Garbine Muguruza vs. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Birmingham R1 Preview

🇬🇧 Nature Valley Classic, Birmingham R1 Preview
🇪🇸 (1) Garbine Muguruza vs. 🇷🇺 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova

The top seeded Garbine Muguruza will begin her Birmingham campaign with a potentially tricky opening round clash against Russia’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. This will be Muguruza’s first match on grass since claiming her second Grand Slam title at Wimbledon last year, it will be interesting to see what type of form Muguruza starts the 2018 grass courts season with at the Nature Valley Classic.

Garbine Muguruza of Spain.in action during the semi-final of the 2018 Roland Garros Grand Slam tennis tournament

Muguruza enters the grass court swing on the back of another deep run at Roland Garros. The Spaniard made it all the way to the semi-finals in Paris where she was beaten by Simona Halep in straight sets. It was in Birmingham last year that Muguruza started to gain momentum before her Wimbledon success with a semi-final showing. Muguruza did not grow up on grass but her powerful game has proven to be very dangerous on this surface, expect her to be contending for titles over the next month on the grass.

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova will be searching for her first victory in Birmingham since 2009, granted she has only played in Birmingham on a couple of occasions. Pavlyuchenkova showed signs of a form reversal in Strasbourg a few weeks ago where she won the title but went on to lose in the second round at Roland Garros against Sam Stosur, a straight set loss. The Russian has never really found her feet on grass, in 2017 she suffered a shock first round exit at Wimbledon against Arina Rodionova.

Muguruza holds a 3-1 head-to-head record over Pavlyuchenkova. The Spaniard has won all of 3 of the completed matches between the pair, most recently a 7-5 6-1 win in Cincinnati. Pavlyuchenkova beat Muguruza earlier this year in Stuttgart courtesy of a Muguruza retirement after a close opening set.

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Timea Babos vs. Mihaela Buzarnescu, Birmingham R1 Preview

🇬🇧 Nature Valley Classic, Birmingham R1 Preview
🇭🇺 Timea Babos vs. 🇷🇴 Mihaela Buzarnescu

Timea Babos and Mihaela Buzarnescu will go head-to-head for the first time when they meet at the opening round stage of the Nature Valley classic in Birmingham. This is an interesting match-up because of the of the great contrast in styles between the pair, the big hitting of Babos against the consistency and versatility of Buzarnescu.

Timea Babos unsurprisingly struggled during the clay court swing, ultimately it ended in disaster for Babos when she suffered an opening round exit at Roland Garros at the hands of Lara Arruabarrena. Grass is a surface that should be much more favourable for Babos, however she did suffer opening round losses in all 4 of her events on grass in 2017, it is hard to know what to expect from the Hungarian.

Mihaela Buzarnescu made a decent start to her grass court campaign last week in Nottingham as she reached her first quarter-final on a grass court. Buzarnescu claimed a couple of tough wins over Veronica Cepede Royg and Irina-Falconi before succumbing to Naomi Osaka in straight sets.

Will it be power of consistency that prevails here?

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Petra Kvitova vs. Johanna Konta, Birmingham R1 Preview

🇬🇧 Nature Valley Classic, Birmingham R1 Preview
🇨🇿 (4) Petra Kvitova vs. 🇬🇧 Johanna Konta

The pick of the opening round matches at the 2018 Nature Valley Classic in Birmingham sees defending champion: Petra Kvitova take on Britain’s number 1: Johanna Konta. This is a tough match for Kvitova to start her title defense in Birmingham, Konta brings good form into this event having reached the final in Nottingham last week. This should be an exciting encounter between two players that excel on the grass, who will prevail?

Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic practices at the 2018 Nature Valley Classic WTA Premier tennis tournament

It was in Birmingham 12 months ago where Kvitova won her first title after that terrible home invasion incident. Petra has not looked back since then, the 2-time Wimbledon champion sits at number 3 in the Race to Singapore standings and looms as one of the favourites at SW19 in a few weeks’ time. This will be Kvitova’s first event on grass in 2018, her first event since a disappointing third round exit at Roland Garros having won back-to-back titles in the lead-up to Paris.

Johanna Konta arrives in Birmingham fresh off disappointment in the Nottingham final for a second year in a row. Konta was once again beaten in a close final in Nottingham, beaten by Ashleigh Barty in 3 sets. Nevertheless, it was still a good week for Konta given it was her first final of 2018 and she was able to get some good wins under her belt. There was an incident with the umpire late in the third set which seemed to ultimately derail Konta, it will be interesting to see how she recovers in Birmingham just a few days later.

Kvitova holds a 2-1 head-to-head record over Konta. The most recent match between the pair took place in Wuhan in 2016, Kvitova won that match 6-3 6-4. It was Konta who their only previous match on a grass court, a 5-7 6-4 6-0 victory in Eastbourne in 2016.

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Lesia Tsurenko vs. Heather Watson, Birmingham R1 Preview

🇬🇧 Nature Valley Classic, Birmingham R1 Preview
🇺🇦 Lesia Tsurenko vs. 🇬🇧 (wc) Heather Watson

An interesting opening round clash at the Nature Valley Classic in Birmingham sees Lesia Tsurenko come up against Britain’s number 2: Heather Watson. This is a particularly important week for Watson as she looks to build some much needed momentum before heading to Eastbourne where she is defending semi-finalist points. Tsurenko and Watson both play their best tennis on a quicker surface and both have similar strengths, expect a close match here.

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Lesia Tsurenko’s form has been typically streaky in 2018. The Ukrainian does arrives in Birmingham on the back of a great run to the round of 16 at Roland Garros, however a retirement after just 2 games against Garbine Muguruza in that round of 16 clash was a very disappointing ending to the tournament. Tsurenko had some decent results on grass last year, a semi-final showing in s-Hertogenbosch and a third round appearance at Wimbledon, in theory it is a surface that should favour Tsurenko’s game.

Heather Watson sits precariously inside the top 100. Watson has a heap of points to defend in Eastbourne next week after reaching the semi-finals last year, an early round exit will see Watson’s ranking plummet. Watson has no points to defend in Birmingham after a first round exit last year so she can release some of the incoming pressure with a good week at the Nature Valley Classic. Watson arrives in Birmingham on the back of a second round showing in Nottingham where she was beaten by Johanna Konta in straight sets.

The head-to-head record between the pair is split at 1 win apiece. It was Watson who won their only recent encounter, a 6-3 4-6 6-4 victory on grass in Eastbourne last year.

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Johanna Konta vs. Donna Vekic, Nottingham SF Preview

Nature Valley Open, Nottingham SF Preview
🇬🇧 (4) Johanna Konta vs. 🇭🇷 (6) Donna Vekic

Johanna Konta and Donna Vekic will renew hostilities when they meet in Saturday’s second semi-final at the Nature Valley Open in Nottingham. Konta and Vekic established an intriguing rivalry during the grass court swing last year. It all started in Nottingham where Vekic upset Konta to win the title 12 months ago, Konta will be keen for revenge here and heads into this match in great form.

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Johanna Konta has breezed into her first semi-final of the year. The Brit has not dropped a set on route to the final 4, Konta has claimed wins over Kurumi Nara, Heather Watson and Dalila Jakupovic. Konta certainly has a great game for this surface, the 27-year-old possess one of the best serves on tour which sets her up for success on the grass.

Donna Vekic has done well to reach the semi-finals in Nottingham in her quest to defend her title. Vekic started the week with a nervy performances, requiring a third set tiebreak to defeat Gabriella Taylor. The Croatian has been more impressive in her last couple of matches as she defeated Vera Lapko and Mona Barthel in straight sets to reach her first semi-final of the year.

Konta holds a 2-1 head-to-head record over Vekic. The pair played two epic matches on grass last year. Vekic defeated Konta 2-6 7-6 7-5 in the Nottingham final before Konta won an even more dramatic match at Wimbledon a few weeks later, a 7-6 4-6 10-8 victory.

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Ashleigh Barty vs. Naomi Osaka, Nottingham SF Preview

Nature Valley Open, Nottingham SF Preview
🇦🇺 (1) Ashleigh Barty vs. 🇯🇵 (3) Naomi Osaka

Two of the tour’s most promising young talents will go head-to-head in Saturday’s first semi-final in Nottingham when Ashleigh Barty comes up against Japan’s Naomi Osaka. Barty and Osaka are two of the youngest players ranked inside the top 20, this is certainly a match-up that we will be seeing a lot more of in the future. The head-to-head record between the two is split at a win apiece, who will move ahead and book their spot in the final?

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Ash Barty has rocketed in to the final 4 in Nottingham without dropping a set. Barty has made the most of a favourable draw, claiming comfortable wins over Stefanie Voegele, Ying-Ying Duan and Katie Boulter. This feels like an important couple of matches coming up for Barty in Nottingham. The Aussie has only won the 1 WTA title, it is important for her belief to start adding to her collection, the top seed has the perfect opportunity to do just that in Nottingham.

Naomi Osaka has recovered from a slow start to the event to reach a maiden semi-final on a grass court. Osaka needed 3 sets to get passed Sachia Vickery in the opening round before comfortably defeating Denisa Allertova and Mihaela Buzarnescu in straight sets.

The head-to-head record between the pair sits at 1 win apiece. The most recent match between the two took place earlier this year at the Australian Open, Osaka handily defeated Barty 6-4 6-2 in what was a near-flawless performance by Osaka. A very different result seems likely in Nottingham.

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Naomi Osaka vs. Mihaela Buzarnescu, Nottingham QF Preview

🇬🇧 Nature Valley Open, Nottingham QF Preview
🇯🇵 (3) Naomi Osaka vs. 🇷🇴 (5) Mihaela Buzarnescu

The pick of the quarter-finals match-ups at the Nature Valley Open on Friday sees the third seeded Naomi Osaka take on the fifth seeded Mihaela Buzarnescu. This will be the first career meeting between Osaka and Buzarnescu, an interesting match-up because of the contrast in styles between the pair. This will also be the first grass court quarter-final either of these two have competed in, who will book their spot in the semi-finals?

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Naomi Osaka got her Nottingham campaign off to a slow start as she came from a set down to defeat Sachia Vickery, a 3-6 6-1 6-2 victory. Osaka produced a more assured performance in the second round as she easily disposed of Denisa Allertova to claim a 6-3 6-2 win. Osaka’s consistency and adaptability have improved significantly allowing her to perform well on all surfaces in 2018.

Mihaela Buzarnescu continues to achieve new milestones. Entering the tournament at a career high ranking inside the to 30, the Romanian has been typically gutsy on route to the quarter-finals in Nottingham. Buzarnescu started the event with a 6-2 3-6 7-6 win over Veronica Cepede Royg before battling past Irina Falconi 6-3 5-7 6-3. Buzarnescu did well to recover from disappointment in the second set on both occasions, in the past she would have faded away in the third set.

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Johanna Konta vs. Dalila Jakupovic, Nottingham QF Preview

Nature Valley Open, Nottingham QF Preview
🇬🇧 (4) Johanna Konta vs. 🇸🇮 Dalila Jakupovic

Johanna Konta continues her quest for the Nottingham title on Friday with a quarter-final showdown with Slovenia’s Dalila Jakupovic. This will be the first career meeting between Konta and Jakupovic, the pair both bring good form into this match having won their first few matches this week in straight sets. Nevertheless, this is a big mismatch on paper, Konta will enter this match as an overwhelming favourite.

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Johanna Konta is into just her second quarter-final of 2018. It has been a mostly disappointing season for Konta but she will be hoping to turn her fortunes around on the grass in front of her home fans. Konta reached the semi-finals at Wimbledon last year, there is no doubt that grass can be a very dangerous surface for the Brit. Konta started her Nottingham campaign with a 6-2 6-3 win over Kurumi Nara before surviving a tough test as she beat compatriot Heather Watson 6-4 7-5. Given the state of the draw, Konta is to be considered one of the main contenders to win the title from here, if she were to capture the title it would be a much needed confidence booster heading into the bigger grass court events.

Dalila Jakupovic is also into her second quarter-final of 2018, her first career quarter-final on a grass court. Jakupovic started her Nottingham campaign with a 7-6 6-2 upset victory over the 8th seeded Camila Giorgi before defeating Poland’s Magdalena Frech 6-4 6-3.

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Ashleigh Barty vs. Ying-Ying Duan, Nottingham R2 Preview

🇬🇧 Nature Valley Open, Nottingham R2 Preview
🇦🇺 (1) Ashleigh Barty vs. 🇨🇳 Ying-Ying Duan

Ash Barty continues her Nottingham campaign on Thursday with a second round clash against China’s Ying-Yong Duan. This will be the first career meeting between Barty and Duan, a mismatch on paper, Barty will enter this match as a strong favourite and rightfully so.

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Barty produced a fairly clinical opening round performance at the Nature Valley Open. The Aussie number 1 comfortably defeated Stefanie Voegele 6-3 6-3. Barty’s strengths were on show, most notably the Aussie’s very strong serve. Barty saved all 3 break points she faced and only dropped the 4 points on serve throughout the entire match. Barty’s grass court prowess is clear, she will be very hard to stop this week. In Nottingham.

Duan also produced a strong serving performance in her opening round match in Nottingham. Duan claimed a comfortable 6-2 6-2 win over Russian qualifier Valeria Savinykh. Duan served 8 aces and won 76 percent of points behind her first serve in what was a good start to the grass court season for Duan.

It will be interesting to see if the big hitting Duan can catch form and cause Barty some problems.

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Johanna Konta vs. Heather Watson, Nottingham R2 Preview

🇬🇧 Nature Valley Open, Nottingham R2 Preview
🇬🇧 (4) Johanna Konta vs. 🇬🇧 Heather Watson

Britain’s number 1 and number 2 will go head-to-head when Johanna Konta takes on Heather Watson at the second round stage in Nottingham on Thursday. Konta and Watson both play some of their best tennis on grass, both claimed comfortable opening round wins and will head into this match full of confidence. Can Watson secure her first win over Konta?

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Konta and Watson both powered through their opening round matches on Tuesday at the Nature Valley Open. Konta defeated Kurumi Nara 6-2 6-3 whilst Watson defeated Danielle Lao 6-1 6-3. The eyes of the British public turn to the grass court swing at this time of the year, Konta and Watson have both thrived in this situation in the past and will be hoping to do so again as both have had disappointing seasons thus far.

It was Konta who won the only previously completed match between the pair, a fairly comfortable 6-4 6-4 victory at Indian Wells last year.

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