Sunday, 9 June 2013

WTA Birmingham: Preview and Predictions

The WTA 2013 grass court season kicks off tomorrow in Birmingham.  The draw does lack the big name with no top 20 players from this weeks rankings.  Kirsten Flipkens is the top seed following the withdrawals of Marion Bartoli and Roberta Vinci, but there are a host of the hot prospects and grass court GOATS in the draw.  Note that the top eight seeds all have byes into round two.

Kirsten Flipkens
Kirsten Flipkens will open her account in Birmingham against last year's champion, Melanie Oudin or Alja Tomljanovic.  It is a pretty tough draw for soon-to-be top 20, Flipkens as she is seeded to meet Magdalena Rybarikova in the third round, who won the Birmingham title back in 2009, beating Li Na in the final.  Flipkens and Rybarikova also met in Memphis earlier this year and it was Rybarikova who prevailed in an exciting three setter.  Flipkens is projected to meet Mona Barthel in the quarter-finals.  Barthel, who has lost her last five matches on the WTA tour, will be looking for a change up on the grass where technically, I think she should do well.  Jamie Hampton and Madison Keys are both lurking in this section and I expect one of them to make the quarters.  Hampton has Hsieh Su-Wei first up, meanwhile Keys plays Lesia Tsurenko.  The winners of those two matches will meet in the second round.

Sorana Cirstea and Urszula Radwanska are the highest seeds in the second section, which looks to be by far the weakest on paper.  Cirstea is still an extremely hit-and-miss player and she could face an intriguing second rounder against Tsvetana Pironkova, who uses her forehand slice to great effect on this surface.  Eugenie Bouchard, who has had some promising results of late, will face Bojana Jovanovski in the first round; I fancy the winner of that match to reach at least the third round.  Radwanska could face Ayumi Morita in  a third round clash, which would not be ideal for Urszula as she has lost twice to Morita this year and both times handily.

Two of the grass court GOATS, Sabine Lisicki and Tamira Paszek head up the third section.  Lisicki has made at least the quarter-finals in her last two visits to Wimbledon and won the Birmingham title in 2011.  Her first test is likely to come in round three where she is seeded to meet Yanina Wickmayer.  The Belgian player has a tough opener against Yulia Putintseva in what should be a rather fiery clash.  Paszek has a good draw and snapped an 8 match losing streak with a win over Anne Keothavong in Nottingham last week.  She has struggled with injuries this year, but is another player who loves the grass having won Eastbourne last year and made the quarter-finals of Wimbledon for the last two years.  Paszek could play Alison Riske in the second round (another grass lover), who she retired too in Nottingham last week.  Heather Watson is in this section too and has a good draw, which could give her the chance to get some much needed wins under her belt having missed the majority of the clay court season with glandular fever.

Tamira Paszek
The final section of the draw features Laura Robson, who will be keen to put the disappointments of Roland Garros behind her where was defeated in straight sets by Caroline Wozniacki.  Robson faces a potentially testing opener against Daniela Hantuchova or Casey DellacquaKristina Mladenovic could be a third round opponent and that would not be easy at all.  Mladenovic has a booming serve and I think she will be dangerous on this surface.  Ekaterina Makarova is the number two seed and another player likely to thrive on the transition from clay to grass.  Makarova always seems to excel at Eastbourne, but she also made the semi-finals here last year.  Her path could include passing Francesca Schiavone in the third round, although the Italian is unlikely to be as threatening on the grass.

1st Round Predictions: Cetkovska to beat Johansson in 2 tight sets, Hampton to beat Hsieh in 3 sets, Keys to beat Tsurenko in 2 sets, Pironkova to beat Davis in 2 sets, Bouchard to beat Jovanovski in 2 tight sets, Giorgi to beat Vekic in 3 sets, Putintseva to beat Wickmayer in 2 sets, Watson to beat Czink in 3 sets, Schiavone to beat Tatishvili in 2 sets and Erakovic to beat Svitolina in 3 sets

Moo's Quarter-Final Predictions:

Final Prediction - S.Lisicki d. K.Flipkens
This is an extremely tough draw to predict because of the absence of the big names, but I will be going for Sabine who delivered a respectable clay court season and obviously loves this surface and has had previous success at this tournament too.  I will be going to Birmingham on Friday so I will be following this tournament closely to see who will be making the quarter-finals.  I hope to do a bit of live tweeting on Friday and will post a full report on my blog too.  You can follow me on @MooTennisBlog if you are interested!

You can view my full predictions for Birmingham HERE.  It is also worth noting there is a clay cout tournament in Nurnberg this week, which is headlined by Jelena Jankovic; however I will be solely focussing on the grass court events this week.

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