I can still remember the buzz when the first draws of 2015 were published back in January. I say it all the time but oh myyyy how time flies! We’re nearly there for the 2015 season and next week features the last two regulation WTA tournaments in Moscow and Luxembourg. Five places have been officially snapped up for Singapore with Agnieszka Radwanska securing her place after winning Tianjin. Angelique Kerber also looks to be pretty much there after reaching the final in Hong Kong. Here’s a quick rundown of each draw…
The Moscow draw had a late reshuffle after Agnieszka Radwanska pulled out with a shoulder injury. The top four seeds are now Lucie Safarova, Flavia Pennetta, Angelique Kerber and Carla Suárez Navarro who all have byes into the second round. Moscow will decide the final line-up for Singapore with Safarova and Pennetta currently in the final two spots. Kerber will be coming from Asia and i’m intrigued to see if she will take to the court as she’s all but confirmed her place in Singapore which starts next weekend.
Pennetta’s first match will be against Daria Gavrilova or Alizé Cornet. Praise the draw gods for giving us this first rounder in the last week of the year. As two of the most colourful on-court characters, this *could* be mega. Both players lost their quarter-final matches in Hong Kong, 6-1 6-1. I’d probably side with Gavrilova as Cornet was playing the doubles final on the Sunday so faces a very quick turnaround. The other seed in Pennetta’s section is Anna Karolina Schmiedlova who was forced to pull out of Linz last week due to a viral illness. If Schmieds is raring to go, this is a decent draw for her.
Safarova played her first match last week in Linz after being sidelined for a month with a bacterial infection. Unsurprisingly, she struggled in a 6-3 6-4 loss to Andreea Mitu. Lucie’s draw in Moscow is tough… she will play Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova or Monica Niculescu in the second round. Pavs, a good friend of Lucie’s, is dynamite indoors and won Linz on Sunday. She did have strapping on her leg in the final. Niculescu may be an even more devilish opponent as Lucie has only won three games in two previous matches. I so, so want to see Lucie in Singapore but it may be out of her hands. Furthermore, if she does qualify, I worry that she may not have had enough matches to be competitive.
Kerber’s first match of the week is stated to be against Svetlana Kuznetsova or Katerina Siniakova. The Sveta-Angie head-to-head is a fun one with Kuznetsova leading 4-3 and four of their last five matches going the distance. I’ll be really surprised though if Kerber plays so it could be a good opportunity for Kuznetsova to make a run. Siniakova was struggling with a foot/ankle injury during the summer and has won just two matches since the US Open. Kerber’s quarter also features Karolina Pliskova who must be running on fumes! She matched her seeding to reach the semi-finals in Tianjin but her chances for Singapore are slim unless she goes all the way in Moscow.
Suárez Navarro is still in the hunt for a spot in Singapore and will play her first match of the week against Dominika Cibulkova or Elena Vesnina. The Spaniard is 0-3 against Cibulkova and hasn’t won a set in their three previous clashes, going down 6-4 6-4 when they last played in Tokyo. Suárez Navarro’s section also features last year’s finalist, Irina-Camelia Begu. It’s the last week… the players are tired and i’m tired (haha) so i’m going out in a glittery mess with these predictions.
Final Prediction: Cibulkova d. Schmiedlova
Two semi-finalists from Beijing, Timea Bacsinszky and Ana Ivanovic are the top two seeds in the last International tournament of 2015. There were quite a few withdrawals from Luxembourg and it was revealed that this tournament does not count for Singapore… still, it’s a respectable draw. Bacsinszky plays Julia Goerges who she last played in the first round of Wimbledon. Bacsinszky ended a slumping summer with a marvellous week in Beijing, reaching her first final in a Premier Mandatory event. A battle of the Germans, Annika Beck and Anna-Lena Friedsam, will be intriguing too; Friedsam reached the final in Linz but Beck has performed well indoors and won the title in Quebec City before the Asian Swing.
The key match in the second quarter features the number six seed, Sloane Stephens up against Mona Barthel. In case you missed it, I published a feature article on Mona including a Q&A where she spoke about her 2015 season. Stephens and Barthel have played twice this year with the pair splitting encounters; Barthel played one of her best matches of the year to win in Charleston, 6-3 7-6(2) but in a match that looked like it would finish with a similar scoreline, Stephens displayed her battling qualities to prevail in Cincy, 3-6 7-6(1) 6-2. Stephens’s latest result have been a mish-mash of the good, the bad and the ugly, and I wonder if she will be mentally tuned in for this one. Barthel’s results have been stronger in the second half of 2015 and she reached the semi-finals of Luxembourg last year. I’d probably go for the German player to take this one.
Hong Kong champion, Jelena Jankovic has a quickkkk turnaround if she is to play in Luxembourg where she is scheduled to play home wildcard, Mandy Minella in the first round. JJ is seeded to meet Andrea Petkovic in the quarter-finals which would be joyous… however, I think JJ will be tired and Petko’s recent performances have been below-par, losing first round at three of her last four tournaments. I’d love to see Petkovic end on a high though; she opens against Misaki Doi in the first round. Doi’s got an awesome forehand but I could see Petkovic’s superior mental application getting her through that one.
An all-Czech first rounder between Lucie Hradecka and Denisa Allertova could also be key in this section. Allertova played well in Linz and is returning to the tournament where she made her big breakthrough last year, coming through qualifying to reach her first WTA semi-final. Hradecka had a great first half to 2015 but her year has simmered since Prague where she has only twice won multiple matches at the same tournament.
Ivanovic plays Heather Watson in the first round in what will be a first career match-up. Barbora Strycova is Ivanovic’s projected quarter-final opponent and she plays Yanina Wickmayer in one of the more visually engaging first round match-ups. The pair are tied at 1-1 in their head-to-head with Strycova winning their last match in Antwerp, 6-2 6-2. However, Wickmayer was still recovering from an injury in that match and played well in Asia, winning the Tokyo International and then backing it up with a semi-final showing in Guangzhou. This should be a fun one…
Final Prediction: Ivanovic d. Bacsinszky