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Marketa Vondrousova celebrates winning her fourth round match at the French Open on June 2 (Christophe Ena)
Marketa Vondrousova celebrates winning her fourth round match at the French Open on June 2 (Christophe Ena)|Associated Press
Tennis

Tennis Monday - Abrams Picks Women’s First- and Second-Round Matches at Nature Valley International, Karolina Pliskova, Caroline Wozniacki

Bob Vetrone

Bob Vetrone

Nature Valley International
E
astbourne, Great Britain

Karolina Pliskova over Margarita Gasparyan
Karolina Pliskova just lost to her twin sister, something that no other professional tennis player has been able to say since the Schwickert sisters, from Las Vegas, played back in the late 1970’s. But she’s ranked No. 3 in the world and is sporting a record of 30-9 this year, so I think she was entitled to a clunker and then a week’s vacation. Margarita Gasparyan beat Pliskova the only time they played, but that was back in 2016 and it was on the hard courts in Qatar, so I don’t give that much credence, however since Pliskova only got two games, maybe it does matter. But at No. 61, is Gasparyan ready and able to beat one of the best players in the world? I don’t think so.

Caroline Wozniacki over Kristen Flipkens
Wozniacki has had a very checkered year, with only a 9-8 record, but she just got married last week, so she must be in a really good mood. She and Flipkens have split the two matches they’ve played, but they were back in 2007 and 2015 on hard courts, so I think they have little meaning. It’s all about here and now, and Flipkens is only 9-14 for the year, so I think that with neither playing at their best, this will be tight. Yet I’d go for Wozniacki because of her mood. That’s science at its’ best.

Marketa Vondrousova over Saisai Zheng
Marketa Vondrousova just got to the finals of the French Open and is 28-7 for the year. She may just be 19-years-old, but she’s the real deal. She should get by the stubborn Saisai Zheng, ranked No. 44. After crashing out of Paris in the first round (to make her record 0-5 there), Zheng has shown that she is equally inept on clay as on grass, where she is only 1-4 at Wimbledon. Contrary to these numbers, she can play, but she won’t win.

Elina Svitolina over Alize Cornet
Alize Cornet beat Elina Svitolina the first two times they played, but the last four matches Svitolina has owned the Frenchwoman, including two straight set drubbings last year on clay in Madrid, and on grass, at Birmingham. Svitolina is a terrific athlete, and she takes well to the grass. I expect Svitolina to roll.

Camila Giorgi over Su-Wei Hsieh
Where has Camila Giorgi been? I can’t remember seeing her name in a draw since at least February, but I am not aware of any injuries she has possibly sustained. She’s only played nine matches this year, while Su-Wei Hsieh has played 33, a reasonably normal amount for a player entering the last week of June. So I’m left wondering if the Italian, who finished 2018 ranked in the Top 30 (No. 28), was taking a needed break, worked out, practiced, and is coming into this match hungry and rested . . . or if she sustained a secret injury, and is coming into this match hurt and stale. I’m going to give her the benefit of the doubt and assume that she’s hungry and looking forward to this match. If I’m wrong, she could get toasted.

Barbara Strycova over Polona Hercog
Slovakian Polona Hercog owns a 3-1 lifetime record over Czech Barbara Strycova. One thing, though . . . those three matches took place in 2010 and 2011. When they played in 2016, Strycova won in straight sets, when she was ranked in the 20’s. Now she’s ranked No. 16, and sports a winning record on grass, so I think she should be the favorite going into this match. One asterisk, however . . . Strycova is only 13-13 this year, while Hercog is a far better 21-15. This one might be very close, but you just never know because the grass is always the fly in the ointment.

Danielle Collins over Yulia Putintseva
This match is really a pick ’em. They are ranked close, Collins is a pugnacious competitor, yet Putintseva has a far better 2019 record, with the exception of Collins’ run to the semis in Melbourne. Neither one is particularly effective on grass as Collins is literally still learning how the ball bounces . . . or doesn’t . . . on the surface. But they’re both very tough, so this should be close and very entertaining. I’m going with Collins just because I think she knows that she needs this win.

Anastasija Sevastova over Daria Gavrilova
Daria Gavrilova came into this tournament with a 4-13 record on the year, but won two matches to qualify for the main draw. Her win streak is over, as Sevastova, the 12th-ranked player in the world, should dominate this match. One caveat . . . Sevastova has a really crappy record on grass while Gavrilova seems more effective on the surface. This is why betting on tennis matches is so tough.