto. JJ lost her first match in Istanbul to the eventual finalist, Urszula Radwanska but went onto win in Nanchang. It was an odd decision for JJ to play the $125K event as she was one of just two top 100 players in the field…. A title is a title though and it probably helped to build her confidence after the early loss in Istanbul. Jankovic had a really decent grass court season by her standards and she’s at home on the hard courts so technically this should be a good time of the year for her.
Jankovic leads Garcia, 2-1 in their head-to-head. Their first two matches were both absolute epics with JJ prevailing in three sets. Garcia won their last match on clay in the final of Bogota. Garcia’s best level can easily trouble Jankovic but she seems so fragile mentally right now. She could turn it on but more than likely, Jankovic’s consistency and recent injection of confidence from winning Nanchang should give her the nod.
Prediction: Jankovic d. Garcia in 3 sets
2. Sara Errani v Kristina Mladenovic (Toronto, R1)
Another intriguing first round match from the bottom half of the Toronto draw will see the number 15 seed, Sara Errani up against Kristina Mladenovic. Naturally, Errani played the clay court events after Wimbledon and enjoyed mixed success as she reached the final in Bucharest and semi-finals in Bad Gastein. Errani was then forced to pull out of Washington with a knee injury. Mladenovic played in DC but didn’t have a good time in singles. She lost 6-2 6-2 to Sam Stosur and was apparently seen sobbing after that match. The Frenchwoman went on to win the doubles title with Belinda Bencic. Mladenovic has had an excellent year so far and is on the cusps of nicking a seeding for the US Open. She will need to perform well over the next two weeks to achieve that.
Errani can be a wily opponent on hard courts with her ability to get balls back in play and mix up the pace. While the Italian player obviously struggles on serve (I have read she has a shoulder condition), she more than makes up for that with her tenacity. Mladenovic has a big serve and equally weighty groundstrokes, but she also has touch as demonstrated by her 12 WTA doubles titles. In their only previous match-up, Mladenovic scored a huge win over Errani in Fed Cup action in clay. While this could throw up one of those shocker scorelines where Errani can bamboozle her more powerful opponent into a rainstorm of errors, I think Mladenovic will be eager to get over her singles loss in DC and be up for the challenge…
Prediction: Mladenovic d. Errani in 3 sets