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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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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