The first round of the Internationaux de Strasbourg witnesses a blockbuster match-up between the dangerous floater in Camila Giorgi and the second seed Elena Vesnina. Considering this is the last week of tennis before the second Grand Slam of the year, it would be important for either player to gather some momentum and get a good result here in Strasbourg.
With some inconsistent results in the past year, Giorgi has almost fallen out of the Top 100 in the rankings just two weeks ago and now finds herself ranked at the 98th position. Giorgi had a fair clay court season thus far, falling in the first round of qualifying at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix before bouncing straight back to reach the quarterfinals of the J&T Banka Prague Open, defeating world number three and top-ranked player in the Porsche Race to Singapore leaderboard Karolina Pliskova in the first round.
Falling to eventual champion Mona Barthel in two tiebreak sets, the Italian had a great tournament in Prague to prevent herself from falling out of the Top 100. Having to also come through the qualifying rounds here in Strasbourg, Giorgi defeated the dangerous 17-year-old youngster Dayana Yastremska, the 2016 Wimbledon Juniors runner-up, in the process of qualifying for the main draw.
Elena Vesnina had her breakthrough season last year, reaching the semifinals of Wimbledon and entering the Top 20 for the first time. She managed to back up her excellent results this year, winning the biggest title of her career at the BNP Paribas Open, defeating compatriot Svetlana Kuznetsova in the final as she came back from a 6-7 1-4 deficit to triumph. However, she has failed to follow it up with any outstanding results in her next events, owning a 2-6 win-loss record in her next six events.
Vesnina’s only two wins on clay this year came against Alison Van Uytvanck during Fed Cup play and occasional doubles partner Daria Kasatkina at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix. Coming into Strasbourg with a three-match losing streak, 11 of her losses this year has come against lower-ranked players and Giorgi would be yet another tough challenge ahead of her.
Before the qualifiers were placed in the draw, the path to the final seemed clear for Vesnina as she faces two qualifiers/lucky losers in the first couple of rounds, which should be manageable for the world number 15. However, she was given the most tricky opponents as the giant-killer Giorgi awaits in the first round and either the talented Ashleigh Barty or former Top 60 player Cagla Buyukakcay looms in the second round.
On paper, it seems like Vesnina would be the clear favorite. However, with her loss of form and inability to win matches recently, Giorgi has a great chance to earn a win over a top player once again.
To be able to defeat the Russian, Giorgi has to ensure that it is her day since she is famous for her win-or-bust explosive game. If she manages to get the rhythm on her groundstrokes and her serve, Giorgi definitely has the ability to fire winners one after another and dictate play throughout the match as she would be able to exploit the vulnerable Vesnina second serve. However, the Italian has to try not to go for a big second serve often as it would often end up in countless double faults.
Vesnina has to find her form back before Roland Garros, the most important event of the clay court season. Her groundstrokes have to be precise and accurate, solid enough to fend off the hard hitting from Giorgi. She should try to take the offense at the smallest of opportunities, as she could not afford to be on the defense especially against such a powerful player in Giorgi. Net play should be able to win some points for the Russian given her status as an accomplished doubles player, and some drop shots and slices to mix up Giorgi’s rhythm and catch her off-guard in the middle of groundstroke rallies. Vesnina has to serve smartly, opting for a couple of body serves or serving out wide, forcing Giorgi to move around the court.