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Caroline Garcia holds the trophy after beating  Donna Vekic, to win the women’s singles final  of the Nottingham Cup Open on June 16 (Tim Goode/PA)
Caroline Garcia holds the trophy after beating Donna Vekic, to win the women’s singles final of the Nottingham Cup Open on June 16 (Tim Goode/PA)|Associated Press
Tennis

Tennis Tuesday - Abrams picks Women’s Wimbledon warm-ups at Mallorca Open, Nature Valley Classic, Venus Williams, Ash Barty

Neal Abrams

Neal Abrams

WOMEN’S WTA TOUR

Mallorca Open
Mallorca, Spain

Amanda Anisimova over Tereza Martincova
Tereza Martincova is a 24-year-old Czech who is pretty much a career minor leaguer. Her best win, YTD, has been over Yulia Putintseva of Kazakstan way back in January in St. Petersburg, Russia on an indoor hard court. Meanwhile, American teen sensation Amanda Anisimova has burst on the scene with a recent semi-final run at the French Open, a run to the Round of 16 in the Australian Open, and has a tournament title to her name, all in 2019. She is an appealing, exciting player who can hit bombs off both her forehand and backhand, can run like the wind, and is afraid of nothing. Although she must improve both her first and second serve and her net play, she is a champion in the waiting. I expect her to make the transition to grass and take apart Martincova.

Victoria Azarenka over Caroline Garcia
This is a dangerous pick. It’s been a long, arduous climb back up the ranking ladder for former No. 1 Vika Azarenka. After time off for maternity leave and then an extended time off fighting for custody of her son Leo, Azarenka has struggled getting her bearings right on the Tour. Meanwhile, as Vika has been trying to gain traction, Caroline Garcia has risen in the rankings to where she is now No. 28 in the world, and has two wins over Azarenka, both over the past 11 months. Not only that, but Garcia just won the title in Nottingham a couple of days ago, having taken out Donna Vekic, 2-6, 7-6 7-6, for the crown and the $43,000 that goes with it. Now that Vika looks like she’s got both her game and her intensity back, I like this moment for her to finally win a match where she’s favored to lose. I think Garcia might be a bit tired, and Azarenka is really hungry. Grass is the great equalizer, and this match should be a helluva battle.

Angie Kerber over Ysaline Bonaventure
Angie Kerber is very dangerous, but she’s most dangerous on the grass courts, where she has won a Wimbledon title and gotten to another final. These two results go well with her titles in both the 2016 Australian Open and the 2016 U.S. Open, and prove that the lefthanded German is one of the best on the ladies Tour. Bonaventure is pretty much a career qualifier, and although her lefthanded serves could prove to be a weapon against Kerber, she has nothing else that will hurt the top seed. I like Kerber to move on pretty easily here.

Alison Riske over Paula Badosa
We’re going to see more of the wild card, Paula Badosa, in the future, as she is a top rising Spanish youngster who was born in New York City and who now lives in Barcelona. She is an aggressive baseliner and a former junior champion who is both appealing and adventuresome. But Riske is coming off one of the best weeks in her life, having just taken the title in The Netherlands, beating the hot Kiki Bertens in the finals, 0-6, 7-6, 7-5, after having been down match points in both the semis and the finals. Riske is on a roll, confidant, and playing a player whom she is better than. I’d go with the American in this one.

Alize Cornet over Sara Sorribes Torres
I really enjoy watching Alize Cornet play, and I think I’ll have at least one more match in this tournament to watch her. The 29-year-old Frenchwoman has only a mediocre 12-11 2019 record, but her style is appealing, and if she starts winning, her confidence might be enough to push her on to a few more wins. Torres is a 22-year-old Spaniard who is a journeywoman herself, with a few more matches played this year than Cornet. But Cornet has more experience on grass, and that should prove to be the difference in this match between two non-stars who both need this win.

Saisai Zheng over Sam Stosur
It’s kinda sad to watch Aussie veteran Sam Stosur, now 35-years-of-age, play today. Back nine or 10 years ago, she was always a factor in big tournaments, winning the U.S. Open in 2011, reaching the finals of the 2010 French Open, and being a semi-finalist in Paris in 2009, 2012, and 2016. Today, she is nothing more than a qualifier with really great arms. Her Grand Slam record is pretty good, particularly at the French, but Wimbledon is the only one of the four that she sports a losing record (12-15), never having gotten past the third round. She is now ranked outside the Top 100, and seems to be transitioning to the doubles circuit, as she can still compete having only to cover half the court. Zheng is not a terrific player, and her record in the Grand Slams has been particularly mediocre, but she’s ranked No. 44, and is in her prime. She should have no trouble beating the rapidly aging Stosur here in this preparation for Wimbledon.

Ons Jabeur over Kaja Juvan
Kaja Juvan is an 18-year-old rising rookie from Slovakia who is playing in her initial season on the WTA main Tour. Ons Jabeur is a 24-year-old Tunisian journeywoman who doesn’t win much. But Jabeur has a lot of experience, and she should be able to overcome the rookie who has had little, if any, experience on grass courts. Maybe next year I’d go in the Slovakian’s direction, but not yet.

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Nature Valley Classic
Birmingham, Great Britain

Petra Martic over Ekaterina Alexandrova
Petra Martic has seen her ranking rise to No. 25 after some very impressive Spring results. The 5-foot-11 Croatian was a quarterfinalist in Paris and carries an 18-8 record YTD into this match, and I think she’ll add to her victory totals here. Alexandrova doesn’t have much experience on the grass played here, and when she has played on it she hasn’t shown any mastery over the way it plays at all. I like Martic to move on, as she’s playing some top-notch tennis.

Julia Goerges over Dayana Yastremska
Julia Goerges, the 30-year-old German who also stands 5-11 is looking forward to this year’s Wimbledon event, the site of her best Grand Slam tournament result when she got to the semi-finals in 2018. Although she has won seven career titles, it was her run at Wimbledon that made her a name on the international scene. Yastremska is a young (19) rising star from the Ukraine, who has three titles to her name, and is looking for a breakthrough result in a big tournament to give her some confidence to bank. She’s got a good 2019 record at 17-10, but has little experience on the grass courts, and will have to learn how to play on the slick stuff before I can see her beating a Tour veteran like Goerges.

Jelena Ostapenko over Iga Swiatek
Watching Jelena Ostapenko play today, it’s hard to believe that it was just two years ago that she won the French Open and got to the quarters of Wimbledon. Today, Ostapenko plays with little, if any, confidence, and has produced a downright depressing record of 8-15 YTD. But last year she did get to the semis of The Championships, and she sports a nifty 10-4 lifetime record in the tournament, so her swing to Great Britain should bring with it some confidence, and history, which are big, and are both on her side. She should have enough to take out 18-year-old Iga Swiatek, an up-and-coming teen from Poland. Swiatek has little match experience on grass, which should hurt her in this match-up, but is 21-9 this year, so she’s got some confidence. This year, I think Ostapenko will win this match, and Lord knows, she really needs any win at all. But next year will probably be a different story.

Naomi Osaka over Maria Sakkari
Now that Osaka has had her Grand Slam matches-won streak broken, I think she’ll find that the pressure on her has been greatly lessened, and I think she’ll take advantage of the spotlight having moved on a bit and respond positively. I think she strikes the ball with such authority that she stands an awfully good chance of getting back on the title track and she should be a favorite going into Wimbledon. Although Maria Sakkari has shown flashes of brilliance in her tennis, my guess is that she won’t be able to hang with the onslaught of booming groundies Osaka will send her way. I’d give this one to Osaka and just chalk it up to a bad draw for Sakkari.

Venus Williams over Aliaksandra Sasnovich
Venus Williams may be 39-years-old now, and no longer a realistic threat to win another Grand Slam title to add to her already impressive collection of seven championships (the same total as John McEnroe) and nine other finals, but she is still a very dangerous player on the grass courts here and at Wimbledon. To give you an idea of how dangerous a grass court player she is, her career record in Paris is 48-22, in Melbourne it’s 53-19, in New York City it’s 78-17, and in London it’s 89-16. Every one of these career records is extremely impressive, but her record at Wimbledon is almost incomparable. Sasnovich is 5-4 at Wimbledon, and playing a living legend on the grass will be hard for her. I think Venus moves on.

Ash Barty over Donna Vekic
Ash Barty leads the WTA Tour with 31 wins so far this year, and is a newly crowned Grand Slam champion, having just won the French Open with very little trouble along the way. Because of the way she plays, with her wonderful ability to mix in slices, moving forward to the net, and control the pace of play, I think Barty is easily one of the two or three favorites to win Wimbledon this year. I’d give her as good a chance to walk away with the title as Osaka, Bertens, Kvitova, Pliskova, Kerber, and possibly Halep. And she’ll start her run with this match against Donna Vekic. Vekic is a worthy opponent, ranked 22nd, and sporting a 23-11 record on the year. But Vikic is only 5-5 on the grass at Wimbledon, and I don’t think her game will respond to the challenge presented by the grass courts nearly as well as Barty’s will.