Stuttgart is one of the favourite tournaments each year and I am excited for the week ahead! The 2018 Porsche Tennis Grand Prix begins on Monday with one main draw match. The remainder of the first round matches will be played across three days. Qualifying will finish on Monday. This post is a sweeping preview with a myriad of thoughts about the first rounders that we know about so far.
Note – Anastasija Sevastova has withdrawn from Stuttgart so Goerges-Sevastova is no longer a first round match-up
Daria Kasatkina vs. Magdalena Rybarikova
The first main draw match of the 2018 Porsche Tennis Grand Prix could be a pretty one. These two have gorgeous games when on song. The WTA TV schedule implies that it will be covered which will be new as the first day matches in Stuttgart are not normally streamed. Both players will be seeking a first ever win in Stuttgart. Kasatkina got her clay court season off to a solid start in Charleston with two wins and a quarter-final showing in defence of her title. Rybarikova has won two matches on clay in the last three years! I’d definitely take Dasha in this match.
Barbora Strycova vs. Laura Siegemund
I cackled when I saw this match-up 😂. I hope it goes down to the wire because I want to see how Strycova handles Siegemund’s “tactics”. If their last match is anything to go by then we are in for a treat – Strycova beat Siegemund, 5-7 7-5 7-5 in Beijing in 2016. Siegemund is still on the comeback from the serious knee injury picked up in Nurnberg. It feels a tad too early but i’m going for Siegemund in this one. I tend to think she won’t be too phased with the pressure of being the defending champ. I think Siegemund’s intensity and positive attitude, coupled with how perfectly suited her game is to this court, might help her scrap through.
Sloane Stephens vs. CoCo Vandeweghe
This weekend they were teammates and now they are rivals. The draw has thrown up a few funky Fed Cup related match-ups. I didn’t even check the head-to-heads before making a pick here. Interestingly when I did, I found that Vandeweghe has won three of their four clashes. The pair haven’t played in nearly three years so I am interested to see how their games will stack up against each other now and on clay. Vandeweghe has played only four WTA-level matches in 2018. It seems to be getting overlooked that Vandeweghe has been ill this year. One of the players i’m keen to follow on clay is Stephens and she could be sky high in the rankings come the grass court season. I’m going for Sloane.
Caroline Garcia vs. Maria Sharapova
This match-up has a lot of mystery behind it. Garcia’s never really got going in 2018 and her recent results have been disappointing. I’m just not sure where Garcia is at right now. Sharapova hasn’t played since Indian Wells where she lost to the eventual champ, Naomi Osaka. Sharapova’s body has continually let her down this season with arm and wrist problems. I do think she’s been better than most people make out in her comeback to the tour from the drugs ban. I thought she played an excellent match against Sevastova in Melbourne. Sharapova has never lost to Garcia but I think the head-to-head is obsolete in this one. A lot depends on Sharapova’s fitness. I don’t think she will take to the court unless fully fit. If she does, I think Sharapova will come through as she always raises her level in Stuttgart.
Karolina Pliskova vs. Kiki Bertens
Another fascinating match-up. Bertens won her biggest title in Charleston a few weeks back and is one to watch during this clay court season for sure. I was intrigued listening to Kiki in the latest WTA Insider podcast where she talked about why she likes the clay and how she moves so much better on this surface. Pliskova faces her most challenging stretch of the season. A semi-final at the French Open last year should provide some optimism. I’m really not sure about this one and can’t quite figure Pliskova out this year. The Czech player has been solid, yet unspectacular. Bertens definitely with a shot at the “upset”. I want to go for Bertens but i’m leaning towards Pliskova toughing out the win.
Petra Kvitova vs. Angelique Kerber
Bugger me. I couldn’t believe they were both unseeded?! And I would have thought Angie was the seed too but clearly i’ve lost touch with the rankings. It’s bizarre the pair have just played on the same court on Sunday in Fed Cup where Kvitova won, 6-2 6-2. It kind of takes some of the fizzle out of this match-up. It’s hard to ignore Kvitova after she waltzed through her Fed Cup matches. It’s also hard to ignore that this is Petra!!!! It’s the WTA tour so I am always prepared to expect the unexpected. Just hoping it will be more competitive this time round.
Kristina Mladenovic vs. Anett Kontaveit
Did you know that Kontaveit won their only previous match SIX years ago in Copenhagen?! I didn’t until I checked Tennis Abstract. Both have had one stand-out tournament this year and then done little of note elsewhere. Kontaveit’s nerves and lack of assuredness in her game still concern me. I haven’t seen enough of Mladenovic this year to have a valid opinion. Three wild sets?
Madison Keys vs. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova
I feel like this is a good match-up for Madison? Pavs is definitely the better player on clay although her season has been mostly lacklustre. Granted, she has had some tough draws along the way. I’m excited to see Keys play on this fast indoor clay surface and it *should* be a good one for her? I’ve got Keys making it to the quarter-finals.