2018 Stuttgart WTA: Main Draw Preview

Stuttgart is definitely one of a WTA fan’s favourite tournaments, and I think the top players pretty much think the same way too! It’s THE most loaded tournament on the WTA calendar every year, and this time it’s the same as well with eight of the world’s top 10 set to kick off their clay court swings in the heart of Germany. Read on for a bumper tournament preview of Stuttgart…

Main Draw

FIRST QUARTER SEEDS

[1] Simona Halep (No.1)

Player profile: Halep will come in to the clay court swing as the favourite after she had a splendid clay swing last year which saw her reach three finals, including a French Open heart breaker where she lost in three sets to Jelena Ostapenko. During the Indian Wells-Miami double, Halep wasn’t able to play her best tennis but was still gritting out the wins in a semifinal run in IW (losing to Naomi Osaka) and a third round appearance in Miami (losing to Aga Radwanska). An early lost in Miami though could have done Halep some good as she would have had more time to get some practices on the clay. Halep is arguably the best clay courter on the tour right now and she’ll definitely be motivated to prove that stages in the first few weeks of this swing.

Stuttgart win-loss record: 4-4 (2015, 2017 SF)

Fed Cup update: Simona needed three sets to outlast Viktorija Golubic in the Romania-Switzerland Fed Cup tie. Definitely wasn’t the best Simona played as she mentioned in her press conference that she was super tight to begin, but a win is a win and it’ll definitely do her good.

Draw projections: A first round bye will do Halep some good as she’ll be coming from Fed Cup duties in Romania. Halep will play either Daria Kasatkina or Magdalena Rybarikova for her first match of the week (which sounds tough, but to be honest there’s no easier opponent in this amazing field)! Kasatkina’s game is well suited to the clay and I’m salivating at the prospect of a Halep-Kasatkina R2. In all honesty, I’ll expect her the top seed to get through that one in straights though.

[7] Sloane Stephens (No.9)

Image result for stephens indian wells 2018 zimbio

Player profile: Stephens is a good example of how much home support means to her. Prior to Miami, Sloane had only won three out of 11 matches and even endured an eight match losing streak from September 2017 to January… and suddenly she bamboozles her way through the Miami draw, beating Monica Niculescu, Garbine Muguruza, Angelique Kerber, Victoria Azarenka and Ostapenko for her second biggest crown. That’s one way to stop a bad streak of form! Just to prove how good Sloane Stephens is on home soil, since June 2017, ALL but two of Stephens’ 24 wins have came from America tournaments. The challenge for her now is that can she do it in other places outside of America?  In fact, she’s a decent clay courter…

Stuttgart win-loss record: First appearance

Fed Cup update: In the USA-France tie, Stephens outlasted Pauline Parmentier in an exhausting two hours and 23 minutes battle. I watched the whole match and while Stephens was in and out mentally throughout, she showed great fighting spirit as she saved five set points in the first set. Her defense was also very good and she showed that she can slide and move on the clay extremely well. She didn’t play her best tennis but this huge win will be confidence boosting for her next few matches.

Draw projections: Today friends, next day foes – as Stephens will play Fed Cup teammate CoCo Vandeweghe in the first round. Vandeweghe lost her Fed Cup match to Kiki Mladenovic and never has been comfortable on clay, so I see Sloane winning that one. The winner of that match will play Barbora Strycova or Laura Siegemund next – this is another fun match where both players are well known for their on-court antics. Siegemund though is the Stuttgart GOAT and has won her last 12 of 13 matches in the Porsche Tennis Arena. Siegemund should be the dark horse here and I would not be surprised to see her coming out trumps in this quarter…

First quarter QF prediction: Simona Halep vs Laura Siegemund

SECOND QUARTER SEEDS

[3] Elina Svitolina (No.4)

Image result for svitolina miami 2018 Zimbio

Player profile: Svitolina has seen a number of highs and lows in her season so far – highs included tenth and 11th WTA titles in Brisbane and Dubai respectively, but a loss to Elise Mertens in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open was particularly disappointing. Svitolina was unable to bring her game in US too, producing passive performances in losses to Carla Suarez Navarro and Jelena Ostapenko. Svitolina seemed to be coming down with a cold (?) in Miami so I would give her the benefit of the doubt there. She’ll need to be a little more aggressive this week though as the quick indoor conditions (even though it’s clay) might be a test for her in her first appearance in Stuttgart.

Stuttgart win-loss record: First appearance

Draw projections: Svitolina’s first match of the week will be against Julia Goerges or Anastasija Sevastova. Goerges-Sevastova matches are always bundles of fun as they have widely contrasting games – just a couple of weeks back in Charleston they played a high quality match where Goerges won in the semis, 7-6(5) 6-4. I think Svitolina will be vulnerable for her first match on the dirt; I see some kind of upset looming…

[6] Caroline Garcia (No.7)

Image result for garcia indian wells 2018 zimbio

Player profile: Garcia’s recent woes continued during the IW-Miami stretch as she suffered complete beat downs to Angelique Kerber and Alison Riske. While Kerber was playing excellent in Indian Wells, losing to Riske 3-6 1-6 is staggering as prior to that match, Riske had not beaten a top 20 player since ousting Kristina Mladenovic in Wimbledon last year. A switch to clay did not help Garcia in Charleston as she exited the third round in an all-French battle to Alize Cornet, 5-7 6-1 6-4. Garcia was making so many errors in that match and it’s very disappointing to see her unable to back up her wins in the Asian swing last year. I don’t think red clay will be the solution to her woes but we’ll see…

Stuttgart win-loss record: 2-2 (2015 QF)

Draw projections: Garcia plays wildcard Maria Sharapova in the first round – their match in the 2011 French Open was where Garcia burst into prominence and was where the infamous ‘Andy Murray tweet’ started from. Sharapova leads this head to head 4-0, but in their recent match Garcia pushed her to the limits in a 2015 Madrid match where the Russian won, 6-2 4-6 7-5. Both players are extremely low on confidence right now and Sharapova is also dealing with a forearm injury so this match will be extremely intriguing. Another wildcard, Antonia Lottner will play either Garcia or Sharapova in the second round if she can get through her first round opponent, a qualifier.

Second quarter QF prediction: Julia Goerges vs Maria Sharapova

THIRD QUARTER SEEDS

[4] Jelena Ostapenko (No.5)

Image result for ostapenko miami 2018 Zimbio

Player profile: Ostapenko seems to have righted the ship in Miami after a wild start to the season. Ostapenko’s struggles prior Miami were well documented as she only managed to claim four wins out of seven WTA tournaments. Ostapenko though came into the Premier Mandatory event with renewed vigour as she claimed two top 10 scalps in Elina Svitolina and Petra Kvitova enroute to the final where she lost to the resurgent, Sloane Stephens. Ostapenko is definitely a confidence player and this run has come timely for her as she arrives for the clay stretch of the season in which she has ton of points to defend.

Stuttgart win-loss record: 3-1 (2017 R1)

Draw projections: Thank God Ostapenko has a bye because she’s going to be coming from Fed Cup action in Khanty-Mansiyisk (where on earth is that, tbh????) Ostapenko has one of the easiest draws of the top seeds as she’ll play a qualifier in her first match of the tournament.

[5] Karolina Pliskova (No.6)

Image result for pliskova stuttgart 2017 zimbio

Player profile: While Pliskova has had a solid start to this year, it’s fair enough to say she has been struggling quite a bit even though she’s sitting at No.9 in the Race to Singapore! Pliskova has reached the quarterfinals or better in five out of six tournaments but in truth, she really hasn’t been playing her best tennis at all. Her struggles on serve this year has been strange to say the least – widely known as the Ace Queen, Pliskova is No.31 (according to WTA stats) in service games won. Another staggering stat is that Pliskova’s first serve percentage has not been able to reach 65% or higher in her matches since the Australian Open. The serve is a crucial part of Pliskova’s game and if it’s not there, it can cause a lot of troubles for her.

Fed Cup update: Well just after I finish writing this then Pliskova proves me wrong – in her Fed Cup win against Angelique Kerber, she hit FIFTEEN aces. FIFTEEN aces in a straight sets match is just asdfghjkl. I was also wildly impressed with Pliskova’s kick serves – it was so useful against Kerber who could not get the return back as she was in the baseline to return the second serve. Pliskova also looked so much more comfortable on the clay than she did a couple of years ago. I am extremely impressed.

Stuttgart win-loss record: 3-2 (2016, 2017 QF)

Draw projections: Pliskova plays Kiki Bertens to start – SUPER DANGEROUS. Bertens is a clay-court specialist that just does everything so well on clay and she just won the Premier-level event in Charleston a couple of weeks back. The winner of the match will then likely play Carla Suarez Navarro in R2. Even though I was sold on Pliskova’s performance in Fed Cup, playing two clay-lovers back-to-back could be a tough one for the Czech to handle…

Third quarter QF prediction: Jelena Ostapenko vs Kiki Bertens

FOURTH QUARTER SEEDS

[2] Garbiñe Muguruza (No.3)

Image result for muguruza stuttgart 2017

Player profile: Muguruza has endured very tough start to the 2018 season, but could a recent triumph in Monterrey turn around Garbine’s fortunes this year? In the three biggest tournaments of the year so far – Australian Open, Indian Wells and Miami, Muguruza wasn’t able to get past the fourth round in any of those events and suffered flat losses to Saschia Vickery and Sloane Stephens during the Sunshine Double. Muguruza was able to take advantage of a depleted field in Monterrey, beating Timea Babos in the final to claim a sixth WTA singles title. Perhaps this will give her a confidence boost going into her favourite stretch of the season…

Fed Cup action: Muguruza needed three sets to get past World No.334 Montserrat Gonzalez in the Spain-Paraguay Fed Cup tie. Crazy how Muguruza only hit 7 winners and 48 unforced errors and still won…

Stuttgart win-loss record: 4-4 (2016 QF)

Draw projections: Muguruza will play a big-hitter in her Stuttgart opener – either Madison Keys or Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. Both players will be coming from Fed Cup duties and I expect Pavs to be tired as she’ll be playing two singles rubbers. Muguruza trails the head to head against Keys 1-3. Not easy even on Keys’ worst surface…

[8] Petra Kvitova (No.10)

Image result for kvitova indian wells 2018 zimbio

Player profile: It wasn’t a surprise that Kvitova wasn’t able to continue her winning ways during the Sunshine Double – she has never done well during that stretch. Kvitova’s 12-match winning streak ended at the hands of talented 16-year-old Amanda Anisimova in Indian Wells, and afterwards lost to Ostapenko in the fourth round of Miami. Coming to clay, as Kvitova said it herself, she’s had a kind of complicated relationship with the surface. Kvitova is a two-time champion in the Premier Mandatory event in Madrid but has only been to the French Open quarterfinals once in nine visits. The Stuttgart conditions should be to her liking though – she absolutely adores indoors…

Fed Cup action: And so she did. On the clay of Stuttgart, Kvitova ousted Julia Goerges 6-3 6-2 in just one hour to gain the first point for the Czechs in Fed Cup. Kvitova was on fire as she hit 15 winners to just 11 unforced errors – great stats on the dirt.

Stuttgart win-loss record: 7-5 (2016 SF)

Draw projections: Kvitova has a crazy task on her hands to avoid a first round exit as she plays Angelique Kerber. KVITOVA-KERBER, A FIRST ROUND MATCH-UP. Absolutely mindblowing! These two will actually also be playing against each other in the next Fed Cup match later in the day which is quite funny haha. I will definitely try to get a match preview for this one so get ready for the madness! It doesn’t get easier for the winner of Kvitova-Kerber as they would play either Kristina Mladenovic or Anett Kontaveit, both who had break-out performances last year during the clay swing.

Fourth quarter QF prediction: Petra Kvitova vs Madison Keys

Stuttgart thoughts

I don’t exactly see a seed coming through in the first half of the draw – Halep has lost to Siegemund in her past two outings and hasn’t really been convincing since March. Svitolina, Garcia and Stephens should be vulnerable in their first outings on the red clay and I see a power hitter in Goerges or Sharapova coming through the half. Considering Sharapova is still having problems with her forearm, I’ll be choosing Goerges as the top half finalist.

The seeds in the bottom half are not safe either. Even though Muguruza won Monterrey, I’m absolutely not convinced she’s found back her form and the Fed Cup result probably proved that. The clay court specialists could cause Pliskova a lot of problems, and Kvitova has a crazy first rounder in Kerber. My semifinal prediction for the bottom half is Ostapenko vs Kvitova, and I’m still deliberating on that…

So that’s it for the preview! Look out for some match previews later as the first round matches are going to be stunning. There’s another tournament in Istanbul but I’m not going to be blogging too much about it as this week is my exam period! Enjoy Stuttgart because it’s going to be litttttt!

Stuttgart predictions will be posted on the top of the page soon! Thanks for reading 🙂

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