WTA Grampians Trophy Day 1 Predictions Including Alison Riske vs Ann Li

Alison Riske

Tennis is back! Two warmup events are already underway in the form of the Yarra Valley Classic and the Gippsland Trophy. The third of the WTA warmup events kicks off in Melbourne on Wednesday. The WTA Grampians Trophy features a draw of 28 players who were in hard isolation. The tournament itself looks to be a good one, with 11 top 30 players featuring in the main draw. There is a good mix of up-and-coming talent, past Grand Slam champions and tour veterans looking to make their mark. Each day looks set to provide must see tennis and the pre-tournament quarantine surely means some upsets are on the cards. We take a look at who will advance in each round starting with Wednesday’s  matches in our 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

Anett Kontaveit vs Christina McHale

Head-to-head: Kontaveit 0-1 McHale

Anett Kontaveit is one of the more frustrating players on the women’s tour. On her day the Estonian is capable of beating absolutely anyone. She has been considered a potential star for years now. However, she is often guilty of going for too much, resulting in error-strewn matches and losses she should never have taken. Nonetheless, Kontaveit put together a solid 2020 season and has reason to be confident heading into the Grampians Trophy this week. She made the her first Grand Slam quarterfinal at the Australian Open last year. She also made the fourth round of the US Open. The 23 year old will be hoping to put her first round loss in Abu Dhabi to start the year behind her and build on a strong 2020. She will certainly be hoping to find some form ahead of the Australian Open next week.

Standing in her way in the first round is American Christina McHale. McHale was once ranked as high as #24 in the world. She has fallen away somewhat in recent years and has hovered in and around the top #100 spot since 2018. However, the American possess an immense forehand, great footwork and can be a real threat when firing on all cylinders. Similar to Kontaveit, McHale is occasionally guilty of going for too much and racking up unforced errors as a result.

This match may well be decided by who can keep their composure and consistency best. If both players are on it will be must watch tennis with spectacular winners flowing from both racquets. If not it could be a painful watch with errors ending points that should have been won easily. Kontaveit has the higher ceiling and has enjoyed more success in Australia. McHale won their only head to head but that was in 2013 so doesn’t hold much significance. Kontaveit should win this, but is by no means a sure thing.
Prediction: Kontaveit in 3

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Barbora Strycova vs Bethanie Mattek-Sands

Head-to-head: First meeting

Barbora Strycova got lucky here. The Czech had an abysmal 2020 and only picked up five tour wins the entire year. The benefit of an alterations to the ranking system in light of COVID-19 means she currently sits at #38 in the world. However, that number is inflated by her Wimbledon semifinal showing in 2019. Strycova didn’t get past the second round of any tournament she entered in 2020. There were rumors that she might be retiring at the end of the season or at the very least focusing on doubles where she has formed a formidable partnership with Hsieh Su-Wei. It appears she is not ready to call it a day on her singles career just yet. She kicks of her 2020 season against another doubles expert in Bethanie Mattek-Sands.

Mattek-Sands is currently ranked #339 in the world in singles. She has payed little attention to the singles side of the WTA Tour in recent years, choosing instead to focus on doubles where she has enjoyed great success. Mattek-Sands is an Olympic champion and has won nine Grand Slams. However, they have all come in doubles or mixed doubles. The American only played singles in four tour level tournaments last year. She only made it through qualifying in two of the four. Mattek-Sands has also been ranked outside of the top 100 in singles since 2016. While a return to the level that saw her ranked #30 in the world isn’t out of the question, it is highly unlikely.

This match features two players who likely still have years of success ahead of them on the doubles tour. However, their best singles days appear to be behind them. Strycova’s regular appearances on the tour should give her the edge here, but don’t expect either to make much of a run this week.
Prediction: Strycova in 3

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Sorana Cirstea vs Oksana Kalashnikova

Head-to-head: First meeting

Cirstea has had a solid if not spectacular career on the WTA Tour. With one title to her name as well as a quarterfinal at Roland Garros, the Romanian is certainly no pushover and shouldn’t be taken lightly. She is also more than capable on hard courts. Her only tour title came on the hard courts of the Tashkent Open in 2008. Cirstea made the fourth round of the Australian Open in 2017 as well as the third round of the US Open in three times. The Romain possesses a brilliant if somewhat erratic backhand that is a challenge for anyone on the tour when firing. She will be hoping to use what should be an easy first round match to find some form at the Grampians Trophy.

Oksana Kalashnikova enters the Grampians Trophy main draw as an alternate following the withdrawal of top seed Bianca Andreescu. The Georgian doesn’t currently have a rank as a singles player. She hasn’t made it through qualifying nor played a main draw match on the WTA Tour since 2013. This match up then is really a freebie for Kalashnikova to try and score some ranking points. However, I wouldn’t get too excited about that happening here

This match is an easy call. Cirstea is leagues ahead of Kalashnikova and should get this over with relatively quickly. Expect the Romanian to advance quickly in this one

Prediction: Cirstea in 2

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Alison Riske vs Ann Li

Editor’s Note: After this was published Riske withdrew from the match. Li will face Australian Ellen Perez instead.

Head-to-head: Riske 1-1 Li

Alison Riske had a somewhat disappointing 2020 by her standards. The American only won one Tour-level match in six tournaments between February and the end of the year. This included first round exits in the US Open and Roland Garros. For a player ranked inside the top 30 in the world those losses will have been a major disappointment. However, Riske did make the fourth round of the Australian Open at the start of 2020. She looked like she might go further too, eventually losing to Ashleigh Barty in the third set of a match she could have won. As such, she will be confident that Australia provides her with a good opportunity to return to winning ways. A deep run here would set her up nicely to try and better that performance in the coming weeks.

Ann Li is another of the crop of young and exciting talents that American tennis has produced in recent years. She sits just inside the top 100 with a ranking of #99 entering into the tournament. The young starlet has risen nearly 200 spots on the WTA rankings in the last two years and will be hoping to build on her strong 2020 with a good showing at the Grampians Trophy. Li made the second round of the Australian Open and the third round of the US Open in 2020 and is definitely most at home on hard courts. While she is still relatively unknown on the WTA Tour, she did beat Alison Riske in straight sets at the US Open last year.

Li looks like a talented player who could well continue her climb up the rankings in the months to come. The recent win against Riske means she will like her chances in this matchup. However, Riske was a strong performer in Australia last year. I think she will be again this year after coming through a tough first round match.
Prediction: Riske in 3

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