Wednesday was a pretty quiet singles day in Nottingham with the first four second round matches of the tournament all decided in straight sets. While all unseeded, Ashleigh Barty, Tsvetana Pironkova and Donna Vekic have all had excellent results on the grass so it’s no surprise to see them starting off strongly in Nottingham. Kristie Ahn’s 6-3 6-1 win over Magda Linette was more of a surprise – backing up her rout of Naomi Osaka in the first round, the American qualifier has now trebled her number of WTA main draw wins and is into a first ever WTA-level quarter-final.
Thursday’s schedule of second round matches in Nottingham will begin with Johanna Konta taking on Yanina Wickmayer. The Belgian player won their last encounter on the grass courts of Birmingham last year. The pair are also teaming up in doubles this week and won their first match of the week against Chang Chia-Jung and Renata Voracova.
Lucie Safarova will also be in action and plays Hsieh Su-Wei. I thought this would be a tough match-up on paper for Lucie but she’s never dropped a set to Hsieh in three previous matches. Still a dangerous opponent, particularly after Hsieh’s good run in Paris. I’m also excited by a match-up between grass court GOATs, Alison Riske and Magdalena Rybarikova. Since her return to the tour following wrist and knee surgeries, Rybarikova has won 28 out of 32 matches!
Over in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, it was ninth time lucky for Antonia Lottner as she won her first ever WTA main draw match… and she did it with the best win of her career against the world number six, Dominika Cibulkova, 7-5 2-6 6-4. I was impressed with Lottner’s ball striking in the first set and she held her nerve, particularly after a brief delay in the game at *4-5 due to a spectator being taken ill in the crowd. Lottner saved a set point and then went onto the win the opening set.
I’m concerned for Cibulkova who continues to look uninspiring in 2017. The Slovak player is still missing that spark – this is the kind of match where I would have expected her experience and grittiness to triumph. Cibulkova’s position in the top ten will soon come under jeopardy as she defends her Eastbourne title and quarter-finals at Wimbledon.
Anett Kontaveit came from a set down for the second time this week to beat a struggling-with-injury, Kirsten Flipkens, 3-6 6-1 6-2. Flipkens took a medical time-out at the end of the second set.
Kontaveit was challenged in her first two service games of the third set but remained persistent – finding increasing rhythm on her groundstrokes and success behind the first serve, Kontaveit won her 32nd match of the year. This is well and truly Kontaveit’s breakthrough year and halfway through 2017, she’s already won 13 more matches than 2016! Another stat via Tennis Abstract – Kontaveit has won nine of her last ten matches that have gone three sets.
In other matches from ‘s-Hertogenbosch…
Lesia Tsurenko is the first seed through to the quarter-finals in Rosmalen after a 6-2 6-3 win over Petra Krejsova.
Carina Witthoeft had a good win over Camila Giorgi, 7-6(5) 6-3.
Natalia Vikhlyantseva is into her second WTA quarter-final of the year after beating Andrea Petkovic, 6-3 5-7 6-2.
Kristina Mladenovic and Ana Konjuh will play their second round matches on Thursday. There’s also two all unseeded match-ups with Andrea Hlavackova vs. Arantxa Rus and Antonia Lottner vs. Evgeniya Rodina – big chances for all four involved!
The withdrawals for Birmingham sadly keep coming thick and fast – Karolina Pliskova is out with an elbow injury. There are also articles citing that Simona Halep will not play either.
And finally, Victoria Azarenka is preparing for her return in Mallorca… exciting times!