(4) Lucie Safarova vs Kristina Mladenovic
Lucie Safarova’s quest for her first main draw victory of 2015 continues on Thursday when she takes on a red-hot Kristina Mladenovic in the second round at Antwerp. Mladenovic is full of confidence after guiding France to a famous come from behind victory over Italy in the Fed Cup, leading her nation to the semi-finals.
Lucie Safarova has shown glimpses of brilliance this year. Lucie played playing extremely well at the Hopman Cup, coming agonisingly close to her first career victory over Serena Williams in the match of the tournament. However Lucie would go on to suffer back to back first round losses, first in Sydney and then at the Australian Open where she succumbed to Yaroslava Shvedova 6-8 in the third.
Despite suffering an extremely disappointing first round loss in Melbourne, Lucie could consider the tournament a success after claiming her first Grand Slam title alongside Bethanie Mattek-Sands in the doubles. Lucie will be looking to convert her patchy form into victories in Antwerp this week.
Kristina Mladenovic’s start to the season was lacklustre, however her courageous effort to guide France to victory over Italy in the Fed Cup could be a turning point. France fell behind 0-2 to Italy after day 1, before Amelie Mauresmo made a brave decision to play Kristina Mladenovic instead of Alize Cornet in the third rubber against Sara Errani. The decision paid off as Mladenovic won in straight sets to keep the tie alive. Kristina Mladenovic then teamed up with Caroline Garcia to thump Errani and Vinci 6-1 6-2 in the deciding doubles rubber to send France through to the semi-finals.
Kristina Mladenovic advanced to the second round courtesy of a comfortable victory over Silvia Soler Espinosa. Mladenovic led 6-2 1-0 before the Spaniard retired.
Mladenovic won the only previous encounter between these two, a hard fought 2-6 6-3 6-3 victory in Washington last year. This promises to be another close match, Mladenovic has the advantage of already playing a match on the Centre Court. Breaks of serve will be extremely valuable in this match, it’s Safarova who has the more reliable serve. It’s hard to see Lucie going 0-3 to start the season, she is playing too well for that to happen.
Prediction: Lucie Safarova to defeat Kristina Mladenovic in 3 sets