Friday QF Previews
These are my last set of previews for Brum as i’m now in Eastbourne so won’t be able to watch any more matches from this tournament.
Ash Barty vs. Venus Williams: I’m thrilled for Birmingham that they get this blockbuster match-up! Both players have sailed through their first two matches in straight sets. Venus served brilliantly against Wang Qiang and she’ll need to do that again to challenge Barty. Ash is now on a nine match winning streak and I think she’s going to be very hard to beat…
Jelena Ostapenko vs. Petra Martic: Fascinating match this one. Both have been excellent this week. Ostapenko produced arguably her best performance of the year so far to beat Johanna Konta in straights. Martic produced a wonderful all-court display to defeat Margarita Gasparyan in the second round. Martic won their only previous match in Indian Wells last year, 6-3 6-3. I’m super intrigued to see whether Ostapenko can maintain this peak form. Martic defended brilliantly against Gasparyan using her slice and depth to great effect. On the fence to be honest but I was sold on Martic’s showing against Gasparyan.
I’m going for Goerges-Martic and Barty-Strycova semi-finals 😬.
Thursday R2 Previews
Ash Barty vs. Jennifer Brady: Barty opens proceedings in Birmingham against Brady. I thought Barty was very impressive against Vekic and is looking great on the grass. She’ll need to play every day now. Brady had an impressive run to the semi-finals in Nottingham and beat a higher ranked player in Tsurenko in her first round match in Nottingham. Barty leads Brady, 1-0, in their H2H and I tend to think Ash will be too strong in this one.
Naomi Osaka vs. Yulia Putintseva: I guess this will be a similar match to the first one for Osaka because Putintseva has the ability to disrupt rhythm. I watched Osaka practising her slice and dealing with slice on Wednesday which I guess was in preparation for this match. Poots actually won their only previous match in Hobart at the start of 2018, 6-3 6-3. If Osaka can get her serve going on the grass, like she did vs. Sakkari, then I think she will come through.
Julia Goerges vs. Evgeniya Rodina: Rodina snapped a seven match losing streak on Monday with a three set win over Mladenovic. It was the first time she had won a set since April! Goerges rallied from a set and a break down to beat Yastremska in the first round, shoring up her game midway through the match and finding her first serve. The pair are split at 2-2 in their H2H but haven’t played since 2016. Rodina has caused some upsets on the grass but would go Goerges in this one.
Venus Williams vs. Wang Qiang: Of the four matches, I would guess this will be the closest. This will be their first non-Slam meeting. Wang Qiang beat Venus at Roland Garros last year having shown promising glimpses in their two prior matches. I thought Wang Qiang looked pumped up in the first round win over Lauren Davis which was good to see as i’ve felt she has been a tad flat when i’ve watched her this year. Still favour Venus on the grass and with how crafty and intelligent she is, drawing errors from her opponent.
Wednesday R2 Previews
Hsieh Su-Wei vs. Barbora Strycova: A hipster’s paradise! I think they both like the grass and both play differently to the norm, with bundles of variety, so this should be an entertaining match. They are also doubles partners at the moment so should be a nice moment at the net! In singles, their head-to-head is split at 3-3 but they’ve never played on grass before. I think it will be a very close match. They will know each other’s games well and it will likely come down to who executes on the day. I went for Hsieh in my Draw Challenge so i’ll just stick with that. I don’t know! 😂.
Johanna Konta vs. Jelena Ostapenko: I’ve seen this match-up on grass back in 2017 when Konta beat the then reigning French Open champ in three sets in Eastbourne. Konta looked in superb form against Anett Kontaveit in the first round, bringing her good form from the clay. Ostapenko enjoyed a rare win in the first round, thumping Iga Swiatek. Ostapenko served well against Swiatek but I wonder if it was also that Swiatek was unable to pressurise much on return. Konta looked so sharp against Kontaveit, returning aggressively with excellent depth. Intrigued to see how Ostapenko’s serve holds up in this one. I’d go for Konta with how well she has been serving and returning, and also, because she seems very content right now and I think that’s all feeding into a lot of positivity.
Karolina Pliskova vs. Kristyna Pliskova: A landmark match which, via the WTA, is set to be the first ever WTA level match between twins. The WTA even produced a press release about it! While a fascinating situation, can’t say i’m too excited about the actual match. The twins have split their previous eight matches although they haven’t played a competitive match since 2013. Karolina the fave for sure but likely to be a bit of a weird occasion for the pair so anything could happen.
Petra Martic vs. Margarita Gasparyan: Last up on Court 1 and I will try to catch some of this one because I think it should feature some attractive tennis! Lovely to see Gasparyan back on tour, playing week in week out, after a lengthy spell on the sidelines because of a knee injury. Gasparyan scored the best win of her career in the first round against Svitolina, while Martic won her first match on grass against a tricky opponent in Alexandrova. They’ve played just once before in Istanbul where Martic won by retirement after winning the first set, 6-1. No strong feelings, simply going for Martic based on the consistent form she has produced over the last few months. She has such a versatile game and I think she can be very successful on the grass.
Wednesday R1 Previews
Venus Williams vs. Aliaksandra Sasnovich: A nice coup for Birmingham to get Venus who is playing Birmingham for the first time. It’s also a first grass court warm-up tournament for Venus since 2011 when she played Eastbourne. Sasnovich is a dangerous match-up (and a first time match-up!) as the Belarusian player did beat Petra Kvitova at Wimbledon last year en route to reaching the second week. Venus always thrives on the grass so tend to think she’ll get at least a few wins this week.
Ash Barty vs. Donna Vekic: The highest quality match-up for the first round IMO. Both love the grass. Donna Vekic is definitely one player i’m watching closely over the next few weeks and into Wimbledon. Vekic is already into the Nottingham final. She’s consistently been building on tour and this is arguably her strongest surface. It’s a quick turnaround for the Roland Garros champ but Barty must be absolutely buzzing to be back on the grass. Pumped for this match. I’ll go for Barty but would not be at all surprised to see Vekic spring an upset.
Wednesday R2 Polls
Tuesday R1 Previews
Naomi Osaka vs. Maria Sakkari: A tricky match-up for Osaka to open her campaign in Birmingham as Sakkari has played her well in their two previous encounters. I remember their match from Indian Wells last year where Osaka won in three sets, 6-1 5-7 6-1. It was the only set that Osaka dropped en route to her first title. Sakkari changed things up in the second set when she started to hit with more height on her shots.
Despite not playing that much on grass, I think this is a really good surface for Osaka. She has steadily improved on the green stuff with each year. In 2018, she lost in the third round of Wimbledon to the eventual champion and absolutely peak, Angelique Kerber. Sakkari has won some matches at Wimby before but had a rough year on grass last year, going 0-3. Interesting to see how Sakkari approaches grass this year and this match. She’ll need to get the ball out of Osaka’s strike zone which is easier said than done. Osaka for the win.
Harriet Dart vs. Yulia Putintseva: I actually think this is a pretty good draw for the 22-year-old British wildcard, Dart. Putintseva has a 6-13 lifetime record on grass and has never beaten a top 75 player on this surface. I like Dart’s attitude and I think she’s got a shot in this one.
Julia Goerges vs. Dayana Yastremska: The pair played last year in New Haven where Goerges won in three sets, 6-4 3-6 6-4. I didn’t watch the match but I vaguely remember it was dramatic? After starting the year so strongly in Auckland, it’s all gone a bit downhill for Goerges who has endured various injuries. Wimby semi-final points are also up on the chopping block soon. I’ve never seen Yastremska, a former junior finalist at Wimbledon, on the grass but I would guess this surface is going accentuate her strengths. I’m going for Yastremska to cause the upset and *gulp* to reach the final.
Ekaterina Alexandrova vs. Petra Martic: This will be Martic’s first match since a historic run to the quarter-finals at Roland Garros. I think this is a tough opener for Martic as Alexandrova is a big ball striker and reached the quarter-finals in Rosmalen. I watched the highlights of Alexandrova’s first round win over Elise Mertens and she was slapping return winners past the Belgian player. This is a coin toss for me. I’d probably go for Alexandrova having had some matches on the grass already.
Jelena Ostapenko vs. Iga Swiatek: This should be a fascinating clash! I watched Swiatek’s final qualifying match (more details here) where she saved three match points to beat Pera. She was frustrated at times, but showed great composure in the crux moments. Ostapenko has won just one of her last nine singles matches. The serve and unforced error count continue to be areas of concern. While I think grass is a great surface for Ostapenko, I think this is a tough match-up. DSwiatek has variety and a decent serve too. If she’s not too fatigued from qualifying, quite like Swiatek to get the win here.
Tuesday R1 Polls
Monday R1 Previews
Aryna Sabalenka vs. Hsieh Su-Wei: I think this is my favourite match-up from the first round and i’m eager to watch it! It’s sad to see Sabalenka clearly struggling this year, perhaps with the weight of expectation. I wonder if it’s also a case of other players figuring out her game. Sabalenka lost her opener in Rosmalen to Destanee Aiava. Not a match that i’d expect Sabalenka to be losing.
Hsieh went quiet on the clay which wasn’t a big surprise but I think she’s one to watch on the grass as she takes the ball so, so early. I think Sabalenka’s game is well attuned to the grass too. Hsieh leads the H2H with Sabalenka, 1-0, with a straight sets win in Rome last year and I do think she’ll add to her tally in this one. Really hope that Sabalenka can get out of this tailspin but I do worry for her in the coming months with all the ranking points she has to defend up to the end of the season. She’ll be fine in the long run IMO.
Johanna Konta vs. Anett Kontaveit: Konta’s clay court resurgence has bumped her up to a seed in Brum. The draws don’t get any easier though with Kontaveit up first. After reaching the final in Stuttgart, Kontaveit had a rather disappointing clay court season by her recent high standards. While she drew a very dangerous and in-form opponent in Karolina Muchova in the first round at RG, something didn’t seem right with Kontaveit and I wondered if she was carrying an injury of some sort. This will be a first match on grass in 2019 for both players. Lots of unknowns but i’d guess that RG run is going to set up Konta well for the grass where she has often excelled in front of a home crowd.
Karolina Pliskova vs. Mihaela Buzarnescu: The Buz was on the verge of beating Pliskova in the third round of Wimbledon last year before running out steam. Pliskova won that match, 3-6 7-6(3) 6-1 and leads the overall H2H, 3-0. Buzarnescu hasn’t really found her mojo again after she picked up a very nasty ankle injury at the height of her run last year in Montreal. She played some amazing tennis last year so I hope she can rediscover that form again.
It wasn’t until a press conference last year in Eastbourne that I realised Pliskova really isn’t a fan of the grass. I was surprised she lost early in Paris but she has still been one of the most solid and dependable players on the WTA tour this year. Pliskova’s my pick for the finals, mainly because she’s been so reliable this year!
Elina Svitolina vs. Margarita Gasparyan: Nice to see Gasparyan playing more regularly and she enjoyed an excellent top 50 win last week over Viktoria Kuzmova in Rosmalen. I’m glad to see Svitolina double up on the grass this year, playing both Birmingham and Eastbourne. I really don’t know what to expect from her. Grass isn’t Svitolina’s best surface and I don’t know how the knee is.
Heather Watson vs. Barbora Strycova: Watson did actually beat Strycova on grass two years ago in Eastbourne in what was a dreamy run for the Brit to the semi-finals. Strycova is currently riding a four match losing streak so it may be a favourable opener for Watson. While her form has improved since May, i’m not entirely convinced Watson is at the level to take out Strycova.