2018 Wimbledon WTA Round 1 Previews: Stephens vs Vekic, Buzarnescu vs Sabalenka, Svitolina vs Maria

Wimbledon starts in a day’s time and the bottom half of the women’s draw will kick off their campaigns first on Monday. As expected from the open draw, there are a few exciting first round match-ups for Monday and I will be previewing Stephens-Vekic, Buzarnescu-Sabalenka and Svitolina-Maria in this post. Continue reading…

Wimbledon, First Round Previews

1. [4] Sloane Stephens (No.4) vs Donna Vekic (No.55)

Image result for stephens french open 2018

Arguably the pick of the first rounders in the bottom half pits French Open finalist Stephens’ counter-punching game against Vekic’s exciting and aggressive playing style. It was a surprise to see Stephens skip all the grass court warm-up tournaments so we have not seen Stephens playing a competitive match since the French Open. Last year, after winning the US Open, the American went on an infamous huge losing streak – will it happen this time again after coming so close to winning Roland Garros? We shall see in Wimbledon…

While Stephens hasn’t played a match on grass this year just yet, Vekic has been very active in the UK, competing for three straight weeks in Nottingham, Birmingham and Eastbourne, notching four wins along the way. Grass suits the aggressive nature of Vekic’s game and is definitely one of the dangerous unseeded players coming into Wimbledon.

Thoughts: This is a very tough first rounder for Stephens and with grass not her favourite surface, she’ll need to get off to a great start quickly to fend off Vekic’s attacks. I don’t think Stephens will face too much of a lull after RG and she always seems to raise her game at the big events. I think Vekic will push the World No.4 to her limits, but Stephens’ experience and more solid game will come through in three tough sets.

Final Prediction: Sloane Stephens d. Donna Vekic in three sets

2. [29] Mihaela Buzarnescu (No.29) vs Aryna Sabalenka (No.32)

Image result for sabalenka eastbourne 2018

Both Buzarnescu and Sabalenka have played a TON of matches of late and with very similar playing styles, this match-up could end in a really tight result. Buzarnescu played for three straight weeks in both singles and doubles (excluding Birmingham) and has amassed seven singles wins on the surface. I felt that Buzarnescu wasn’t too comfortable playing on the green stuff in Nottingham but by the time she headed into Birmingham, she adjusted really quickly and even ousted No.2 seed Elina Svitolina there. Buzarnescu seemed to struggle with injury in a straightforward loss to Jelena Ostapenko but if she’s feeling healthy, she could definitely be a dark horse at this year’s Wimbledon.

Just like Buzarnescu, Sabalenka also opted to play for three straight weeks in both singles and doubles, but taking a different route – she started off in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, then travelled to Mallorca, then to Eastbourne! Just like the Romanian, I felt Sabalenka wasn’t adapting well to the bounce on grass in the Netherlands, but in Eastbourne the grass looked like it absolutely suited Sabalenka’s game. The Belarusian played five three-setters in Eastbourne, before losing to Caroline Wozniacki in a tight two-setter.

Thoughts: Sabalenka will likely be out of steam, but so will Buzarnescu as both have played so much tennis the week before. If fully fit, Buzarnescu will be very tough to break down and the Romanian has been so good at beating lower-ranked players of late.

Final Prediction: Mihaela Buzarnescu d. Aryna Sabalenka in three sets

3. [5] Elina Svitolina (No.5) vs Tatjana Maria (No.57)

Image result for svitolina birmingham 2018

Svitolina hasn’t been enjoying too much success in her last two tournaments as she exited the French Open and Birmingham both in the hands of Mihaela Buzarnescu. Svitolina has only won ten matches on grass in her entire career; with her counter-punching game, it can be difficult for the Ukrainian to contend with hard-hitters from the baseline on a quick surface.

While a hard-hitter stands a great chance to beat a defensive player on grass, can a slice expert do the same as well? We’ll find out as Tatjana Maria takes on Svitolina in the first round here. Maria went though a dire run on form until she totally turned it around on the grass with a first WTA title in Mallorca as she beat Anett Kontaveit, Lucie Safarova and Anastasija Sevastova enroute to the championship. Maria‘s game relies on slices, net charges and good defence, and definitely is a good fit for the lawns of Wimbledon.

Thoughts: Svitolina hasn’t won too many matches of late, but she is so good at getting wins against lower ranked players who possess less power than her. I think Maria’s slices can contend with Svitolina’s solid play in the beginning, but inexperience at a big stage will derail her and the Ukrainian will seal the victory in one tight and one easy set.

Final Prediction: Elina Svitolina d. Tatjana Maria in two sets

Thanks for reading! Check out my Wimbledon predictions here or at the top of the page!

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