The top seeds in the WTA Grampians Trophy take to the court on Day 2. The likes of Maria Sakkari and Victoria Azarenka will be hoping to get their Melbourne campaigns off to a winning start. Also in the mix and trying to make names for themselves are young guns Leylah Fernandez and Marta Kostyuk. High quality tennis seems guaranteed when play resumes. We take a look at who we think will come out on top in each match on Day 2 of the WTA Grampians Trophy Day 2. We predict four matches in this article, and the other four in a second article.
Editor’s Note: All play on Thursday has been postponed due to a positive COVID test by a hotel employee. We are offering predictions for the matches originally scheduled for Thursday under the assumption they will be played Friday or a later date. We will update this post as necessary if the situation changes.
WTA Grampians Trophy Day 2 Predictions
Bethanie Mattek-Sands vs Anett Kontaveit
Head-to-head: First meeting
Bethanie Mattek-Sands is in to the second round of a WTA tournament as a singles player for the first time since 2019 after upsetting Barbora Strycova in round one. The American broke serve at 5-3 to stay in the first set and then won a close tiebreaker before dominating the second set 6-2. Mattek-Sands is ranked 300 places below Strycova in singles. However, that ranking is somewhat misleading given the American’s focus on doubles in recent years. Strycova was certainly a beatable opponent after coming to 2020 with little confidence and even less form. Mattek-Sands took advantage of that and is surely be thrilled to be in the second round. However, she won’t have things her way when she comes up against Anett Kontaveit.
Kontaveit was dominant in dismissing Christina McHale for the loss of just four games. I predicted a close match in that one but the Estonian kept the errors that can bug her at bay. She put in a clinical performance in the first set, didn’t face a break point and took the set 6-1. In the second set she was less ruthless but still managed to save five of the six break points she saved on route to a straight sets victory. A quarterfinalist at last year’s Australian open, Kontaveit clearly enjoys the courts of Melbourne. That fact was on full display in her dominant first round performance. The Estonian is undoubtedly the better player in this matchup and will be licking her lips at the chance to progress to a quarterfinal in her first tournament of the year.
Mattek-Sands was able to take advantage of Strycova’s weak serve in her first match. She will struggle to do the same against Kontaveit who possesses a more than respectable serve. Kontaveit also generates far more power off the ground than Mattek-Sands does. After a good year in Australia last year, I’m picking the Estonian to advance comfortably here and have a strong showing in Melbourne once again.
Prediction: Kontaveit in 2
Jennifer Brady vs Marta Kostyuk
Head-to-head: First meeting
This matchup features two players who dropped just three games in their opening round matches. Jennifer Brady made the most of a poor serving performance by Svetlana Kuznetsova in the first round. The American generated 11 break points in the match and capitalised on six of those chances. The explosive forehand Brady possesses is a formidable weapon when it’s firing, and it appears to be doing just that in Melbourne. Kuznetsova simply couldn’t keep up with the power brady can generate. However, she did come into the tournament having played no competitive tennis since September of last year. The same isn’t true of Marta Kostyuk, who made it to the semifinals of Abu Dhabi before travelling to Australia.
Kostyuk picked up an easy win in the first round after doubles expert Gabriela Dabrowski was handed a spot in the tournament to make up the numbers. The Canadian is ranked over 400 places below Kostyuk who currently sits at a career best #78 in the world. The 18-year-old turned heads last year with a strong showing at the US Open. She came close to knocking eventual champion Naomi Osaka out in the third round of the tournament. Since then she has certainly looked like the real deal. A strong start to the year has given her the perfect platform to continue her rise on the women’s tour in 2021. A second round win against won of the standout performers on the tour last year would certainly go a long way towards giving her the belief that she can do just that.
Brady possesses an easy power in her serve and forehand that few on the tour can match. However, one player who can is Naomi Osaka and Kostyuk handled that power just fine in similar conditions in New York last year. The young Ukrainian has been on the radar of the tennis world as a potential star since she was just 15. Her start to the year suggests this might be the year she finally arrives on the women’s tour. It’s a big ask, but I think Kostyuk has the game, form and confidence to beat Brady here
Prediction: Kostyuk in 3
Ons Jabeur vs Angelique Kerber
Head-to-head: First meeting
Ons Jabeur looks to have picked up right where she left off after a historic 2020 season. The Tunisian comfortably dispatched Anna Blinkova for the loss of just two games in the first round of the Grampians Trophy. The match was over in 56 minutes and Jabeur faced only one break point in the entire contest. Blinkova may be struggling for form and confidence at the moment, but she is certainly no pushover. Jabeur is simply playing the best tennis of her life at the moment. The Tunisian made history in Australia last year and certainly looks happy to be back on the courts that brought her her greatest Grand Slam success of her career so far. However, she faces an opponent who has even more reason to be happy to be back on these courts than she does.
Angelique Kerber, the 2016 Australian Open champion, looked very good in her first round win over Siniakova. Kerber is always confident in her defensive abilities and counterpunching game. A sign of when she is at her best and confident is when she is happy to step in and finish points off aggressively. In her first round match against Siniakova she did just that. It was far from a perfect performance, but the German never looked unsure of her game. Kerber’s best tennis is enough to beat anyone on the women’s tour. She may still be searching for that level, but she looks confident in herself again. That in itself will go a long way towards helping her discover her Grand-Slam-winning form.
This one is tough to call. Jabeur has the variety to throw most on the tour off their game. However, Kerber is one of the best movers on the tour and can easily win matches while playing on the back foot. If Kerber really is sure of herself again and can step in and finish points when the chances present themselves she should win this. It will be close, but back the German to see round three.
Prediction: Kerber in 3
Elena Rybakina vs Barbora Krejcikova
Head-to-head: First meeting
Elena Rybakina was one of the star performers on the WTA Tour last year. She is certainly one of the players to watch heading into 2021 after a meteoric rise up the rankings in the women’s game in 2020. The young Kazak got off to a solid start this year with a quarterfinal appearance in Abu Dhabi. She was the only player in that tournament who looked like they might stop an inspired Aryna Sabalenka claiming the title. She is also a big fan of the hard courts of Australia. Rybakina won her second tour title in Hobart last year and followed it up with a third round run at the Australian Open. Her powerful game and monster serve are perfectly suited to Melbourne’s courts. Rybakina will feel confident about her chances of adding another title to her collection here.
Hoping to stop her doing that is Barbora Krejcikova. The unconventional Czech was largely a doubles specialist prior to a decent run at Roland Garros last year. She made the most of the opportunities that came with that run and has cemented her place on the WTA Tour. Lauren Davis took her the distance in the first round. Krejcikova won the match eventually but took well over two hours to do so. Davis was an opponent desperate for form and short of confidence and as a result was certainly beatable. Rybakina is neither of those things and will undoubtedly be a much tougher opponent that Davis was.
It’s hard to pick against Rybakina in this one. The rising star is undoubtedly one of the more exciting talents on the women’s tour. She looks destined to make her way into the top ten sooner rather than later. Many expect her to make a deep run in the Australian Open this year. I’m still not convinced Krejcikova is a top 100 singles player and I think she will be found out in this matchup. Rybakina should walk through this and there is little a likely fatigued Krejcikova can do to stop her.
Prediction: Rybakina in 2
Main Photo from Getty.