Nature Valley International
Johanna Konta over Maria Sakkari
Konta is home and she’s on fire and should take out Sakkari with few problems. Konta is playing her best tennis in four years right now, just in time for the grass court season and Wimbledon. There is no better time for her to be peaking.
Kiki Bertens over Yulia Putintseva
Bertens is another women’s player who is peaking now. She has had such a great spring season that aside from Ash Barty and Amanda Anisimova, she’s been the best player on the court for at least three months. She shouldn’t have much trouble with Putintseva, who played all of five games against Danielle Collins Monday before the American threw in the towel.
Sloane Stephens over Jelena Ostapenko
It’s fantastic to see Jelena Ostapenko rounding back in form and winning matches again after almost two years of pure mediocrity. Although Sloane Stephens is maddeningly inconsistent, I think that the American has enough firepower to knock off Ostapenko, as she’s gaining momentum, but still not at her best. As always, this match will depend on Stephens. If she’s not herself, she’ll get destroyed. If she’s eager and focused, she’ll win this match.
Caroline Wozniacki over Andrea Petkovic
The Dashing Dane has also been maddeningly inconsistent this year, which is unlike her, historically. She started the year ranked No. 3 and is now No. 13, which is an appropriate reflection of her less-than-terrific play. But attitude is key for tennis players, and after getting married 10 days ago, she is in a real good mood, and that should, in and of itself, be enough to enable her to beat Andrea Petkovic. If Wozniacki goes over to the dark side, this match is Petkovic’s to win.
Marketa Vondrousova over Elise Mertens
Vondrousova, the 19-year-old wunderkind who got all the way to the finals in Paris, is a new and exciting star on the WTA Tour. It still remains to be seen as to whether she can be as effective on grass as she has shown on clay, but it usually takes youngsters years to figure out the funky green surface. Should Vondrousova not take to the grass, Elise Mertens has enough weapons and experience to make her pay. But my money is on youth over experience here.
Aryna Sabalenka over Tamara Zidansek
Aryna Sabalenka should be able to take to grass like a dolphin takes to swimming, as her hard hitting and penetrating strokes should slide off the grass making rallies with her awfully difficult to stay in for her opponents. She needs to add slice serves and slices at certain times on her ground game to her repertoire, but she’s got a nice base to start with. If she starts double faulting and hitting long, Zidansek will make her pay for it, but I’d be surprised if that happens.
Simona Halep over Hsieh Su-Wei
Romanian Simona Halep has been awfully quiet this Spring, and she has unceremoniously fallen out of the Top Five. But she’s still a great player, a fantastic competitor, and a real threat to win any and every match she’s in. She should be able to compete for the title here, and will start with Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-Wei.
Sofia Kenin over Samantha Stosur
American Sofia Kenin is peaking right now, and she’s full of fire. She is as confident as I’ve ever seen her, and that should translate to many wins. But Sam Stosur, even at her advancing age, is a terror on grass, and will provide Kenin with stiff resistance. This will be very close, but I think Kenin is now confident in her own abilities, enough to take out a former U.S. Open champion.