Sunday, 21 April 2013

WTA Stuttgart: Preview and Predictions

Stuttgart is one of my favourite stops on the WTA tour and the draw has not disappointed with some great match-ups from the get go.  Note that the top four players have byes into round two.  Let's take a look at the draw...

Angelique Kerber
Maria Sharapova headlines Stuttgart where she won the first of her three clay court titles in 2012.  It was a come-from-behind victory over Sam Stosur in a captivating Stuttgart quarter-final that guided her on the way to that title in Paris.  She will have a tough start though against the winner of a first round match between Lucie Safarova and Mona Barthel.  I have been waiting to see Barthel play Maria or Serena so I hope its Mona although her form has dipped in recent weeks.  

Sharapova is projected to meet Nadia Petrova in the quarter-finals, but she will have to get past Ana Ivanovic or Andrea Petkovic, who play against each other in another cracking first rounder.  I heard rumours a few weeks ago that Petrova was planning to retire soon; I think they were just rumours on the grapevine, but I fancy Ivanovic, who had two great wins over Kerber and Barthel in Fed Cup on the indoor courts of Stuttgart, to make the quarter-finals.

Angelique Kerber and Caroline Wozniacki headline the second section.  Kerber was brilliant here last year, playing her best match of the 2012 season to destroy Wozniacki.  This year, things feel different; no longer is she the hunter, but now the hunted.  Her first match will be against a player she has lost too this year, either Anastasia Pavluychenkova or Ekaterina Makarova.  It is impossible to call, mainly because of Pavlyuchenkova's recent form, which indicates she will either fall at the first hurdle or make the final.  Makarova's recent performances have also been patchy at best.  Wozniacki takes on Carla Suarez Navarro in the first round and may have to contend with the flying-in-form, Roberta Vinci in round two.

Sara Errani has a favourable draw in Stuttgart and will face a qualifier or Yanina Wickmayer in the second round.  She is projected to meet Sam Stosur in the quarter-finals, who she enjoyed much success over in 2012.  This included a semi-final triumph at Roland Garros and a win in round robin action at the YEC in Istanbul.  I question whether Stosur is 100% fully recovered from her calf injury and she has drawn Jelena Jankovic first up.  Jankovic is coming off two great tournaments in Miami and Charleston and also has a pretty good record over Stosur if you shy away from that 6-1 6-2 beatdown in the 2010 semi-finals of Roland Garros.  Sabine Lisicki is also in this section and the Germans are notorious for doing well at this tournament...

The final section features the hot-shot of the projected quarters as Petra Kvitova could square off with the number 2 seed, Li Na.  Kvitova will have breathed a big sigh of relief to have avoided Vinci in her section of the draw having lost to her twice in a week, at Katowice and in Fed Cup.  Kvitova opens up against German wildcard, Annika Beck and could meet another German in round two, Julia Goerges.  In 2011, Goerges famously produced a staggering line-up of performances to scoop the title, but her form this year has been stop-start.  Her first match against Kirsten Flipkens will not be easy as the Belgian is currently enjoying the best season of her career.  Still, I would back Goerges in these surroundings to pull herself today.  Li will open her tournament against either Elena Vesnina or a qualifier and should comfortably make the quarter-finals.

1st Round Predictions: Barthel to beat Safarova in 2 tight sets, Ivanovic to beat Petkovic in 2 sets, Pavlyuchenkova to beat Makarova in 3 lopsided sets, Vinci to beat Shvedova in 3 sets, Wozniacki to beat Suarez Navarro in 2 sets, Jankovic to beat Stosur in 2 tight sets and Goerges to beat Flipkens in 3 sets

Final Prediction - Sharapova d. Kvitova
I am looking forward to this tournament (can you tell?!) and I am backing Maria to win it.  The biggest opposition is likely to come from Kvitova and Li, who meet on the other side of the draw and I really think that is a 50/50 match if they both make it to the quarter-finals.  I would actually back Petra, who had a confidence crushing loss to Vinci, but then a confidence boosting win over Errani in Fed Cup this weekend.  The middle quarters offer up chances for the likes of Jankovic, Vinci and Pavlyuchenkova to carve their way through the draws, but I would not be surprised if it sticks with the seedings and Wozniacki and Kerber hold strong.  Still, I like to go for some upsets...

You can view my full predictions for Stuttgart HERE, which will get underway with main draw action on Tuesday.

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