Western & Southern Open Preview

I ran out of time for an ATP preview here but check out once again my preview for it at Stevegtennis.

Cincinnati Premier 5 Draw

Only Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova miss out of the top 10 stars, Azarenka was never scheduled to play this tournament while Sharapova is still carrying the illness that saw her withdraw from Montreal. Due to the late Monday finish in Canada, two “performance BYE’s” for the finalists were designated if they were outside of the top eight seeds, Na Li takes advantage of one with her run to the final.

No. 3 Agnieszka Radwanska becomes No.1 seed in a Premier 5 for the first time ever and will take on either Tamira Paszek or Sofia Arvidsson first. Paszek was fairly impressive in Montreal, making the quarter finals with little trouble before being disposed of by Petra Kvitova. However, Arvidsson lost in the first round to qualifier Jana Cepelova in fairly tame fashion. The pair have met twice and won one match each. The incredibly inconsistent but talented wildcard Sloane Stephens faces a tough first round clash with Tsvetana Pironkova. While Pironkova is known more for her grass court exploits she has been showing improvements on other surfaces and actually has a win over Angelique Kerber this year on a hard court. In a match of two wildly differing styles, Camila Giorgi plays Francesca Schiavone. Giorgi plays an incredibly attacking style that can go incredibly well (see Wimbledon run, defeats of Pennetta, Petrova) or very badly. Meanwhile, Schiavone’s grinding style may not be as pretty to watch at times but it will likely be effective in taking out her younger opponent.

Na Li has a chance to repeat her Montreal win over Radwanska in the quarter finals if she makes it that far, she gets a ticket to the second round due to her exploits this past week. After that, either Yanina Wickmayer or Sorana Cirstea will be up. Both Wickmayer and Cirstea are capable of beating top ten players when on form, but can often be very bad when low on confidence. Cirstea beat Li just recently at Wimbledon and would fancy her chances again. However, Wickmayer owns a 3-0 record over the Romanian on three different surfaces including a straight sets victory at the US Open last year. Qualifiers Johanna Larsson and Casey Dellacqua face off for the chance to play Marion Bartoli. Both earned their spot in the draw in fairly straight forward fashion, having won both matches without dropping a set.

Samantha Stosur has had a fairly consistent year until the grass court season but disappointingly fell to Lucie Safarova last week in two tie-break sets. Simona Halep will play Anabel Medina Garrigues to decide who takes on the Australian, Medina Garrigues defeated Halep in consecutive weeks on the grass so perhaps should have the edge. Halep will mostly likely be dreading the idea of playing Stosur again so soon after choking a 5-1 lead away in the first set in Montreal before a 7-5 4-4 ret. defeat. In a Russian-heavy section, there is a good chance of an all Russian round two affair. Nadia Petrova and Ekaterina Makarova‘s match ensures there will be at least one, Makarova will be slight favourite having taken the last three meetings between the two but constant draws with Angelique Kerber leave Makarova exiting in the early rounds of tournaments. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova could complete the matchup and will be confident of beating Klara Zakapalova, as she has done in their last two hard court meetings.

Sara Errani completes what looks yet another lopsided draw in terms of the top seeds. She has a fairly difficult first match, against either Daniela Hantuchova or Jie Zheng. Zheng is a dangerous player on her day and this showed as she pushed eventual Wimbledon champion Serena Williams far into the third set before being defeated. Strangely though, Hantuchova has a 5-0 record over Zheng, including three times on American hard courts. In one of the ties of the first round Maria Kirilenko takes on wildcard Venus Williams. Both come off winning medals at the Olympic Games and will be full of confidence. The pair have not played in five years but Venus holds a 3-0 record over Kirilenko, all in hard courts. The winner of this match will face either Chanelle Scheepers or Christina Mchale. Both exited at the same stage in Montreal in straight sets and will be both disappointed to have not taken at least one with Mchale holding set points and Scheepers a break lead against Wozniak and Radwanska respectively. Mchale defeated Scheepers earlier in the year in Doha in a fairly simple 6-4 6-3 victory.

Caroline Wozniacki kicks off her tournament with a match against a qualifier, either Sesil Karatantcheva or Kiki Bertens. Karatantcheva has had some bizarre scorelines in recent weeks including a double bagel of Sorana Cirstea and more notably winning both her qualifying matches 3-6 7-5 6-0, against Olga Govortsova and Arantxa Rus. Wozniacki faced Bertens last week and after an early slip-up, won fairly comfortably in straight sets. Julia Goerges and Shahar Peer will be keen to get their poor Montreal results out of their head and one will have the chance to do so as the pair face off in the first round one. Goerges looked to be back to some sort of form after defeating Agnieszka Radwanska at the Olympics but then took just three games against Tamira Paszek last week while Peer lost from one set up against youngster Eugenie Bouchard. While Goerges and Peer disappointed last week, their results were nothing in comparison to the double bagel Ana Ivanovic received from Roberta Vinci last week. While Ivanovic often disappoints against the very top players, she usually does well against the second tier and below so to lose in this fashion was astonishing. Her first round opponent is Carla Suarez Navarro, the Spaniard was 1-6 1-4 down in their Doha clash this year before retiring.

Losing finalist Jelena Jankovic will have a hard time defending her points from last year, especially in the dire form that she is in. Jankovic has won just four matches since the clay season ended and has been defeated by the likes of Coco Vandeweghe, Sofia Arvidsson and Yung-Jan Chan. She does a possess a lopsided head to head record against her first opponent though, winning 6 of 8 encounters against Shuai Peng, but more notably has lost their last two meetings. Youngster Madison Keys qualified with ease for the main draw with a 6-3 6-0 win over Timea Babos. Keys has won just one of the four matches she has played on the main tour this year with win number two unlikely this week. She faces an incredibly tough opponent in Roberta Vinci who will be confident after her performances in Montreal. After bursting onto the scene with two hard fought defeats against Azarenka earlier in the year, Mona Barthel‘s form seems to have let up some what. After taking the first set against Agnieszka Radwanska, it looked possible that she may be back. However, a blown match point and a commanding lead in the tie-break was not enough as she faltered, much like in her battles against Azarenka. If she can make it past Maria-Jose Martinez Sanchez in the first round she can test herself against another of the top players on tour in Petra Kvitova, who appears to be showing she can play on hard courts in North America after all having made the final of Montreal.

In an extraordinary quarter that holds 2 byes, 7 qualifiers and 1 lucky loser, Serena Williams appears to have herself a dream draw to the quarter finals. It is possible that she could play qualifiers in round two and three if all goes to plan. With a 6-16 record on the year Eleni Daniilidou will be a big outsider to qualify for the next round. She faces Vania King who can seal an all-American second round tie with victory. King made the semi final of Washington in her last tournament, being defeated by losing finalist Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. While Urszula Radwanska had to qualify for the tournament, she will be expected to come through her tie with Ksenia Pervak. The younger sister of Agnieszka is improving rapidly and reached her career high of 44 just a few weeks ago after starting the year outside the top 100. On her way to the S’Hertogenbosch final earlier this year, Urszula defeated Pervak in a three set encounter. Much like Radwanska, many feel that Yaroslava Shvedova is only going one way and that is up. Shvedova’s mid-season form has been excellent and the prospect of her meeting Serena again would be one to look forward to. She has an excellent chance against Lucie Safarova, whose mental frailties showed up once more as she dropped a double break lead to Na Li in the semi final of Montreal.

After being rejected a wildcard for the tournament by the directors, Varvara Lepchenko finally made it into the tournament as the last direct acceptance when more withdrawals were announced. Her opponent is one even more fortunate to make the draw, Timea Babos is a lucky loser who was handed the spot after the other “performance bye” was left unused. Monterrey champion Babos has had an up and down year and will be disappointed to have lost so easily in her final qualifying round to Madison Keys. Lepchenko was impressive in Montreal as she defeated Dominika Cibulkova and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in two sets before pushing Caroline Wozniacki all the way in a three setter. Multiple injuries have seen qualifier Bethanie Mattek-Sands plummet in the rankings to outside the top 200 but an impressive comeback win over Yung-Jan Chan saw her progress to the main draw here. She has a winnable match against the Czech Andrea Hlavackova who has had a disappointing year going 5-10 in singles main draws, most recently exiting in the first round at Baku. Having taken the Carlsbad title a few weeks ago Dominika Cibulkova will be fairly confident in her form and really should win against Akgul Amanmuradova. The Uzbek is much more comfortable on clay and even shocked Cibulkova earlier this year, defeating her in Stuttgart.

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WTA Montreal – Rogers Cup Preview

Draw

Tamira Paszek or Julia Goerges drew the short straw with the winner going on to face the No.1 Victoria Azarenka. Azarenka started the season off 26-0 on hard courts and was defeated just once (Marion Bartoli, Miami) after picking up four straight titles including the Australian Open. Despite an embarrassing defeat to Serena Williams in the tennis, she will be full of confidence having earned the bronze medal in Singles to go with her Mixed Doubles title with Max Mirnyi. Azarenka made the semi final last year where she was defeated by Serena Williams and will be happy that the American has skipped the tournament this year. If fully fit, she will be a huge threat for the title here but has the tougher half of the draw. Sabine Lisicki is a potential third round opponent but her inconsistencies have been shown all season, including a shocking defeat to Lourdes Dominguez-Lino on the hard courts of Miami. Her grass court form has improved though, and she should have too much for Carla Suarez Navarro or Maria-Jose Martinez Sanchez. Navarro leads the head to head between the Spaniards 3-1.

Azarenka’s quarter also contains the only player to defeat her on hard courts this year in Marion Bartoli. Bartoli has been fairly inconsistent this year and is yet to take a title this year but in her last outing made the final in Carlsbad where she was defeated in straight sets by Dominika Cibulkova. Her first opponent will be either Shuai Peng or Aravane Rezai, the latter of which has finally shown some sort of form recently. The former No.15 qualified for the tournament after defeating Galina Voskoboeva in three sets and will hope to build on last weeks result at the Citi Open where she made the second round as a qualifier. While Petra Kvitova is notoriously poor on North American courts having not got past the third round on any in the last two years, it gives slight hope to Ksenia Pervak or qualifier Anna Tatishvili.

Maria Sharapova will be hoping for a quick return to form having been annihilated by Serena Williams in her last match in the Olympic Final. Potential round two opponent Arantxa Rus has very little hard court experience and qualified in a long match against Vera Dushevina. More likely though is Christina Mchale, the American has big potential and owns victories over Caroline Wozniacki, Petra Kvitova and Marion Bartoli in North America. In probably her last week as a seed at big tournaments before her Cincinnati points come off, Jelena Jankovic will hope to go far. Jankovic is unbeaten against four encounters against wildcard Aleksandra Wozniak while other potential opponent Daniela Hantuchova showed improvements in London as she took out Na Li in a three set encounter.

The top half of the draw is rounded off with Caroline Wozniacki. The Dane has not took one title this year and dropped out of the top five after starting the season as No.1 in the WTA rankings. Qualifier Kiki Bertens is yet to play a main tour match on hard court this year but does possess one more title than Wozniacki on the year, having taken Fes as a qualifier also. More likely though is that she will face Nadia Petrova. Wozniacki has won their last four encounters but Petrova is in much improved form over the past two months and should really have done better against Dominika Cibulkova in Carlsbad having been in a great position to take the first set of their semi final on a number of occasions. Cibulkova is a potential third round opponent who could cause trouble for Wozniacki, having taken two of their last four matches including Wimbledon 2011. She faces either Varvara Lepchenko or Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. Pavlyuchenkova was a finalist in Washington D.C. last week but took just two games in a lopsided final against Magdalena Rybarikova while Lepchenko exited early in the Olympics and was also took to three sets by an opponent whose only grass court experience was a 2012 Wimbledon qualifier.

On paper,Agnieszka Radwanska again seems to be the recipient of a softer draw, with the other side looks decidedly more stacked than this side. Two of the youngest top 100 players battle it out for the chance to play the Pole. Monterrey champion Timea Babos qualified after getting through two three set matches and has shown glimpses of her talent throughout the year while Mona Barthel has been decidedly shaky after her good start to the year where she twice threatened the unbeaten streak of Victoria Azarenka. Fourteenth seed Flavia Pennetta has lost her last three encounters with Radwanska but should have a chance to try and turn her luck around as Chanelle Scheepers has been fairly disappointing recently while Stephanie Dubois was a recent retiree in the Granby Challenger final so injury questions may hang over the wildcards fitness.

Sara Errani is the surprise eighth seed thanks to her clay court exploits but when it comes hard courts it is somewhat of a false ranking. She has suffered disappointing defeats to the likes of Vania King, Sloane Stephens and Timea Babos earlier in the year in North America. Sofia Arvidsson is already a winner this year having taken the Memphis title and takes on the qualifier Jana Cepelova first. Cepelova is fairly new to the tour but gave a good account of herself at Wimbledon when she made the third round and was defeated 6-3 6-3 by Victoria Azarenka.

Another highly touted youngster follows in Eugenie Bouchard, the young Canadian wildcard has had a great month or so, taking the Wimbledon Girls’ title and also an ITF in Granby. She has an extremely winnable match as she takes on Shahar Pe’er. Pe’er has had a fairly quiet year and failed to get past the third round at any tournament this year. The winner will face Na Li in the second round. Although Li has not took a title this year, most of her defeats have not been surprising having been taken out by Victoria Azarenka, Maria Sharapova and Agnieszka Radwanska amongst others.

Another player glad to get off the grass will be Samantha Stosur. The Aussie yet again had a horror grass season, excelling herself this time by getting defeated by Carla Suarez Navarro in London. Michelle Larcher de Brito takes on Simona Halep for the chance to take on Stosur. Larcher de Brito has been impressive in qualifying for the past three WTA events but fell at the first hurdle in three set encounters both times. Meanwhile, Halep is on a five match losing streak and could be there for the taking. Lucie Safarova has had an up and down season but most recently there has only been negatives as she we nt down in straights to Kiki Bertens and Laura Robson on the Wimbledon grass. She can redeem herself when she takes on either Sorana Cirstea or qualifier Sesil Karatantcheva. Cirstea looked excellent in Stanford before one Serena Williams halted her charge while Karatantcheva did not drop more than three games in any set that she played on her way to qualifying.

Angelique Kerber rounds of the top seeds in the draw and first up is either Ekaterina Makarova or “Lucky Loser” Urszula Radwanska. Kerber has found a whole new consistency in the past year since her shock US Open run and has two titles to show for her efforts. Much like Na Li, a lot of Kerber’s defeats are against the top players and she rarely suffers shocks. Urszula Radwanska made the draw as the highest ranked seed not to qualify directly, after a suspect defeat to Anna Tatishvili. Recently, she was notable for taking the most games off Serena Williams in her amazing Olympic win. Ekaterina Makarova will be hoping for third time lucky if she makes it through to the second round – her last two defeats have been to Angelique Kerber. Ana Ivanovic will be hoping to avoid Roberta Vinci in the second round. The Italian defeated her in the same tournament last year in straight sets but first faces Yanina Wickmayer.

Finals PredictionAgnieszka Radwanska defeats Maria Sharapova in three sets

ATP 1000 Toronto Masters Preview

Due to the Olympics, Toronto has suffered a big number of withdrawals including Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and David Ferrer. The field still does contain three of the four semi finalists though, with Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic and Juan Martin Del Potro scheduled to play at the time of writing.

Favourites – With such a depleted field in terms of the top players, the two big favourites are clear. Defending champion Novak Djokovic has not quite been showing his 2011 form with two recent semi final exits on the grass but is still a huge danger. The Australian Open champ has only lost twice on hard courts this year to Andy Murray and John Isner, both of which reside in the other half of the draw.

Andy Murray will be big on confidence after taking the Gold Medal and defeating Roger Federer with such ease. Murray did not take a hard court title post-Australian Open but was twice a finalist losing to Federer and Djokovic in Doha and Miami respectively. The draw appears to favour Murray, with the top seeds in his half being an out-of-form Tomas Berdych, Juan Monaco and John Isner – who Murray always performs well against.

Outsiders
While both players fitness is in question after record breaking matches at the Olympics, Juan Martin Del Potro (match length in minutes) and Milos Raonic (match length in games) are dark horses for this tournament. Raonic will be hoping for an excellent tournament in his home country, and has a nice route to the final if he can defeat the No.2 seed Andy Murray in a potential Round 3 clash. While Murray has dealt with big servers well in the past, Raonic will take heart from his victory on the clay in Barcelona earlier this year. Raonic has some extraordinary serving stats this year, topping the aces count as well as winning the highest percentage of service games this year.

Meanwhile, Juan Martin Del Potro looks somewhat back to his best after an excellent Olympics in which he picked up the bronze medal after defeating Novak Djokovic in straights. While often thought of as just a forehand, the tall Argentinian showcased it all in the latter stages as possibly should have beat Roger Federer in the semi final. After a long time out with injury, Del Potro finally looks like he is ready to take on the top players again.

One To Watch
Canadian number two Vasek Pospisil is one of three home players to receieve a wildcard. The 22 year old reached his career high of 85th in the world after taking the title in Granby Challenger, his second of the year. Pospisil will most likely float between low level ATP tournaments and North American challengers this year but does have a win over No. 8 seed John Isner to his name. He faces a tough tie in Round 1 taking on the Italian Andreas Seppi

Did You Know…?
The last eight Toronto Masters titles have been shared equally by the top four players – Roger Federer (04,06), Novak Djokovic (07,11), Rafael Nadal (05,08) and Andy Murray (09,10).

Novak Djokovic has winning records against all of the other top 8 seeds – though John Isner, Juan Martin Del Potro, Janko Tipsarevic and Andy Murray have all defeated him in their last encounters.

Finals Prediction Andy Murray defeats Novak Djokovic in three sets

For a more detailed preview of the tournament check out the write up I did for Stevegtennis here.

Citi Open Preview – ATP 500/WTA International

While the majority of the top players are off in London taking part in the Olympic Games, the tour continues to roll on with one tournament this week – The Citi Open. The Citi Open is a joint tournament based in Washington D.C., formerly known as the Legg Mason Tennis Classic on the Men’s side while the Women’s tournament is only in it’s second year.

(click for draw)

ATP 500

While not at the usual standard of a 500 points tournament, there is still a fairly strong field on the men’s side. Mardy Fish, who chose not to play in the Olympics, leads the field while fallouts with their tennis federations meant Alexandr Dolgopolov and Kevin Anderson meant that neither man was available for the Olympics. The French and Germans are also represented well here, with Jeremy Chardy and Tommy Haas the best chances of a title here for the respective nations.

Favourite – Seeing as he withdrew from the Olympics in order to concentrate on defending points he picked up in the 2011 hard court swing, it is very likely that Mardy Fish will have his mind fully focused on the tournament here. He missed out last year here due to injury, but had he played he would have been expected to make the third final in three weeks due to the form he was in. There is no doubting his hard court credentials and he had an impressive 29-11 record last year. The only thing to look out for is the potential ankle injury he may have, which forced his retirement against Gilles Muller and stopped him from defending his Atlanta title.

Outsider – No.4 seed Tommy Haas has continued his great run of form by making the Hamburg final a few weeks back, where he was defeated by Juan Monaco in straight sets. The 34 year old has continued to amaze by competing so well at this level since his return from injury over a year ago. The disappointment of missing out on the Olympics (German Olympic Committee refused to support him, a decision made to look even sillier with Philipp Kohlschreiber’s late withdrawal) will serve as top motivation to do well here. Before his injury, the majority of Haas’s titles were during the US Hard Court seasons so it is obvious that he still favours this type of surface.

One To Watch –  Wildcard Ricardas Berankis is another player who has returned to form (though not quite to the extent of Haas above) after a sizable amount of time out with injury. The Lithuania dropped just one set on his run to the Final in Los Angeles (1st qualifying round, 5-7 to Dennis Lajola), looking impressive in victories against the likes of Nicolas Mahut and Marinko Matosevic. He did not face a break point in his match against the latter and looked utterly dominant on serve for most of the week. While he was embarrassed in the final by Sam Querrey, only picking up two games, it had been a great week for him and much better than what he would have expected. Berankis favoured surface is the hard court and he had also made the final of a Challenger in Winnetka at the start of this month.

Did You Know…?

Only four players have won a singles title in the draw this year, Sam Querrey, Pablo Andujar, Tommy Haas and Kevin Anderson.

Of the 12 finalists in Washington last year (8x doubles, 4x singles), only losing Women’s doubles finalists Olga Govortsova and Alla Kudryavtseva will be attending this year. 

Final Prediction – Mardy Fish defeats Sam Querrey in three sets

WTA International

While the tournament is weakened slightly, the Women’s side of the Citi Open does not suffer as much due to the lower tournament level. Many of the seeds would have qualified for the Olympics if not due to competitor limits while Chanelle Scheepers (much like Kevin Anderson in the Men’s tournament) did not enter due to her disagreements with the South African tennis authorities.

Favourite – Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia is the No.1 seed here and suffers from being from a strong tennis country in that she fails to make the tournament despite being in the top 30 currently. After a 25-13 record (w/ Monterrey title) on the hard courts last year, Pavlyuchenkova has struggled to build on that only going 2-7 so far this year. She will be hoping for better in the run up to the US Open, where she made the quarter finals and was defeated by Serena Williams. In the past year Pavyluchenkova has had issues with her service motion and this could be her downfall. Another issue is that many of her recent defeats have been in matches she should be expected to win and that perhaps she does not deal well with the tag of “favourite”.

Outsider – The highly rated Sloane Stephens is yet to win a tournament in her WTA career, but for someone of her talent it cannot be much longer. Sloane is only one of a few teenagers around the top 60 at present, where a lot of that can be put down to her appearances in slams. Stephens impressed at Wimbledon and Roland Garros, being defeated by Sabine Lisicki and Samantha Stosur respectively but had great chances in both. While there are no complaints with her performances in the bigger tournaments, defeats like those she has suffered since Wimbledon are incredibly disappointing – losing from 6-1 4-1 up against Melanie Oudin and losing in three sets to Heather Watson. If she can convert her form in slams to the International tournaments there is no reason why she cannot go deep here.

One To Watch – As a relative unknown at Wimbledon Camila Giorgi impressed the tennis world with a handy run defeating both Flavia Pennetta and Nadia Petrova (2011 Citi Open champion). The Italian has an aggressive style of play and when on form is hard to deal with. Much like many other young stars, inconsistency is a big issue. Great results like those at Wimbledon are combined with disappointing defeats in matches she is highly favoured to win. There is no doubting her talent though, and if she can get it together there is definitely potential to spring a shock or two.

Did You Know…?

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova is a multiple junior grand slam champion having won the Girls Singles at the Australian Open and US Open

None of the seeds have a Singles title this year, though unseeded players Melanie Oudin and Bojana Jovanovski do.
Finals Prediction – Sloane Stephens defeats Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in 3 sets

Olympics Preview – Men’s Singles

While the Women’s previous Gold medalists since the introduction of tennis to the Olympics read like a who’s who of WTA in the last 25 years, the Men’s side has a few more surprise winners including Marc Rosset, Miroslav Mecir and more recently Nicolas Massu. The Chilean is the only male in the modern era of Olympic tennis to have two gold medals – one in singles and one in men’s doubles.

Draw

Quarter 1 (1) Roger Federer-Janko Tipsarevic (7)

I think that Roger Federer will be very pleased with his draw here. Although his first opponent Alejandro Falla famously almost knocked out the Wimbledon champion two years ago, there is no such danger here. Federer is showing new found confidence and with nemesis Rafael Nadal out yet again, will be confident of making the Gold Medal match at least. The round 2 possibilities for Federer are at two extremes – the Frenchman Julien Benneteau, who took the first two sets against him at Wimbledon and so would have won in this format. His other potential opponent is Mikhail Youzhny, the Russian has never beat Federer and was dispatched of with ease in the quarter finals this year. His potential third round opponent is tough to pick out – big serving Gilles Muller has the chance but would get woefully exposed by the Swiss if it came to it. Spaniard Fernando Verdasco is always capable of a big match (see Madrid 2012 vs Nadal) but is often weak mentally. If Verdasco manages to beat Uzbekistan’s Denis Istomin then his record against the No.1 looks almost certain to go to Won 0 Lost 6.

John Isner will be hoping to bounce back from a disappointing couple of months, where he most notably suffered early exits in both the French Open and Wimbledon. The American takes on Olivier Rochus, whom he has a 2-0 record over including victory in the final of North American grass tournament Newport last year in straight sets. Yen-hsun Lu would be his expected opponent in the second round. The Chinese Taipei player has fairly decent grass form over the years and is well known for his defeat of Andy Roddick in Wimbledon 2010 to reach the quarter finals and takes on Malek Jaziri in the first round. An intriguing tie will be that of Janko Tipsarevic vs David Nalbandian. Nalbandian has always been incredibly talented but never quite hit the heights expected of him after early promise. The pair have a 2-2 head to head but Janko Tipsarevic has got the better of the Argentinian twice this year, including at Wimbledon where the Serb won in straights. The winner of this match will take on Lukas Lacko or Philipp Petzschner in the second round.

My Quarter Final Prediction – Roger Federer defeats John Isner in 3 sets

Must Watch Match – Janko Tipsarevic vs David Nalbandian

Did You Know…?

Mikhail Youzhny’s woeful record against Roger Federer is as follows – Won 0 Lost 14, picking up just 3 sets in the process.#

There is a 16 inch height difference between John Isner and his Round 1 opponent Olivier Rochus – 6ft9 to 5ft5.

Quarter 2 (4) David Ferrer-Juan Martin Del Potro (8)

Without Nadal, David Ferrer is bumped up to a top 4 seeding and as such this seems the one quarter that perhaps is more expected to produce a surprise Semi Finalist. The section contains a fair amount of incredibly talented players but without the consistency that has saw Ferrer make the top 5 in the rankings. Wimbledon 2012 quarter-finalist Philipp Kohlschreiber is one such player, but the fact that he is currently still in Kitzbuhel, Austria as a type cannot be a great preparation for this tournament – especially since he is playing a clay court tournament! Nikolay Davydenko will do well to defeat Radek Stepanek in the first round, the Russian has only made the second week at Wimbledon once and generally struggles on grass. Kei Nishikori-Bernard Tomic is probably the pick of the ties in this section, two highly rated players who have the game to trouble the top 10. Nishikori showed this last year in his run in that took him into the top 25 while 19 year old Tomic memorably made the quarter finals at SW19 last year.

Since his controversial comments regarding equal pay, Gilles Simon seems to be suffer a bit of a dip in form. The Frenchman exited in the second round of each of his last three tournaments including Queens and Wimbledon in matches he would be expected to win. Mikhail Kukushkin shouldn’t pose enough to threaten him but in the second round awaits a potential meeting with Grigor Dimitrov. The Bulgarian has always been highly rated but like most young players failed to remain consistent enough. However recently, Dimitrov has kept his good form going for longer than usual – making the semi final in three of his last 4 tournaments and having to withdraw at Wimbledon due to injury. In this form, he is a darkhorse for a medal and in this section of the draw has a decent chance of making the medal match if all goes right for him. Andreas Seppi should progress easily against an incredibly out-of-form Donald Young and the same applies for Juan Martin Del Potro, who should have too much power for the Croatian Ivan Dodig.

My Quarter Final Prediction – David Ferrer defeats Grigor Dimitrov in 3 sets

Must Watch Match – Bernard Tomic vs Kei Nishikori

Did You Know…?

Donald Young is on a 13 match losing streak, having only picked up two wins this year and being defeated seventeen times.

David Ferrer does not have a losing head to head against anyone of his potential opponents from the first round to the third.

Quarter 3 (6) Tomas Berdych-Andy Murray(3)

After suffering an embarrassing first round straight sets defeat at Wimbledon to Ernests Gulbis, Tomas Berdych will be keen to redeem himself. The one time finalist is still a very good grass court player and should have no trouble with Steve Darcis. Ryan Harrison showed plenty of promise in his defeat at Wimbledon to Novak Djokovic, and really should have took a set if it wasn’t for disapponting play on break points. His match with Santiago Giraldo should be interesting, the Colombian is on decent form but was dispatched of by Milos Raonic at Wimbledon – finding it hard to break the Canadian’s big serve. Since his change of nationality to Russian Alex Bogomolov has been struggling a lot, trying to deal with the expectations of what seems to now have been a year of overachievement than progress in 2011. Carlos Berlocq is a clay courter for the most part but may feel he has a good chance to progress to the second round here against Bogomolov. Nicolas Almagro is another who prefers the clay, but has had good grass court results in his rare forays on to the surface including victories over John Isner and Olivier Rochus. He holds a 2-0 head to head record over Viktor Troicki, who has the better grass results but may still not have enough to beat the Spaniard. A potential third round meeting should be tasty between Almagro and Berdych – they had a falling out when Almagro played a shot to pass Berdych at the net by hitting it right in his direct and the Czech felt it was being aimed at him.

Much like Philipp Kohlschreiber, Robin Haase is another currently in Kitzbuhel as he gears up for the final of the clay court tournament. Again, this won’t be ideal for the Dutchman though winning and added confidence can’t be a problem! He faces a tough first round tie against Richard Gasquet who will have his eyes set on a third round tie and revenge against Andy Murray in France last month. Gasquet controlled large parts of the match early only to buckle under the pressure of Murray’s injury doubts to lose in four sets. Murray probably has the hardest tie of the lot, drawing Stanislas Wawrinka in the first round. Murray’s most famous matches with the Swiss No.2 are his five set epic under the roof at Wimbledon where he prevailed, and his disappointing defeat in the US Open third round. If Murray makes it past the Swiss he should be fairly confident of making it to the rematch with the Frenchman, potential opponents are either a returning from injury Somdev Devvarman 0r Jarkko Niemenen – who also didn’t deal well with the pressure the possible Murray injury put him under. Marcos Baghdatis could give Gasquet or Haase problems if he makes the second round, the Cypriot loves the big occasion and has taken sets from Murray and Djokovic in recent Wimbledons.

My Quarter Final Prediction – Andy Murray defeats Nicolas Almagro in 2 sets

Must Watch Match – Andy Murray vs Stanislas Wawrinka

Did You Know…?

Tomas Berdych sealed his arrival to the tennis world in the 2004 Olympics defeating the World No.1 Roger Federer in three sets 4-6 7-5 7-5

Berdych does not have a losing head to head against the three seeds in his quarter

Quarter 4 (5) Jo-Wilfried Tsonga-Novak Djokovic (2)

Another of the in-form clay courters around at the moment is Thomaz Bellucci, who just took the title in Gstaad, he faces Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the first round. Bellucci only played once and lost in straight sets to Rafael Nadal, but really should have took at least one set considering he held a double break in the first! Milos Raonic is the likely Round 2 opponent for the winner, the Canadian’s big serve should be enough to see off Japan’s Tatsuma Ito but against more experienced players his movement has been found a little wanting and needs to improve if he wants to go deep here. Expect tiebreaks in the Feliciano Lopez/Dmitry Tursunov match – both are traditional grass courters with big serves. The winner will face either David Goffin or Juan Monaco in what promises to be an intriguing tie. Monaco has always preferred the clay courts too, but will be high on confidence after breaking into the top 10 this month. Goffin showed a lot of promise at Wimbledon, defeating Bernard Tomic amongst others and is definitely one to watch.

Novak Djokovic opens his account with a tie against Italy’s Fabio Fognini. Some believe that the Serb’s momentum was killed slightly when Fognini withdrew from their quarter final match at the French Open and left Djokovic without a match for longer than he really wanted to. Djokovic should deal with him fairly easily. A potential second round with a revitalised Andy Roddick could make for a cracker in the three set format. Roddick has won two titles in the past 2 months (Eastbourne, Atlanta) and dominated David Ferrer for a set and a half before running out of steam. His opponent, Martin Klizan, comes off a decent run in Kitzbuhel but shouldn’t trouble Roddick too much here even if he plays poorly. Another former Wimbledon champion in Lleyton Hewitt has been handed a wildcard to the tournament and showed good form in Newport to make the final where he lost to John Isner. He takes on Sergei Stakhovsky who appears to be dealing with a number of injuries having retired twice over the grass court season. Another in-form player in Marin Cilic heads this part of the draw, the Croatian picked up the Umag title this month and looked impressive at Wimbledon including taking a 5 set 5 hour epic against the American Sam Querrey. He faces Jurgen Melzer who departed disappointingly to Lukas Lacko in Round 2 at Wimbledon.

Cilic/Melzer
Hewitt/Stakhovsky

My Quarter Final Prediction – Novak Djokovic defeats Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in 3 sets

Must Watch Match – Jo-Wilfried Tsonga vs Thomaz Bellucci

Did You Know…? 

The Second and Third Round’s in this quarter could see a match between two former world No.1’s – Novak Djokovic, Lleyton Hewitt and Andy Roddick all lie in this section.

In defeating Roger Federer last year at Wimbledon from two sets down, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga managed to end an 178-0 streak the Swiss held when leading 2-0 in a match.

Medal Predictions

Gold Roger Federer

Silver Andy Murray 

Bronze Novak Djokovic

Who do you think will go well in the Mens side of the draw? Who can cause a shock? Let me know in the comments below!

Olympics Preview – Women’s Singles

After a 64 year break, Tennis returned to the Olympics in 1988 as a medal sport (returned in 1984 as a ‘demonstration sport’) and the list of female singles winners makes for some impressive reading. The likes of Steffi Graf, Venus Williams and Justine Henin have won since the sport’s revival in the Olympics and only 2008 winner Elena Dementieva is not a multiple grand slam winner.

Draw

Quarter 1  (1) Victoria Azarenka – Angelique Kerber (7) 

The new World No.1 Victoria Azarenka should have no issues on her way to making the quarter final, facing first Irina-Camelia Begu. The Romanian is far more comfortable on clay and has very little experience on the grass, most recently exiting Wimbledon in the 1st round and throwing away a 6-0 lead in a final set tie break against Francesca Schiavone in their match in S’hertogenbosch. A second round tie will be with another clay courter, be it Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez or the in-form Polona Hercog who took the title in Bastad last week. Potential third round opponents Jie Zheng or Nadia Petrova both have had impressive runs at Wimbledon in the past and have decent grass court credentials – Zheng pushing eventual winner Serena Williams at Wimbledon this year to 3 sets stands out, along with her Semi Final appearance a while back. Petrova took the S’hertogenbosch title this year but appeared to be carrying an injury in her defeat to Dominika Cibulkova in Carlsbad last week.

Perhaps the most appealing seeded player to draw for the unseeded is Sara Errani, the French Open finalist is far less comfortable on the grass and even suffered the humiliation of the golden set in her defeat to Yaroslava Shvedova last month. Errani has drawn five-time Wimbledon champion Venus Williams. Although she was incredibly disappointing at Wimbledon this year, winning only four games against Elena Vesnina, I don’t think you can write her off completely. She may feel her medal chances are much better in the doubles with sister Serena where they are favourites for the gold medal. Timea Babos has shown great potential this year, winning the title in Monterrey and earning a surprise victory over Birmingham champion Melanie Oudin. Angelique Kerber should be the favourite to come through the other side of this quarter, and potentially has the chance to exert revenge over Errani who defeated her in the French Open. She faces Petra Cetkovska in the first round.

My Quarter Final Prediction –  Victoria Azarenka defeats Angelique Kerber in 3 sets

Must Watch Match – Venus Williams vs Sara Errani

Did You Know…?

Nadia Petrova owns a 7-1 head to head record over first round opponent Jie Zheng

Venus Williams is the only female tennis player to win three gold medals (1x Singles, 2x Doubles)

Quarter 2 (4) Serena Williams-Caroline Wozniacki (8)

Serena Williams will be very happy with her section of the draw. The Wimbledon champion is on an 11-match winning streak after taking the title in Stanford. She looked ominous at Wimbledon and her serve is one of the best of all time, meaning that she is almost unbreakable if it is working. Her first round tie will be a battle of the former World No.1’s as she takes on Jelena Jankovic. The Serb has been on a very bad run of form of late with a string of first round exits to her name, although she did make the final in Birmingham (though perhaps more due to a favourable draw). Jankovic appears to be lacking motivation at times but if there is an opponent that can inspire her to play well, it has to be Serena. Young hopefuls Mona Barthel and Urszula Radwanska will battle for the presumed second round match-up with Serena, both can cause a lot of trouble but inconsistency is likely to be their downfall. Klara Zakapolova will be looking to improve on her 0-3 head to head against Francesca Schiavone, and was mostly recently defeated by the Italian this year at Wimbledon. 2010 Wimbledon finalist Vera Zvonareva still looks to be suffering slightly from a number of injuries but she has potential to be a surprise medalist if she can recover sufficiently.

Serena’s potential quarter-final opponent could be Caroline Wozniacki, whom she has a 4-1 head to head record over. The Dane faces British hopeful Anne Keothavong first up – who was embarrassed by college star Mallory Burdette at Stanford a few weeks back. Many more eyes will be on Daniela Hantuchova, who is enjoying new found fame after posing for the ESPN Body Issue. The Slovakian has been disappointing in the middle part of this year, not helped by a foot injury that left her out for almost two months.  She suffered a poor straight sets defeat to Jamie Hampton at Wimbledon this year and will have a big job on her hands here, facing Na Li. Li has not quite hit the heights of last year, but is still a very dangerous player on all surfaces. Tamira Paszek will be confident with her position in the draw here, possessing recent grass court wins over Hantuchova and more famously under the roof against Wozniacki this year.

My Quarter Final Prediction – Serena Williams defeats Tamira Paszek in 2 sets

Must Watch Match – Serena Williams vs Jelena Jankovic

Did You Know…?

With victory here, Serena can equal her sisters gold medal haul of three.

This quarter of the draw contains five former, or current top 5 players.

Quarter 3 (5) Samantha Stosur-Maria Sharapova (3)

While Samantha Stosur is notoriously poor on grass, she will be happy with her first round draw against a clay specialist in Carla Suarez Navarro who she beat fairly comfortable in Wimbledon this year. The second round is much more likely to be where she departs – Roberta Vinci can be a threat and only made the fourth round of Wimbledon while Kim Clijsters is still a class act even if recent form has been sketchy. The Belgian will want to finish off in style at her last visit to SW19 before she retires. She holds a 2-0 head to head over Vinci, but both are a long time ago so not much should be made of that. Agnes Szavay makes her return after a long time out with injury and has a winnable match against Great Britain’s Elena Baltacha, but her fitness is a huge question mark after so much time out. Ana Ivanovic is the other stand out name in this section, she takes on the highly rated Christina Mchale. This is a wide-open quarter where someone has the potential to make a name for themselves.

Whoever takes the previous section is more than likely just waiting for a quarter final with Maria Sharapova. The Russian disappointed at Wimbledon, losing to Sabine Lisicki and has the chance for revenge here in the third round. A first round tie with a slumping Shahar Pe’er should pose no issues at all. Lefties Laura Robson and Lucie Safarova could trouble her in the second round but Sharapova should progress with little trouble. Yaroslava Shvedova could disturb the balance in this section here, two good Grand Slam runs have seen her ranking improve greatly over the past two months and she has begun to show the potential of a few years ago again. She takes on Simona Halep in an interesting first round tie for the chance to take on Lisicki, who should dispatch of youngster Ons Jabeur with ease. Although losing the most recent meeting, Sharapova has a 3-1 head to head over Lisicki including the previous two slam meetings between the pair – Australian Open 12, Wimbledon 11.

My Quarter Final Prediction – Maria Sharapova defeats Ana Ivanovic in 2 sets

Must Watch Match – Ana Ivanovic vs Christina Mchale

Did You Know…?

Samantha Stosur is a three times semi-finalist at Eastbourne but has never got past the fourth round at Wimbledon.

Against the 3 seeds in her section she has faced, Kim Clijsters has a 17-3 record (6-3 Sharapova, 5-0 Stosur, 6-0 Ivanovic)

Quarter 4 (6) Petra Kvitova-Agnieszka Radwanska (2)

2011 Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova opens her account against Kateryna Bondarenko – the Ukrainian will have full attention on the Singles event now after he sister withdrew from the doubles but it is unlikely she can trouble the Czech here while Shuai Peng or Su-Wei Hsieh will ensure an Asian presence in the next round. Bulgarian grass specialist Tsvetana Pironkova is probably the biggest danger to Kvitova here, she excels on grass and is a former semi-finalist at Wimbledon – where she was defeated by Vera Zvonareva in 2010. She also reached the quarters in 2009, losing to potential opponent Kvitova. Pironkova takes on the in-from Dominika Cibulkova, who recently took the Carlsbad title.

When talking about Agnieszka Radwanska, she is always accused of having the easy draws in tournaments and it is hard to argue with people on this showing. She faces an out-form Julia Gorges in the first round with a potential second round tie against either a very poor wildcard choice in Veronica Cepede Royg or an inferior version of herself in Varvara Lepchenko. A third round tie is likely to be against Maria Kirilenko. Radwanska has proved recently she can beat her, even if the weather conditions were not suitable the Pole’s playing style. Heather Watson was dispatched off with ease at Wimbledon while Silvia Soler-Espinosa and Mariana Duque Marino are both most at home on the clay and will pose little threat.

My Quarter Final Prediction – Agnieszka Radwanska defeats Petra Kvitova  in 3 sets

Must Watch Match – Tsvetana Pironkova vs Dominika Cibulkova

Did You Know…?

South Americans Mariana Duque Marino and Veronica Cepede Royg have not won a main draw match on Grass courts between them. Mariano has one in Wimbledon qualifying 2008.

Tsvetana Pironkova’s difference in results off and on a grass court are staggering – other than her Wimbledon QF and SF’s in 2009 and 2010, she has never made the 3rd round in a slam.

Medal Predictions

Gold Serena Williams 

Silver Maria Sharapova

Bronze Victoria Azarenka

Who are your medal predictions for the tourney? Who do you think can spring a surprise here? Feel free to leave your comments below!

ATP Los Angeles Preview

 

Los Angeles 250

Again, with the Olympics ongoing, a fairly weak draw appears in Los Angeles headed by a surprising No.1 seed in Benoit Paire. Finalists from last year Mardy Fish and Ernest Gulbis do not appear, with Fish skipping this week (also picked up an injury in Atlanta) and playing Washington next week while Gulbis has chosen to play in Kitzbuhel instead. Sam Querrey heads the list of Americans hoping to pick up a title.

Favourite – Were in not for the injuries he had suffered in the past year doing damage to his ranking, I think Sam Querrey would have been No.1 seed here. Most likely though, an fully fit Querrey would have been highly ranked enough to be at the Olympics rather than here! The American is a two times champion here (2009, 2010) but was unable to compete last year. With a serve like Querrey’s fast hard courts will suit him and he can take advantage of a weak draw.

Outsider –  James Blake is another who has been suffering from injuries recently, only gaining one victory on the tour in seven attempts. However, this victory was in his most recent outing in Atlanta, shocking the No.6 seed Ryan Harrison in three sets. He still possesses the monster forehand that brought him so much success in earlier years, but is perhaps a little more inconsistent with it. If it gets going again here, he can dictate many of the rallies as he did in the later stages against Harrison. The only issue may be is a potential shoulder injury which affected his serving at times in Atlanta.

One To Watch – Igor Sijsling is yet to make any impact on the ATP World Tour with only 17 matches in three years but the Dutchman has come off a good run of form that includes a third round appearance at S’hertogenbosch where he defeated Jarkko Niemenen and Olivier Rochus before being sent crashing down to earth with a battering from eventual champ David Ferrer. More recently, Sijsling showed good hard court form in Granby Challenger where he lost in the final to Vasek Pospisil.

Did You Know..?

Los Angeles Open is one of the oldest tournaments on the tour, having been held every year since 1927.

Only two seeds (Querrey, Malisse) have a ATP World Tour title in their careers.

Only Bjorn Phau of the seeds has defeated Sam Querrey in their career.

Finals Prediction – Querrey defeats Mahut in 2 sets

 

 

ATP Kitzbuhel Preview

Kitzbuhel 250

The clay court season ends on the main tour here in Kitzbuhel, Austria. Again, with the Olympics the draw is much weaker than usual but is headed by two top 25 Germans in Philip Kohlschreiber and Florian Mayer and two capable Spaniards in Guillermo Garcia-Lopez and Albert Ramos.

Favourite – No.1 seed Philip Kohlschreiber possesses an 8-5 record on the year, and more importantly has already picked up a title in Munich, where he defeated Marin Cilic in the final. While it is clear that the German’s game suits faster surfaces, he is clearly a competent clay player against the standard of players in this draw and is coming off a good run of form having made the quarter finals at Wimbledon. Much like many other players, the thought of the Olympics may be in the back of his mind and so an early exit is possible.

Outsider – This will not be an issue for Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, who has dropped in the rankings recently after a poor 2011. The Spaniard took the Kitzbuhel title in 2009 defeating Julien Benneteau but has not played here in the past two years. Most recently, Garcia-Lopez had a good run in Stuttgart where he made the Semi Final, only to be defeated by Juan Monaco in a thrilling three set encounter – having came back from 5-0 down in the third to tie it up, only to drop the set 7-5. He has a good chance of going far if he can keep up the level he showed in Stuttgart.

One To Watch – A four times Hungarian National champion, Attila Balazs made quite a splash in his first tour event of the year in Bucharest, making the semi final as qualifier where he was defeated by Fabio Fognini. However on the way, he recorded impressive victories over Xavier Malisse, Lukas Lacko and Potito Starace. At the lower level, he has picked up numerous clay titles but is yet to make the step up so much on the Challenger circuit. However, as his Bucharest run showed, he appears to be a momentum play and having gone into the tournament on a three match winning streak to make the first round, he has potential to do damage again and could draw worse than wildcard Martin Fischer.

Did You Know…?

Kitzbuhel was a ATP 500 event until 2008, an ATP 250 event in 2009 and 2011, but a Challenger Tour event in 2010 where it was won by Andreas Seppi.

Ernest Gulbis is the only seed not to have won a title on clay, be it ATP World Tour or ATP Challenger Tour.

Martin Klizan against Dominic Thiem is a battle of two former French Open junior finalists. Thiem was a loser in 2011 while Klizan picked up the trophy in 2006.

Finals Prediction – Garcia-Lopez defeats Ramos in 2 sets

WTA Baku Preview

Baku (International)

With the Olympics up next week, the Baku Cup is suffering from a depleted field with no seed inside the top 50 and two outside the top 100  and a last direct acceptance of the world ranked 200 player Olga Savchuk. It will be a blow for the newly formed tournament with last year’s winner Vera Zvonareva unable to compete although losing finalist Ksenia Pervak will compete as No.1 seed.

Favourite – With such a weak field it is hard to pick a stand out favourite, but Ksenia Pervak certainly makes a case having made the final here last year. She is probably the best player in the field as it is and her hard court form earlier in the year was fairly decent, with most of her defeats being in matches she had been expected to lose anyway, making the third round in Doha, Miami and Indian Wells. Along with the final here, she also made the final and won in the other Eurasian event in Tashkent without dropping a set.

Outsider – Talented but inconsistent, Bojana Jovanovski could go well here, the Serb is No.5 seed here and benefits from the being in the weaker side of the draw. She has shown glimpses of her talent on a regular occasion, most recently against Wimbledon quarter-finalist Sabine Lisicki who she took to three sets and could well have won. Panova and Bratchikova in her half are nothing special while perhaps the biggest threat in her draw Andrea Hlavackova has the Olympics on her mind and surely her thoughts will be elsewhere halfway through the week.

One To Watch – Twice a Junior grand slam finalist (W French Open 2010, F Wimbledon 2012), Elena Svitolina finally takes her first steps on to the main tour here in Azerbaijan. While clay appears to be her favoured surface, her form on the ITF Circuit last year was impressive on hard courts having took titles in Nigeria and Turkey and also making a final in a Russian 50k. She comes off a good run at Wimbledon where she was defeated in the Girls Final by Eugenie Bouchard.

Did You Know…?

Of the seeds, only Ksenia Pervak possesses a WTA Tour singles title. (Tashkent 2011)

Against the seeds she has faced (Minella, Panova, Jovanovski, Bratchikova), Akgul Amanmuradova does not have a losing record. 

There is a 20 year difference in age between the youngest and oldest competitors in Baku – Varvara Flink at 15 and Tamarine Tanasugarn at 35.

Finals Prediction – Pervak to beat Jovanovski in 3 sets

The new Centre Court in Baku

July 16th-22nd WTA Previews

Unlike the ATP Tour, the WTA has a slightly less packed schedule with again only the two tournaments this week. The clay courters move on from Palermo to Bastad while the North American hard court swing carries on with the players taking their talents to Carlsbad, San Diego.

Carlsbad (Premier)

Much like Stanford last week, Carlsbad has suffered in terms of the lineup due to the inconvenience placing the tournament between Wimbledon and the Olympics. Last year the tournament featured 16 seeds, of which the lowest was ranked 39 but this year the eighth seed ranks at 42! Marion Bartoli and Dominika Cibulkova head a field which has been weakened by the withdrawals of Svetlana Kuznetsova, Sabine Lisicki and Angelique Kerber. Bojana Jovanovski will not be competing this year but famously arrived at the wrong Carlsbad last year in the buildup to her first round match.

Favourite – Top seed Marion Bartoli will be hoping to make up for her disappointing performance at Stanford last week with a title in Carlsbad. Bartoli has always performed reasonably well on North American hard courts, having made two finals last year at Stanford and Indian Wells, but losing to Serena Williams and Caroline Wozniacki respectively. The Frenchwoman has the chance to gain revenge over her conqueror Yanina Wickmayer in a potential quarter final match.

Outsider – Nadia Petrova appears to be having somewhat of a career revival over the past few months. She earned the title in S’hertogenbosch defeating Urszula Radwanska to jump back into the top 20 for the first time in over a year. Hard courts should suit the former US Open quarter-finalist’s big serve and with a lack of outstanding candidates in the field the winner could be someone that can remain more consistent.

One To Watch – Coco Vandeweghe is hot off a Final appearance in Stanford having given Serena Williams an almighty scare before collapsing after having had a set point. She can cause big trouble with her serve as shown by her ace count throughout the week though the quality can be inconsistent. She will face Chanelle Scheepers in the first round who was also beaten by Serena last week.

Did You Know…?

Christina Mchale (5th seed, WTA Rank 28) is the highest ranked player without a WTA title to their name.

The draw contains three of the four youngest players in the top 100. If Camila Giorgi had qualified (lost 1st round qualifier), it would have made it four of five.

Bastad (International)

Favourite – As usual when it comes to lesser WTA tournaments on the dirt, Sara Errani is the obvious pick. The French Open runner-up added the Palermo title to her collection this year after defeating Barbara Zahlavova Strycova in the final and will be confident 0f doing the same again this week as No. 1 seed to make it 5 clay titles on the year.

Outsider – Handed a wildcard by the organisers here, Laura Robson will be hoping to build on her surprising semi-final appearance in Palermo last week. The left-handed put in some impressive displays last week on what many expect is her worst surface. If it wasn’t for a complete serving meltdown in the semi-final, where she served 18 double faults, we would be talking about Britain’s first finalist for a long time. If she can cut out the service errors, she has potential to go far again. The serve when it lands in, and her lefty forehand are two huge weapons that can do damage to a lot of players here.

One To Watch – Kiki Bertens has shot up the rankings this year, to a current high of No. 72.  As a qualifier, she won Fes defeating Laura Pous-Tio in the final. Her good form continued afterwards, qualifying for the French Open and taking Christina Mchale to 3 sets. Her most impressive win to date this year would be against Lucie Safarova at Wimbledon where she won surprisingly easy in straight sets 6-3 6-0. She has drawn the slumping Mona Barthel in the first round.

Did You Know…?

Sara Errani has dropped just two sets in her four WTA International tournament wins (Pennetta, Acapulco final and Czink, Budapest 2nd Round)

Eighth seed Carla Suarez Navarro is the only seeded player not to have won a title having gone 0-3 in clay finals.