As is often the case with tennis and the manic schedule, there’s little time to reflect on the clay season as we dive head first into the grass court season! There are two WTA International tournaments this week in Nottingham (UK) and ‘s-Hertogenbosch/Rosmalen (Netherlands).
Nottingham’s draw is headlined by Johanna Konta and Anastasija Sevastova who will both start their campaigns on Tuesday. First round action began today and my first viewing of grass court tennis in 2017 was the first match up on Centre Court between the number seven seed, Mona Barthel and the qualifier, Jana Fett. I was trying to work out what time matches start until I realised that tennis is finally in my timezone!
When I started watching, Fett was already up a set but Barthel seemed to be turning the match around with more returns in court, solid defence and playing more effectively up at the net. I was content i’d left Barthel in a good position for the win leading 4-1 in the decider when I finished my lunch break… of course the momentum swung pretty rapidly!
Barthel was broken to love serving for the match at *5-3 and then missed three match points on Fett’s serve in the next game. The German player committed three double faults to lose her serve again and Fett served out the match, winning the last five games of the match. Fett played her first ever tournament on grass last week in Surbiton (via Tennis Abstract) and one week later, the 20-year-old has scored the best win of her career so far!
There were plenty of surprises on the first day of Nottingham and considering the transition from clay to grass is probably the most challenging of the season, i’d expect some more over the next few days. I was quite excited about the prospect of a second round match between Naomi Osaka and Oceane Dodin but both lost on Monday – Magda Linette beat Dodin in two tight sets, 6-4 7-6(5) while the American qualifier, Kristie Ahn thrashed Osaka, 6-1 6-1 in 48 (!) minutes. Ahn dropped just five points on serve throughout the entire match for the best win of her career so far.
I was excited last year to see what Osaka could do on grass as I felt it was a surface that should suit her game. The Japanese player was ruled out last year with injury and hasn’t exactly made a promising start in 2017 with this a fifth consecutive loss on tour. Next up for Osaka will be Birmingham qualifying.
In other first round matches from Nottingham, Yanina Wickmayer, Hsieh Su-Wei, Tsvetana Pironkova and Julia Boserup won their openers in straight sets to advance to the second round. I picked one of the grass court GOATs, Pironkova as my champion for Nottingham in my Tennis Draw Challenge so I was pleased to see she won her first match! I only saw one game of her match. I did find it amusing that court 2 in Nottingham is right next to a busy road.
In ‘s-Hertogenbosch, Dominika Cibulkova and Kristina Mladenovic are the top two seeds – Radwanska had previously been awarded a wild card but was forced to withdraw due to illness.
The first two results were pretty big upsets based on rankings as Arantxa Rus (#183) and Petra Krejsova (#277) beat Timea Babos and Jelena Jankovic respectively. Both players produced hot shot winners during their matches with Rus nailing a gorgeous forehand passing shot winner on match point. Rus, who has been as high as 61 in the world, scored her best win in nearly five years. I’ll admit I had never heard before of Krejsova before today!
Jankovic has won just three of her last 13 matches and looks completely devoid of confidence – grass isn’t her surface too. For Babos, she is on a six match losing streak and hasn’t beaten a top 100 player since winning the title in Budapest when she had played so well.
The number seven seed, Lesia Tsurenko, beat Elise Mertens, 6-4 6-1, which I regarded as a minor upset as I had fancied Mertens to win that one. In the final match of the day, former champion, Camila Giorgi beat Varvara Lepchenko in three sets, 6-3 6-7(6) 6-2. Giorgi saved three break points serving at *1-1 in the decider and then broke to love in the very next game. The Italian player never looking troubled on serve from there on and benefited from a flurry of double faults by Lepchenko at the end. Giorgi finished up with a thumping return winner that was plum on the line.
Kristina Mladenovic, Kiki Bertens and CoCo Vandeweghe will all play their first matches on Tuesday. I’ve gone for Anett Kontaveit as my champion in ‘s-Hertogenbosch.
Maria Sharapova has pulled out of the grass court season after the injury she picked up in Rome.
The grass court season actually began last week in Surbiton on the ITF circuit where Magdalena Rybarikova beat Heather Watson in Sunday’s final, 6-4 7-5. Rybarikova, well known for loving the grass, is playing Nottingham this week and will be one to watch in Wimbledon qualifying.
A final reminder that if you used Eurosport to watch the French Open and have opinions on their coverage, you can share them in a survey they have online. Anyone can participate!
A heads up for my final post for Roland Garros 2017 with the best bits of the two weeks. I really enjoyed the French Open this year!
I can’t believe Eastbourne is so soon and I have just two weeks left at work… i’ve been waiting for this moment all year! I’m thrilled to have been accepted as media again so hopefully will have plenty to share on the blog.