Elina Svitolina vs. Donna Vekic, Birmingham R2 Preview

?? Nature Valley Classic, Birmingham R1 Preview
?? (2) Elina Svitolina vs. ?? Donna Vekic

Elina Svitolina begins her 2018 grass court campaign in Birmingham with an opening round showdown against Donna Vekic. Svitolina suffered yet another setback at Roland Garros a few weeks ago, a shock third round exit at the hands of Mihaela Buzarnescu. Grass is considered Svitolina’s worst surface, so it will be interesting to see how she performs over the next month and whether she can contend for the biggest titles.

Elina Svitolina of the Ukraine practices at the 2018 Nature Valley Classic WTA Premier tennis tournament

Svitolina continues to impress at the premier level before collapsing at Grand Slam events, a very disappointing trend for the Ukrainian. But, it is good news for her chances in Birmingham, these are the types of events Svitolina has been so efficient at over the last few years. However, grass is easily Svitolina’s least successful surface, and she has never made it passed the second round in Birmingham.

Donna Vekic started her grass court campaign in Nottingham last week. Vekic failed to defend her title in Nottingham but she still had a good week as she reached the semi-finals before succumbing to Johanna Konta in straight sets. Vekic enjoys playing on grass, her game is very much suited to the quick surface.

Svitolina holds a perfect 3-0 record over Vekic. The most recent match between the pair was on clay in Marrakesh in 2015, a comfortable 6-2 6-2 for Svitolina. This will be their first match on a grass court, a surface that seemingly gives Vekic some kind of a chance at an upset.

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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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Petra Kvitova vs Ashleigh Barty, Birmingham Final Preview

WTA Aegon Classic, ?? Birmingham Final Preview
? (7/wc) ?? Petra Kvitova vs ?? Ashleigh Barty

Just 6 months after a horrific incident, Petra Kvitova is into the final in her second tournament back to the tour. Kvitova comes up against an ever-improving Ashleigh Barty in Sunday’s final at the Aegon Classic in Birmingham. Both Kvitova and Barty are both at their best on a grass court, both bring good form into this final, winning the title would mean so much to both players for different reasons here, a hotly contested final is to be expected. It would be a big win a very emotional victory for Kvitova this early in her comeback whilst Barty is playing in the biggest final of her career and has a chance to reach the top 50 in rankings for the first time with a victory here.

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Garbine Muguruza vs Ashleigh Barty, Birmingham SF Preview

WTA Aegon Classic, ?? Birmingham SF Preview
SF #2: (6) ?? Garbine Muguruza vs ?? Ashleigh Barty

Saturday’ second semi-final from the Aegon Classic in Birmingham sees the sixth seeded Garbine Muguruza take on this week’s shock semi-finalist: Ashleigh Barty. Garbine Muguruza will be aiming to reach her first final on a grass court since Wimbledon 2015 whilst Ashleigh Barty will be playing to reach her first ever final at a premier level event. In bizarre circumstances, both Muguruza and Barty secured their place in the semi-finals via a retirement, so both will enter this clash fresh, a first time meetings between the pair looms as a fascinating encounter.

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Petra Kvitova vs Lucie Safarova, Birmingham SF Preview

WTA Aegon Classic, ?? Birmingham SF Preview
SF #1: (7/wc) ?? Petra Kvitova vs ?? Lucie Safarova

Petra Kvitova and Lucie Safarova will go head-to-head for the tenth time when they meet at the semi-final of the Aegon Classic in Birmingham on Saturday. Kvitova has dominated Safarova, winning all nine of their previous encounters, the majority of which have been in straight sets. Safarova will enter this match with nothing to lose having come through two matches this week where she was match points down, with a mindset of having nothing to lose, Safarova is a threat. Nevertheless, Kvitova will enter this match as a big favourite, Petra is full of confidence having not dropped a set this week and will be the fresher of the pair, having spent far less time on court than Safarova.

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Ashleigh Barty vs Camila Giorgi, Birmingham QF Preview

WTA Aegon Classic, ?? Birmingham QF Preview
QF #4: ?? Ashleigh Barty vs (Q) ?? Camila Giorgi

Friday’s fourth and final quarter-final of the day at the Aegon Classic looms as the most open match of the day where a big opportunity presents itself to both Ashleigh Barty and Camila Giorgi to make a rare semi-final appearance at a premier level event. Grass is the preferred surface of both Barty and Giorgi, both have been playing great tennis this week and head into this clash full of confidence, this has the makings of a high quality, tight contest between two powerful strikers. 

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Garbine Muguruza vs CoCo Vandeweghe, Birmingham QF Preview

WTA Aegon Classic, ?? Birmingham QF Preview
QF #3: (6) ?? Garbine Muguruza vs ?? CoCo Vandeweghe

Garbine Muguruza and CoCo Vandeweghe will renew hostilities when they collide at the quarter-final stage of the Aegon Classic in Birmingham on Friday. Vandeweghe has had the better of Muguruza in the past, Vandeweghe comfortably beat the Spaniard in straight sets at the quarter-final stage of the Australia Open earlier this year and has also won both of the previous matches between the pair on a grass court. A determined Muguruza will desperate to get a win over Vandeweghe here, it will be interesting to see if Muguruza can find a winning formula over the American on Vandeweghe’s most preferred surface, she is certainly capable.

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