It’s been over a month since Lucie Safarova took to a tennis court and finally, she’s backkkkk. On the 1st of September, Lucie suffered a disappointing first round exit at the US Open to Lesia Tsurenko, later revealing that she had been struggling with an abdominal tear that needed rest. Worse news would come when Lucie revealed via her Facebook page that she was in hospital due to a bacterial infection. Lucie spoke about her illness in more detail in this WTA article HERE… sounds scary! After skipping the Asian Swing, Lucie’s back in action on Tuesday in Linz as she steps up her bid to qualify for the WTA Finals in Singapore. Lucie was in a prime position to qualify but after missing Beijing, a Premier Mandatory tournament offering a hefty wedge of ranking points, she’s still got work to do. I wonder if she’s perhaps coming back a little bit earlier, but qualifying for Singapore would be huge!
Lucie’s first round match against Andreea Mitu is third up on Centre Court. While Lucie will be fresh from not having played for over a month, I wonder whether her stamina will be affected by the illness. These things can takes ages to fully get over. This will be a first ever encounter between the pair. Both players had their best results this year at the French Open with Safarova reaching the final and Mitu making the fourth round. Mitu’s best results have come on clay and she’s currently on a five match losing streak stretching back to New Haven. This makes me nervous though! I’d go, thinking optimistically, for Lucie but I won’t be surprised if it’s just too much, too soon.
The first match on the Center Court promises to be a bruising affair between two former finalists, Camila Giorgi and Julia Goerges. Giorgi was last year’s finalist, coming up short against Karolina Pliskova in the final. This is a repeat of a first round match from Linz two years ago where Giorgi beat Goerges in straight sets, 6-2 6-3. Goerges has actually had a decent year, reaching the last 16 at two of the Grand Slams. She came through qualifying in Wuhan to reach the second round but I read that she had an injury in her first round match in Beijing. I’d go for Giorgi in this one but if they are both fit, it’s a bit of a coin toss as both have big, yet erratic games.
Andrea Petkovic also begins her campaign in Linz, opening against Johanna Larsson in a first match-up since 2006. Larsson won her first WTA title on the clay of Bastad this summer and her last two results have been back-to-back quarter-finals in Seoul and Tashkent. I’d fancy Larsson to win a set as Petkovic often makes slow starts to tournaments. I’m not really feeling Petko’s chances this week but I hope she proves me wrong. Two Austrian wildcards round out the Centre Court schedule with Tamira Paszek taking on Stefanie Voegele and Barbara Haas playing the number eight seed, Barbora Strycova (careful with the spelling!)
Court 1 has no less than SEVEN matches on Tuesday. My champion for the week, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova plays Katerina Siniakova in the first round so rest assured, Siniakova’s winning that one ;-). The number five seed, Anna Karolina Schmiedlova has a testing opener against Annika Beck who has posted some excellent results in International tournaments over the past few months, winning a title indoors in Quebec City just a few weeks ago. This is actually a repeat first round match from last year in Linz where Schmiedlova won in two tight sets, 7-6(6) 6-4. I’d go for Schmieds, who has also been in great form, but I think it could go the distance. We also have yet ANOTHER Barthel-Bertens match. This will be the pair’s 11th meeting since 2010 with Barthel leading the head-to-head, 8-2. The German player has won their last four matches. It’s a great match-up for Mona so I hope she uses this as a springboard in Linz with the winner to play Roberta Vinci or Aleksandra Krunic in the second round.