Two first round matches are on the schedule for the first day of the 2016 Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart; at not before 8.30pm local time, Timea Babos and Sabine Lisicki will face off in an intriguing opener. This will be a big match for Lisicki as she returns to Stuttgart where she suffered a painful defeat last year, failing to win a game in a puzzling, 0-6 0-6 loss to Zarina Diyas. It was an even more befuddling result because Lisicki had enjoyed excellent results at Indian Wells and Miami last year. A three set loss to Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in Fed Cup action (from match point up) prior to Stuttgart obviously didn’t help the confidence
Lisicki’s form in 2016 has been wild and wayward for the most part, securing back-to-back victories just once in Kuala Lumpur. The German player secured a confidence-boosting victory in the first round of Charleston, coming from a break down in both sets to defeat, Irina Falconi, 6-4 6-3. It was by no means a complete performance but there were some encouraging signs for the German player, who had prior to this match failed to convert on a 5-0 third set lead against Irina-Camelia Begu in Miami, losing out in a third set tiebreak. Lisicki eventually lost out in a wild second round match to Yulia Putintseva, 5-7 6-4 3-6.
While Lisicki has been struggling for form, Babos has been enjoying a fabulous year; the 22-year-old cracked the top 40 in singles for the first time in her career at the start of April. In 2016, Babos has reached semi-finals in Shenzhen, quarter-finals in St. Petersburg and Katowice, fourth round in Miami and third round in Doha. This has included four top 40 wins with her best win of the year coming against Karolina Pliskova in Miami. Babos’s last outing on tour was in Katowice where she reached the quarter-finals, an admirable effort having flown straight from Miami where she reached the final in doubles as well as reaching the last 16 of the singles. This was her best ever result in a Premier Mandatory tournament.
Head-to-head record: This will be a first career match-up between the pair.
Interesting stat: Babos has won 13 singles matches on the WTA tour this year, which is already more than the 11 she amassed throughout the entire 2015 season.
Final thoughts: All the signs point towards in Babos in this one… both are big hitters but Babos is playing with the confidence right now. As mentioned above, this is a huge match for Lisicki. If she can get on the board early and get the crowd on her side, then it’s likely to be a close match with a battle emerging of who can hold their nerve. Babos has had the wins this year but she has looked fragile closing out sets and will be playing Stuttgart for the first time in her career. Assuming Lisicki starts well, this is likely to be a 50-50 match… despite recent form, leaning towards the home player.