WTA Charleston Open Day 1 Predictions including Jelena Ostapenko vs Johanna Larsson

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The clay court season begins for the WTA’s players at the Charleston Open, a Premier event which is the only US green clay tournament. Defending champion Kiki Bertens and 2018 champion Sloane Stephens, both currently ranked inside the top ten, are in the draw but received first-round byes. Still, there’s no shortage of exciting matches on the slate for day one. Who will advance?

Jelena Ostapenko vs Johanna Larsson

Head to head: Ostapenko 2-0 Larsson

After Jelena Ostapenko’s meteoric rise in 2017, culminating in her French Open title, the Latvian has struggled to play with any real consistency, losing many a tough match as a result. 2019 hasn’t played out any better for the 21-year-old, who hasn’t won back-to-back matches yet this year. But she’s still a talented player who played well enough to win a Grand Slam, and on a clay court. Starting clay-court swing in Charleston, she’ll face Johanna Larsson.

The Swede has chalked up a lot of first-round exits in 2019. In fact, Johanna Larsson only saw the second round of a tournament thanks to Vera Lapko retiring in the first round of the Australian Open. While 30-year-old Larsson should fare better on clay, with her topspin-heavy forehand usually rewarded on the surface, don’t expect her to have the weapons to challenge Ostapenko.

Prediction: Ostapenko in two
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Sabine Lisicki vs Sofia Kenin

Head to head: Lisicki 0-1 Kenin

Sabine Lisicki is a long way short of the form that took her to 12th in the world rankings. Indeed, she has struggled consistently since returning from knee surgery. Now sitting at #298, the wild card will find it a tall task taking on the battle-hardened Sofia Kenin, who has scored some fine wins of late. On her way to the Hobart title, Kenin succeeded in ousting Caroline Garcia, Kirsten Flipkens, Alize Cornet and Anna Karolina Schmiedlova. Those wins alone illustrate Kenin’s quality. The American, who also reached the semifinals in Acapulco, has found her groove and is climbing up the rankings impressively. Expect this one to be a rather routine outing for the 20-year-old Kenin.

Prediction: Kenin in two
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Pauline Parmentier vs Allie Kiick

No history

American Allie Kiick has shown promise during some of her recent matches. However, she has yet to realize her full potential. A narrow win over Sara Errani at the Indian Wells Oracle Challenger should have bolstered the 23-year-old’s confidence. Instead, she was dismissed by Estonia’s Kaia Kanepi, winning just two games. Kiick is undoubtedly more athletic than her first-round opponent in Charleston, Pauline Parmentier. That is perhaps because of her family’s athletic lineage, with her father a former NFL running back. But athleticism alone won’t be enough for Kiick against Parmentier’s solid baseline game. If Parmentier’s serve is working well, then this match should end quickly in her favor.

Prediction: Parmentier in two
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Natalia Vikhlyantseva vs Tatjana Maria

Head to head:  Vikhlyantseva 0-1 Maria

If Natalia Vikhlyantseva ever finds her consistency, she will truly be a force to be reckoned with. In Indian Wells, she won the first set against eventual finalist Angelique Kerber. Unfortunately, Vikhlyantseva couldn’t maintain that high level of play and won just four of the next 16 games as Kerber swept to a 3-6 6-1 6-3 win. The Russian’s aggressive style is also better suited to fast courts rather than the slow green clay courts in South Carolina.

Therefore, she may find her first-round opponent Tatjana Maria too much to handle. Clearly, Maria’s slice can frustrate any opponent – just ask former-champion Stephens, who lost to the German in straight sets in Miami. Where she was defending champion! The German will use her wicked slice to keep Vikhlyantseva uncomfortable and the  Russian doesn’t have the consistency, or indeed any Plan B, to combat Maria’s unorthodox game. Expect Maria to come through in straight sets and Vikhlyantseva to make more progress when the grass-court season begins.

Prediction: Maria in two

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