World #2 and top seed Ashleigh Barty eases her way into the WTA Nature Valley International Eastbourne with a first round bye. She will be keen to enforce her current level of play at this Premier tournament. The draw is not unfavourable for Barty in Eastbourne. This will help build momentum for Wimbledon. It will also, hopefully ensure her participation having played the full week in Birmingham.
#1 Seed Ashleigh Barty Looking to Underline Wimbledon Credentials
The Aussie wonder Ashleigh Barty, faces the winner of Evgeniya Rodina vs Ons Jabeur in round 2. The Russian world #76 Rodina, is in a form slump at the moment. However, she marched to the last at Wimbledon 2018, only to be stopped by fellow mother Serena Williams.
Despite achieving a good victory over Kristina Mladenovic in Birmingham, Rodina may struggle against Ons Jabeur. The Tunisian leads the head-to-head 2-0, incorporating a victory on grass in Manchester 2018. A mouthwatering round of 16 match against Donna Vekic or Jo Konta potentially awaits the French Open champ.
Jo Konta, Heather Watson and Harriet Dart Contribute to the British Interest
Each of the above three Brits is looking to improve upon a poor result, for themselves, last week in Birmingham. #14 seed Jo Konta’s forehand returning went missing against Jelena Ostapenko. Harriet Dart still doesn’t look to be fully fit after injury and succumbed in straight sets to Yulia Putintseva. Heather Watson is also on the mend after time-off through injury. The mercurial Guernsey grinder ran out of steam in a tight three set defeat to the evergreen Czech Barbora Strycova.
Jo Konta faces a nightmare first round match-up as a seed. Donna Vekic steps the other side of the net, renewing their seven match rivalry that Konta edges 4-3. The Brit also has the advantage on grass 2-1. However, it’s always a tense & tight battle between these two Wimbledon hopefuls. Wild card Harriet Dart faces the grass court pedigree of #16 Anett Kontaveit from Estonia. Whereas, Heather Watson has a decent shot at putting a win on the board at WTA main draw level for the first time this season. The British #3 takes on Alize Cornet.
British Fed Cup rep’ and World #211 Katie Swan is hoping to take advantage of a wild card as she takes on Zhang Shuia. Swan is 1-1 on grass (not including WTA Nottingham match moved indoors) this season, courtesty of making the 2nd round at ITF Ikley, losing to Smitkova 2nd round. Swan has yet to achieve a winning grass season in win/loss terms, but when she is on song her line-finding precision can trouble most players.
Angelique Kerber, Aryna Sabalenka and Simona Halep Form Part of a Strong Field
The grass court season normally coincides with a rise in the form of German World #6 and #4 seed Angelique Kerber. She has been brushing aside strong opponents like Maria Sharapova and WTA Nottingham Open champ Caroline Garcia, in Birmingham. Kerber must be on many a shortlist for Wimbledon. She is building match fitness nicely. Although, Kerber still needs a few more matches to attain full sharpness for Wimbledon.
Belarussian #8 seed Aryna Sabalenka has been in frustrating form this season. A 14-7 win-loss grass record for 2017 and 2018 combined is in danger of being undermined as she is currently 0-2. Sabalenka is hoping to snap a three match losing run. She faces either Carla Suarez-Navarro or the improving Tamara Zidansek. You get the impression that Sabalenka’s season could well ignite. All that’s required is a couple of confidence boosting wins, especially on grass.
Simona Halep returns to action for the first time since her disappointing French Open quarterfinal loss to Amanda Anisimova. Halep only played three matches on grass last season, but she can still be dangerous on the surface. She lacked a little fitness at the French Open and will no doubt be using this tournament to build up her sharpness.
A great week of Premier level tennis is in the offing.