The third, yes that’s right third, of the WTA warmup events being played ahead of the Australian Open begins on Wednesday. That makes a total of six tournaments on the go at once across the ATP and WTA, which for a tennis junkie like me is amazing. Keeping up with all the action is certainly no easy task but fear not, we’ve got you covered. We’re going to go through each match in each tournament day by day and tell you who we think should move on to the next round. I’ll be covering the WTA Grampians Trophy. The tournament exclusively features players forced into hard quarantine on their arrival in Australia. 11 top 30 players bring numerous intriguing story lines lie waiting to unfold as the week progresses. With that in mind, let’s dive right in and take a look at 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
Veronica Kudermetova vs Heather Watson
Head-to-head: Kudermetova 0-1 Watson
This match could be one of the most entertaining of the first round. Veronica Kudermetova will come into this tournament with a ton of confidence after making the final in Abu Dhabi. The young Russian also enjoys the hard courts of Australia, having made a semifinal appearance in Hobart at the start of last year. Kudermetova hits a flat ball and has a powerful serve that make her a threat against anyone on her day. She enters the tournament with a career high ranking of #36 in the world and will be hoping to see that improve again with a deep run here. Kudermetova is yet to make a deep run at the Australian open, falling in the first round three years in a row. However, a solid display her will set her up nicely to change that over the next three weeks.
Standing in her way is Heather Watson. Watson was on a steady career decline after reaching #45 in the world in August of 2015. The former British number one’s ranking fell every year after that and she was in danger of slipping out of the top 100 at the end of 2019. However, 2020 brought a remarkable resurgence for Watson. She won her fourth career title, and first since 2016, at the Mexico Open in Acapulco. She also made the semifinal in Hobart, losing to eventual champion Elena Rybakina in three sets. However, after her win in Mexico Watson lost six first round matches in a row. In Abu Dhabi at the start of this year she got a kind draw and beat lucky loser Jodie Burrage in a tight match before losing to Ekaterina Alexandrova in the second round.
On paper this looks like a close match. Watson owns the head-to-head record after beating Kudermetova in Tianjin in 2019. However, Kudermetova has been far more consistent over the last two years. Watson showed flashes of brilliance last year, but not enough to convince me she can beat an in form Kudermetova here. She may take a set, but the Russian should move on
Prediction: Kudermetova in 3
Ons Jabeur vs Anna Blinkova
Head-to-head: Jabeur 1-0 Blinkova
Ons Jabeur will be looking to build on one of the feel-good seasons of 2020 when she gets underway in Melbourne. The Tunisian became the first Arab woman in history to make a Grand Slam quarterfinal at the Australian Open last year. She also made the fourth round of Roland Garros and the third round of the US Open in what was a breakout year for her on the tour. Jabeur possesses more variety than perhaps anyone on the women’s tour. She is brilliant to watch and impossible to play against when at her best. Jabeur will have high hopes of another deep run in the Australian. A strong showing in the Grampians Trophy would go a long way towards seeing that happen.
Anna Blinkova on the other hand had a disappointing 2020. The young Russian failed to build on two semifinal appearances and a third round showing at Roland Garros in 2019. She failed to make it past the second round in all but one tournament and was inconsistent too often to make inroads on the tour. Blinkova will be hoping to kickstart her rise up the rankings on the tour again with a good showing in Melbourne over the next few weeks.
That being said, Jabeur is the clear favourite here. Her combination of power and variety will likely bring forth errors from the Blinkova racquet that were all to common in 2020. She beat Blinkova soundly in Hobart last year and will expect to do so again. If Blinkova can rediscover her 2019 form it should be a good match to watch. However, I expect Jabeur to progress without much fuss here.
Prediction: Jabeur in 2
Barbora Krejcikova vs Lauren Davis
Head-to-head: First meeting
Barbora Krejcikova can make a pretty strong case for having had the best 2020 on the WTA Tour. She came into 2020 with a ranking of #135 in the world and featured on the tour almost exclusively as a doubles player prior to last year. That all changed with her dream run to the fourth round of Roland Garros in October. She followed up that showing with a semifinal appearance in Linz in what was a strong end to the year for the Czech. At 25, Krejcikova is breaking out relatively late by the normal standards on the women’s tour. Nonetheless, she will be determined to show that 2020 wasn’t a fluke and cement her place in the top 100 on the tour. In Lauren Davis she has a perfect opportunity to begin doing just that.
Lauren Davis is a player searching for form after losing her way on the tour over the last two years. Ranked as high as #26 in the world in 2017, Davis fell outside the top 100 in the world at the end of 2018. However, she is back inside the top 100 and hoping to return to the form she showed earlier in her career. The diminutive American only won tour five matches in 2020 despite playing in 11 tournaments throughout the year. She looked a far cry from the player who made two tour finals in 2016 and won the Auckland Open in 2017. That being said, Davis enjoys the hard courts of Melbourne. She has made the third round of the Australian Open three times, more than in any other slam. If there is a place for her to rediscover her best tennis it might just be here.
This match is difficult to call. I’m not convinced Krejcikova is as good as her singles ranking suggests. If Davis was at or near her best I’d pick her to win this comfortably. She isn’t though and hasn’t been for a while. I still think the American will get the job done, but it might be a tight affair.
Prediction: Davis in 3
Sloane Stephens vs Leylah Fernandez
Head-to-head: Fernandez 2-0 Stephens
Few players on the tour will be more glad to see the back of 2020 than Sloane Stephens. The former US Open champion managed only four wins on the tour in 2020. That shocking run compounded a worrying dip in form in the back half of 2019. Were it not for the adjusted ranking system, Stephens could well have found herself nearer 100 in the world than her current ranking of #40. The American star will be hoping to shrug off last year as an anomaly and get back to the tennis that saw her spoken of as the next big thing only a couple of years ago. Unfortunately for her, she finds herself up against one of the rising star’s of the game in Canada’s Leylah Fernandez.
Fernandez had a breakout year in 2020. The young Canadian started her 2020 season ranked outside the top 200 in the world. However, a finals appearance at the Mexico Open along with a third round showing in Roland Garros and a second round run at the US Open meant she finished the year ranked #89. Anyone who watched the 18-year-old last year will know that she is the real deal. She looks certain to continue her climb up the rankings this year. Fernandez will be hoping to build on her second round run in Abu Dhabi to start the year with a deeper run at the Grampians Trophy.
Stephens could be in real trouble here. Her brilliant movement and counterpunching game are enough to win Majors when she’s at her best. However, she hasn’t been for some time now and looks vulnerable more often than not. Fernandez plays aggressive, strike first tennis and will like her chances of hitting through a Sloan Stephens wall that has been riddle with holes in recent months. The young Canadian beat Stephens soundly twice last year and I expect a repeat of that result in Melbourne
Prediction: Fernandez in 2
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