The grass swing is finally upon us after Simona Halep finally and deservedly won her maiden French Open title in a fun three-set battle over Sloane Stephens. This part of the season is my favourite and I hope to cover both events in ‘s-Hertogenbosch and Nottingham this week. The ‘s-Hertogenbosch first round match-ups look pretty intriguing, so read on for first round match previews for Vandeweghe-Sasnovich, Riske-Maria and Vikhlyantseva-Bertens…
‘s-Hertogenbosch, First Round Match Prevoews
1.  CoCo Vandeweghe (No.16) vs Aliaksandra Sasnovich (No.52)
Grass has always been Vandeweghe’s favourite surface with her quick groundstrokes and smart net play a winning formula on this surface. She’ll be pleased to come back to ‘s-Hertogenbosch where she has had success before, winning the title as a qualifier in 2014.
Her first rounder is not an easy opener at all as she faces Aliaksandra Sasnovich, who sits at No.55 in the rankings having started the year at No.88. Sasnovich has not won too many matches after a breakthrough run at Brisbane in her first tournament of the year, and only has a 6-6 lifetime record on the grass, but with her flat groundstrokes and good movement around the court, this could be a surface that she excels on in the future.
Thoughts: I think Sasnovich will give it some welly and pressurise Vandeweghe in the beginning, but the American’s liking and experience on the grass should come through in the end. Vandeweghe’s attitude and spirits always seems to improve during the grass court swing and I expect this to happen again this year.
Final Prediction: CoCo Vandeweghe d. Aliaksandra Sasnovich in three sets
2. Tatjana Maria (No.70) vs Alison Riske (No.83)
Another American who loves playing on the grass is Riske and in fact, she’s already had some matches on the grass prior to this week in the ITF 100K event in Surbiton – as of writing she’s in the final. Alison’s been playing some great tennis after a tough start to the season with a final run in Nuremberg and pushing Roland Garros champion Simona Halep to three sets in their first round encounter. Just like Vandeweghe, Alison always raises her level for the grass and I’m expecting her to make some noise this month.
Tatjana Maria has had a really strange year so far – other than helping Germany to a win over the Belarus in Fed Cup action, Maria has barely been able to string together any victories. Maria is 3-14 for the year and is yet to beat a top 100 player so far. Maria does like playing on the grass though – her lethal backhand slice is a huge weapon on the low bouncing surfaces.
Thoughts: Form suggests Riske will win this pretty easily, but I think Maria will cause some problems for her, mainly with the slice. However, lack of confidence will likely derail Maria’s campaign eventually and I expect Riske to tough this out in a tight three-setter.
Final Prediction: Alison Riske d. Tatjana Maria in three sets
3. Natalia Vikhlyantseva (No.87) vs  Kiki Bertens (No.21)
Last year’s ‘s-Hertogenbosch finalist Vikhlyantseva will face an uphill struggle to defend her points as she faces No.3 seed Bertens in her opener. Vikhlyantseva is a dangerous opponent for anyone, especially on the grass, but as expected her lack of consistency has been the problem for a big-hitter like her. Vikhlyantseva has not been able to notch back-to-back main draw WTA matches this season, but perhaps a return to the grass will lift her spirits up?
Unlike Vikhlyantseva, Bertens enjoyed a fantastic clay court swing which saw her claim the title in Charleston and reach her biggest ever final in Madrid. While a third round exit in the French Open was disappointing, Bertens should be proud of her achievements on the clay and hopefully she is able to bring this momentum to the grass. She wasn’t able to do so last year though, losing all her three matches on the green stuff. Bertens has never been able to perform her best tennis on the grass and is 6-11 lifetime on this surface.
Thoughts: Bertens has the weapons to play on the grass – big serve, skills at the net and huge forehand, but she does not seem to have the belief that she is able to excel on this surface. If she isn’t at her best then I think Vikhlyantseva’s huge game and serve will come through.
Final Prediction: Natalia Vikhlyantseva d. Kiki Bertens in three sets
Thanks for reading! ‘s-Hertogenbosch & Nottingham predictions will come soon!