The WTA Grampians Trophy, the third warmup event for the Australian Open on the WTA Tour, begins on Wednesday. The tournament features a wealth of talent including three former grand slam champions and some rising stars of the women’s game. Every match is certain to be entertaining. As for who goes through, well that’s where we come in. Each day we’ll take a look at the matchups on offer and pick who makes the next round. We kick things off with Wednesday’s matches in the WTA Grampians Trophy Day 1 predictions. We predict all 12 matches. Four are in this article, and the other eight are split between two other pieces.
WTA Grampians Trophy Day 1 Predictions
Angelique Kerber vs Katerina Siniakova
Head-to-head: Kerber 3-1 Siniakova
Angelique Kerber is undoubtedly one of the best women’s players on the tour over the past five years. The German won three Grand Slams in that time, the first of which came at the Australian Open in 2016. However, she hasn’t made it past the fourth round of a Major since winning Wimbledon in 2018. She did still make two fourth round appearances in 2020, those being at the US Open and the Australian Open. Kerber will be hoping that her brilliant movement, strong counterpunching game and lethal forehand return to her in time for another deep run at the Australian Open this year. A solid showing at the Grampians Trophy would certainly help in that regard. However, she faces a tricky first hurdle in Katerina Siniakova.
Siniakova possesses no obvious weapons in her arsenal. She is consistently good without excelling in any one area of her game. This consistency, coupled with a fierce fighting spirit, make her a tough opponent for anyone slightly off their game. However, she had a poor 2020 and was knocked out in the first round in 8 of the tournaments she played last year. a quarterfinal in Strasbourg and a third round appearance in the French Open were her only results of note last year. However, at just 24 Siniakova still has time to right ship and make significant inroads on the women’s tour. The Grampians Trophy is her first chance to do just that.
It’s hard to know what to expect in this match with neither player having played yet this year. Kerber hasn’t been in action since the French Open and may well be rusty as a result. Adding to that is the fact that Kerber may have to be the aggressor in this match, something she isn’t always comfortable with. Siniakova may cause the German a few problems, she certainly did in Rome last year where she beat Kerber in straight sets. However I think Kerber is a better player and more comfortable on hard courts and should get the job done comfortably enough.
Prediction: Kerber in 2
Maria Kostyuk vs Gabriela Dabrowski
Head-to-head: First meeting
Marta Kostyuk looks set for a breakout year in 2021. The young Ukrainian has already climbed 19 spots in the WTA rankings after one tournament this year. She made a semifinal appearance in Abu Dhabi before losing to Veronica Kudermetova in a tight match. She also made the third round of the US Open last year. At just 18 years old Kostyuk looks like the next in a long line of talented Eastern European players to break into the top 100 at a young age. How far she can go is anyone’s guess. From what I’ve seen of her though, I like her chances of continuing her rise. She has a golden opportunity to do just that against Gabriela Dabrowski in the first round.
Dabrowski is ranked #493 in the world in singles and will undoubtedly have jumped at the opportunity to be part of the main draw of this tournament when it became clear a spot was available in the singles draw. The Canadian is a doubles specialist and is currently ranked #10 in the world in that form of the game. Her hopes of a deep run in the Australian Open will be solely doubles-based. However, nothing is out of the question given that players had no practice for two weeks prior to this tournament. Dabrowski will throw everything at newcomer to the tour Kostyuk in the hope that she can shoot up the singles rankings with a few wins at the Grampians Trophy.
This match is very one-sided on paper. Kostyuk is the better singles player in the better form. However, a lack of experience on the tour could well play a part in this. The weight of expectation will be somewhat new to the young Ukrainian. Her higher level of tennis should get her over the line. However, I won’t be surprised if there is an see an upset here.
Prediction: Kostyuk in 3
Yulia Putintseva vs Georgina Garcia Perez
Head-to-head: First meeting
Tour veteran Yulia Putintseva takes on relative unknown Georgina Garcia Perez in the first round of the Grampians Trophy. Putintseva put together a decent 2020. The Kazak made her first ever hard court Grand Slam quarterfinal at the US Open last year. She also made the quarterfinal of the Italian Open. The gritty, in-your-face ball of energy has been in and around the top 50 on the women’s tour since 2016. However, she has never pushed her way into the group of elite players on the tour. She is a very intelligent player, often mixing up her game to throw her opponents off. Putintseva is also a great mover around the court. She will be hoping for a strong start to the year in Melbourne and has a good opportunity to get off to a winning start in the first round here.
Georgina Garcia Perez is only playing in this tournament because an extra space opened up in the draw after Dayana Yastremska’s doping ban was upheld. The Spaniard spent most of 2020 on the ITF circuit and played only two tour level tournaments all year. She is currently ranked #191 in the world in singles. However, the lack of practice for players in this tournament makes this match anything but a foregone conclusion. Garcia Perez will have to hope that Putintseva is massively off her game. Even then she will have to play the match of her life. The beautiful thing about tennis is that once in a while these things happen. Karolina Plíšková being steamrolled in the first round of Abu Dhabi by Anastasi Gasanova is a prime example of this.
The hard quarantine all the players in this tournament underwent certainly makes the possibility of an upset more likely. However, it would take a stretch of the imagination I simply don’t have in me to predict Putintseva losing this match. The Kazak should have a simple win to kick off her time down under.
Prediction: Putintseva in 2
Jennifer Brady vs Svetlana Kuznetsova
Head-to-head: Brady 0-1 Kuznetsova
World #24 Jennifer Brady meets former US Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova in what could be the most entertaining match of the first round. If this match were scheduled last year I would have picked Brady to win comfortably. Brady had the best run of her career on the hard courts of America when the tour resumed following the COVID-19 suspension. Brady won her first title at the Lexington Open and followed it up with a semifinal run at the US Open. She also made the semifinal of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship in February. The American has a serve and forehand combination that is unplayable when it’s firing. She used that one-two punch to brilliant effect in what was a career year for her last year. However, Brady is very much a rhythm player and will have none going into this match after a two week quarantine.
She also has a tricky first round match up in Svetlana Kuznetsova. Kuznetsova isn’t the player she once was. However, she still finds that old form in fits and bursts. When she does she is still one of the best players on the women’s tour. Her run to the finals of the Cincinnati Open in 2019 demonstrates that perfectly. The Russian’s is also likely to be less affected by the lockdown. Her game relies more on court coverage and counterpunching than power and big hitting. She get’s herself into most matches through sheer effort and is always a handful even on the days when she isn’t at her best. The likes of Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka have shown that you can still dominate on the tour in your 30s. After a quite 2020, Kuznetsova will be hoping to show she can the same with a good showing here.
Brady has played the better tennis of the two over the last 12 months. However, this feels like the kind of tournament Kuznetsova could do very well in. Mental grit and a willingness to grind out wins are likely to be key in the early stages of the tournament when players are still searching for form. Few on the tour have more grit and determination than Kuznetsova. She also beat Brady in straight sets in St. Petersburg last year, so I’m picking the Russian to win a close match here.
Prediction: Kuznetsova in 3
Main Photo from Getty.