The French Open is done and dusted and the tennis world is now firmly focused on the grass court season. The first WTA event on the surface took place last week in Nottingham. Johanna Konta lifted that trophy and set herself up nicely for a strong Wimbledon campaign at the end of the month. Among those hoping to do the same this week are hometown hopefuls Francesca Jones, Heather Watson, and Harriet Dart. Top seed and world #15 Elise Mertens starts the tournament as the favorite. However, Roland Garros taught us that anything is possible in the women’s game this year. With that in mind, we take a look at who should advance to the next round after Monday’s action in our WTA Birmingham Day 1 Predictions. We also predict the rest of the day’s matches in a separate article.
WTA Birmingham Day 1 Predictions
Harriet Dart vs Caroline Garcia
Head-to-head: First meeting
Both Dart and Caroline Garcia are in mediocre form heading into Birmingham. Neither has won more than three matches in a row so far this year and Dart has only managed the feat once. Inconsistent play continues to be an issue for Garcia – a former top five player – and the French star can’t seem to rediscover her best tennis. However, she will have good memories of the British grass after lifting her last WTA title in Nottingham in 2019. At her best Garcia is undoubtedly the better player of the two. Dart is a more than respectable player, but I have to go with the Frenchwoman here as the match is on her racket even with her struggles for form.
Prediction: Garcia in 3
Su-Wei Hsieh vs Marie Bouzkova
Head-to-head: 1 – 0 Hsieh
This has the potential to be a very intriguing match. Su-Wei Hsieh’s awkward brand of tennis makes her a challenge on any surface. The Taiwanese doubles star has had a very good year from a singles perspective thus far. She made her first ever Grand Slam quarterfinal at the Australian Open to start the year, beating the likes of Marketa Vondrousova and Bianca Andreescu along the way. However, in Bouzkova she faces a young and talented player who has risen rapidly up the ranks in the women’s game. The Czech does everything well and has no glaring weakness in her game. She is lacking form as things stand, but Hsieh has played very little tennis since her run in Melbourne so I don’t think either player has the edge in that regard. It may take her a while to get going, but I expect Bouzkova to come through here eventually.
Prediction: Bouzkova in 3
Camilla Giorgi vs Giulia Gatto-Monticone
Head-to-head: 1- 0 Giorgi
On paper this is a relatively easy match to call. Camilla Giorgi has had a far more accomplished career than Giulia Gatto-Monticone and also has far more success and experience on the grass. That being said, Giorgi is off her game at the moment and has won back-to-back matches just once so far in 2021. I still expect her to take this match as her game is too big for most on the tour to handle when she gets it right. However, it may be closer than one might expect if her struggles on the tour continue. She’s the safer pick to advance here but it is far from a sure thing.
Prediction: Giorgi in 3
Elise Mertens vs Ajla Tomljanovic
Head-to-head: 1 – 0 Mertens
If Mertens continues playing tennis at the level she has been so far in 2021 then she walks this match. Tomljanovic is a very good tennis player, but the Belgian has been just shy of spectacular so far this year. She is playing with aggression and confidence and has picked up good results in nearly every tournament she has played in thus far. The Aussie has the game to make a go of this and it is rare for a player to play at Mertens level all year. Nonetheless, I have to side with the World #15 advancing here on the back of an impressive resume of work so far this year. Mertens is the comfortable favourite to win the title in Birmingham and rightfully so. I expect her to make her case as to why that is with a strong first showing on Monday.
Prediction: Mertens in 2
Main Photo from Getty.