Birmingham, Second Round Previews
1. Daria Gavrilova (No.25) vs  Petra Kvitova (No.8)
Gavrilova produced one of her best performances in a while to fend off a late Cibulkova charge to come through, 6-3 7-6(6). I’d expected Gavrilova to raise her level for the clay (it only happened in Rome) but I was pleasantly surprised to see her playing so well on her least favourite surface. Gavrilova was serving excellently with 6 aces and 80% first serves won, (and was even going for some aggressive second serves at some point!) playing aggressively on any chance she had, and typically moving well on the lawns. In true Cibulkova fightback style, she started to serve better as well and bring out two set points in the second set, but Gavrilova saved them all, the second one with a brilliant slice (see below). Gavrilova sealed the victory with a fourth match point.
Defending champion Kvitova was off to a great start at Birmingham after a straight-sets dismissal of Johanna Konta, 6-3 6-4. The match was closer than the scoreline suggested as Konta was producing some of the tennis that saw her reach the Wimbledon semifinals last year. However, other than a few errant groundstrokes, Kvitova was mostly solid and was winning most of the points in the crucial points. Konta’s serve broke down in the end as she commited a slew of double faults, eventually seven in total. Kvitova wasn’t serving at her best (57% first serves in & 65% first serve points won) but it was still a great match from Petra considering this was her first match on the surface.
Thoughts: Gavrilova was playing so aggressively against Cibulkova which is a different dynamic to this match-up, but Kvitova’s power will likely force Gavrilova back behind the baseline and the latter will thus have to resort to defense. While Gavrilova leads the head to head 2-1, I’ll back Kvitova’s hard-hitting and better form to come through in three tough sets.
Final Prediction: Petra Kvitova d. Daria Gavrilova in three sets
2.  Julia Goerges (No.13) vs Ashleigh Barty (No.16)
German Julia Goerges sealed her first win in Birmingham since her previous appearance in 2009(!) with a solid 6-4 6-4 victory over Maria Sakkari, winning 88% of first serve points in the process. I’m surprised that Goerges hasn’t been able to excel on the green stuff in recent years with her powerful and serve-based game – she hasn’t been able to win a match at Wimbledon since 2012, nor notch a victory on the lawns in the UK till today!
Goerges’ second round opponent will be the highly dangerous Barty, who is on a six-match winning streak on grass having claimed her first WTA title of her career in Nottingham. You can see why Barty really is able to play so well on the green stuff – she just seems so comfortable moving on it and coupled with a decent serve, huge forehand, lethal slice and net skills, there’s no way she can play badly on it. Last year’s finalist notched a first round victory over the hard-hitting Oceane Dodin, hitting 8 aces, winning 85% of first serve points and not getting broken serve in the process.
Thoughts: This is a first-time match-up so I’m definitely looking forward to this one. However, I feel the result will only end in one way. Barty can definitely match Goerges with the serve and power, and can inject pockets of variety to disturb Goerges’ rhythm. Playing on grass is all about finding the rhythm and when there’s so many slices coming towards the German and she’s not naturally used to playing on it, she could be in real trouble. If Barty’s not feeling too much fatigue from last week, I’ll give her the huge edge in this one.
Final Thoughts: Ashleigh Barty d. Julia Goerges in two sets
Birmingham predictions can be found here or at the top of the page! Thanks for reading!