🇭🇺 Hungarian Ladies Open, Budapest R1 Preview 🇷🇴 Monica Niculescu vs 🇧🇪 Kirsten Flipkens
Monica Niculescu and Kirsten Flipkens will renew hostilities when they meet at the opening round stage of the Hungarian Ladies Open on Monday. Niculescu and Flipkens have a lengthy history having played each other 7 previous occasions, Flipkens holds a slight 4-3 head-to-head advantage over Niculescu heading into this clash. Nevertheless, it has been Niculescu who has been in the better form of late and has won 2 of the last 3 matches between the pair.
Monica Niculescu is one of few players that is playing in Budapest fresh off playing in Doha last week. It was a good week for Niculescu in Doha, Niculescu came through a tough qualifying draw before reaching the third round. Niculescu notably came from a set down to defeat Maria Sharapova in the opening round in Doha before beating Magdalena Rybarikova in 3 sets. Niculescu’s run came to an end courtesy of a straight set loss to Caroline Wozniacki. It was a very competitive opening set before Wozniacki ran away with the match in the second.
Kirsten Flipkens has not had a great start to the year. Flipkens has not gone past the second round at any event this year. The last event Flipkens competed in was St. Petersburg a few weeks ago where she was smashed in the opening round of qualifying by Deborah Chiesa. Flipkens was more recently involved in Fed Cup action where the Belgian team came up just short against France.
As mentioned above, it is Flipkens who has a 4-3 record over Niculescu. Interestingly, all 7 of their previous matches have all been on a hard court. The most recent match between the pair ended in a 6-3 6-4 win for Flipkens in a Fed Cup tie last year.
🇭🇺 Hungarian Ladies Open, Budapest R1 Preview 🇭🇺 (3) Timea Babos vs 🇩🇪 Tatjana Maria
Timea Babos will begin her title defense at the Hungarian Ladies Open on Tuesday with an opening round clash against Germany’s Tatjana Maria. Babos has long been Hungary’s greatest tennis hope, it was a big moment for Babos when she won the title last year in front of her home fans. This will be the first career meeting between Babos and Maria.
Timea Babos has generally had a good last couple of months and arrives in Budapest to defend her title with confidence. Babos ignited her season at the Australian Open where she won the doubles title alongside Kristina Mladenovic. The doubles success rubbed onto the singles game of Babos as she won the title in Taipei City the week after her Australian Open triumph which was her first Grand Slam title in any form. Babos competed in Doha last week but it was a short stay as she was beaten by Elise Mertens in 3 sets in the opening round despite winning the opening set.
Tatjana Maria is yet to win a tour level match in 2018. The German has suffered 5 opening round defeats, including a comprehensive straight set loss to Carina Witthoeft in Doha last week.
It will be interesting to see if Tatjana Maria’s unique game will have any success against Babos in the first career meeting between the pair.
An interesting first round match in Dubai sees two rising-stars of the WTA Tour collide for the very first time when Catherine Bellis takes on Elise Mertens. Catherine Bellis arrives in Dubai full of confidence after a great run through qualifying to the quarter-finals in Doha last week whilst we know of Mertens heroic run to the semi-finals at the Australian Open last month. Who will emerge victorious in this exciting opening round battle at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships?
Bellis had a wonderful week in Doha. Bellis won a couple of matches to come through the qualifying draw before being 3 more fancied opponents in a row: Daria Kasatkina, Madison Keys and Karolina Pliskova. The American’s straight set victory over Pliskova in the third round was certainly one of the biggest wins of her career, the first top 5 victory of her career as she eliminated the defending champion. Unfortunately for Bellis she was not much of a match for Simona Halep in the quarter-final where she was beaten in straight sets.
Elise Mertens has not been able to replicate her stunning Australian Open form over the last few weeks. Mertens lost a critical match against Kristina Mladenovic in Fed Cup action a week ago and arrives in Dubai fresh off a disappointing week in Doha. It was not a great week for Mertens in Doha, the Belgian came from a set down to beat Timea Babos in the opening round but suffered a disappointing second round loss to Sorana Cirstea where she was beaten in straight sets. Mertens will be hoping to rediscover her form of the Australian summer in Dubai.
It will be interesting to see how this first-time match-up pans out.
A Blockbuster opening round match at the 2018 Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships sees the 5th seeded Caroline Garcia take on Lucie Safarova. Caroline Garcia arrives in Dubai with renewed confidence after a solid run to the quarter-finals in Doha last week. Garcia will face a tough opening test in Dubai when she takes on Safarova, it was Safarova who won the only previous match between the pair.
Whilst Caroline Garcia has not been able to consistently find her best tennis in 2018 she has been good enough to still achieve solid results. Garcia has certainly improved her base level, a great sign for the 24-year-old who is much more consistent than she ever has been. Garcia arrives in Dubai after a good week in Doha where she reached the quarter-finals. Garcia claimed wins over Dominika Cibulkova and Anna Blinkova before succumbing to Garbine Muguruza in a tight three set battle.
Lucie Safarova has been solid in 2018 but she has been unable to deal with the rough draws she has been handed. This was the case last week in Doha where Safarova was dealt Julia Goerges in the opening round, Safarova would ultimately succumb in straight sets. Safarova now has another tough draw in Dubai as she takes on the 5th seeded Caroline Garcia. Safarova has come close to beating quality opposition several times in 2018, perhaps she can finally get over the line against Garcia.
Safarova beat Garcia 4-6 7-6 6-1 in a Fed Cup tie on an indoor hard court in 2015 in what is their only previous career meeting.
🇦🇪 Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, R1 Preview 🇪🇪 Annett Kontaveit vs 🇨🇿 Petra Kvitova
Petra Kvitova enters the 2018 Dubai Duty Free Championships as the form player in the draw. Kvitova will begin her Dubai campaign on Tuesday with an opening round clash against Estonia’s Anett Kontaveit. Kvitova is on a 13-match winning streak having won back-to-back titles in St. Petersburg and Doha. Kvitova has beaten 5 top 10 players in the last couple of weeks. It will be interesting to see if Kvitova can carry that from into Dubai or will she run out of steam?
Annett Kontaveit arrives in Dubai in totally contrasting form to Kvitova. Kontaveit was thrashed by Alize Cornet in the opening round in Doha last week, beaten 2-6 1-6. Prior to that Kontaveit was involved in Estonia’s unsuccessful bid to reach the Fed Cup world group 2 playoffs. A disappointing few weeks for Kontaveit after a positive round of 16 result at the Australian Open last month.
Petra Kvitova is back to her best. The former Dubai champion is on a 13-match winning streak after displaying blistering tennis to win the Qatar Total Open last week. Kvitova came through an extremely tough draw to win her 22nd career title. Kvitova’s route to the title included wins over Radwanska, Svitolina, Goerges, Wozniacki and Muguruza. Petra came from a set down on 3 occasions, against Radwanska in the second round where she was down a set and a break and the same scenario against Wozniacki in the semi-final. Kvitova clinched the title with a hard-fought 3-6 6-3 6-4 win over Garbine Muguruza.
It was Kvitova who won the only previous match between the pair, a 1-6 7-6 6-3 victory
An in-form Angelique Kerber will look to continue her recent dominance of Barbora Strycova when the pair meet at the opening round stage of the Dubai Duty Free Championships on Tuesday. Kerber has been one of the most consistent players in 2018 and is seemingly back to her damaging best at the moment. The German has a dominant 6-1 head-to-head record over Strycova and will be favoured to extend that record here.
Angelique Kerber has lost just 2 matches in 2018. Kerber had a perfect 4-0 record at the Hopman Cup before winning the title in Sydney and reaching the semi-finals at the Australian Open. More recently, Kerber reached the quarter-finals in Doha last week where she was beaten Caroline Wozniacki in 3 sets. Kerber would have been disappointed with that loss, a match she probably should have won given the number of times she was in a dominant position, just like her loss to Simona Halep at the Australian Open. Kerber looms as the favourite to win the title this week in Dubai.
Barbora Strycova has made a typically consistent but unspectacular start to the season. Strycova had a good Australian summer, highlighted by a round of 16 appearance at the Australian Open and back-to-back quarter-final showings in Auckland and Sydney. More recently Strycova was eliminated in the second round in Doha last week, Strycova beat Krunic in straight sets before succumbing to Julia Goerges in 3 sets. Strycova is a former finalist in Dubai so she certainly enjoys competing at this event.
Kerber has a dominant 6-1 head-to-head advantage over Strycova. Kerber has won all 5 of the previous matches between the pair on a hard court, all in straight sets, including a 6-3 7-6 win in Beijing in 2016 in their most recent match. Can Strycova reverse this trend and cause a big upset?
🇦🇪 Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, R1 Preview 🇷🇺 Elina Vesnina vs 🇨🇳 Shuai Peng
Elina Vesnina and Shuai Peng will go head-to-head in a critical opening round match at the Dubai Duty Free Championships on Monday. Vesnina and Peng will open proceedings on the Centre Court for the 2018 tournament, both head into this match desperate for victory. Vesnina has won just 2 matches in 2018 whilst Peng is yet to win a match this year. Clearly, both are in need of a victory and will want to avoid another first round loss.
Elena Vesnina is coming to a critical stage of the year for her. Vesnina’s ranking does not reflect her current struggles but that will soon change if she can’t quickly reverse her form. The majority of Vesnina’s points will need to be defended in a few weeks’ time in Indian Wells after the Russian won the biggest tile of her career at the event last year. Vesnina would love to gain some momentum this week in Dubai before heading to Indian Wells, Vesnina has been thrashed in the opening round in her last two events, including a loss to Anna Blinkova in Doha last week.
Shuai Peng is yet to throw a punch in 2018. Peng has suffered 3 consecutive opening round losses to start the year, all in straight sets. Last week Peng was eliminated in the opening round in Doha, beaten by Kristina Mladenovic 6-2 6-4. Peng will bring some confidence into this match given her good record over Vesnina.
Peng holds a 6-4 head-to-head record over Vesnina. Peng has won the last two matches between the pair and holds a 4-1 record over Vesnina on hard courts.
One of the many interesting opening round matches in Dubai sees Ekaterina Makarova take on Anastasija Sevastova. Makarova and Sevastova both arrive in Dubai fresh off defeats to Simona Halep last week in Doha, Makarova was eliminated in the second round whilst Sevastova was beaten in the third round. This has generally been a successful match-up for Makarova, the Russian has won the two previous matches between the pair, can she maintain her perfect record over the Latvian?
It has been a very inconsistent start to the year for Makarova. The Russian arrives in Dubai having not won back-to-back matches at any stage in 2018. Makarova has shown glimpses of her best but not often enough or in important moments. Makarova was eliminated in the second round in Doha last week, beaten in straight sets by Simona Halep after she beat Shuai Zhang in the opening round.
Anastasija Sevastova’s recent form has been typically consistent. It has been a long few weeks for Sevastova. The 27-year-old helped guide Latvia into the world group 2 playoffs before reaching the third round stage in Doha last week. Sevastova claimed straight set wins over Donna Vekic and Naomi Osaka before succumbing to Simona Halep in straight sets. Sevastova will head into this first round match in Dubai with Makarova determined to turn around her recent troubles against the Russian.
Makarova has won both of the previous matches between the pair, both in straight sets, both on a hard court. A 6-4 6-2 win in Wuhan last year and a 6-3 6-2 win in New Haven in 2016.
The pick of the opening round matches on Monday at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships sees Daria Kasatkina take on Agnieszka Radwanska in what should be a close, entertaining encounter. Kasatkina and Radwanska have both made unspectacular starts to 2018, this is an important match for both as both will be very desperate to avoid a first round loss as they look to ignite their seasons.
Daria Kasatkina has generally been in disappointing form in 2018. The Russian had a bad Australian summer where she managed to win just 1 match. There were signs of a form reversal in St. Petersburg a few weeks ago where the Russian upset reigning Australian Open champion Caroline Wozniacki on route to the semi-finals. However, Kasatkina couldn’t back-up that win as she succumbed to Kristina Mladenovic in the semi-finals. it was back to disappointment in Doha last week as Kasatkina was forced to retire down a set and 1-4 against Catherine Bellis in the opening round.
Agnieszka Radwanska is still struggling to find the tennis that saw her remain in the top 10 for over 5 years. The Pole suffered another devastating loss last week in Doha, where she was beaten by Petra Kvitova in the second round despite leading by a set and a break. In hindsight it wasn’t a bad result for Radwanska given Kvitova went on to win the title. Radwanska is a former champion in Dubai having won the event in 2012, the conditions in Dubai have generally been to Radwanska’s liking.
It was Kasatkina who emerged victorious in the only previous match between the pair. Kasatkina defeated Radwanska 4-6 7-5 6-2 in what was a very high quality match in Beijing last year, one of the better wins of Kasatkina’s career.
🇦🇪 Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, R1 Preview 🇬🇧 (7/wc) Johanna Konta vs 🇷🇺 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova
Johanna Konta and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova will go head-to-head for the first time when they meet in an interesting opening round clash at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Monday night. The 7th seeded Britt has taken a wild card into Dubai in an attempt to build on the momentum she ahs started to create in 2018. Konta will be a strong favourite heading into this first round match against Pavlyuchenkova, the Russian has made a terrible start to 2018 and is seemingly deprived of confidence right now.
Johanna Konta arrives in Dubai fresh off a decent week in Doha. Konta managed to reach the third round stage in Doha last week. Konta claimed straight set wins over Bernard Pera and Carla Suarez Navarro before succumbing to Angelique Kerber in 3 sets in what was a fairly high quality encounter. 2018 marks the first time Konta has competed in the Middle Eastern events, so this is a new experience for Konta competing in Dubai for the very first time.
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova has been one of the biggest disappointments in the first few months of 2018. Pavlyuchenkova ended 2017 in decent form with a platform set to push into the top 10 in 2018, however, the Russian is going in the opposite direction. Pavlyuchenkova has a very poor 1/6 win/loss record in 2018 including Hopman Cup matches. Pavlyuchenkova arrives in Dubai fresh off a first round defeat in Doha last week, a straight set loss to Dominika Cibulkova, which in fairness was a tough opening round draw.
Interestingly, Konta and Pavlyuchenkova have yet to do battle despite both competing at the same events over the last few years. Who will this match-up favour?