WTA Mallorca: Mallorca Open preview

The 2017 grass court season gets into full swing as it enters its second week. The newest grass court tournament on the WTA tour and into its second year in the calendar, the Mallorca Open highlights a star-studded field this year with five of the world’s top 30 players set to be in action, and also a former world number one and a former Wimbledon runner-up, who will both make their return to tennis this tournament.

WTA Mallorca: Mallorca Open preview
The Mallorca Open is the newest grass court tournament on the WTA tour, having held its inaugural edition last year. Photo credits: Mallorca Open.

The likes of Russian number three Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, inaugural finalists Caroline Garcia, the defending champion, and Anastasija Sevastova, and Spain’s number two Carla Suárez Navarro, are all set to headline this year’s Mallorca Open. Other notable names include two-time Grand Slam champion Victoria Azarenka and grass court prodigy Sabine Lisicki, with both women returning to competition from pregnancy and injury respectively.

Focus on Mallorca

The most-recently added grass court tournament on the women’s tour, the Mallorca Open made its debut one year ago and is just one of two WTA tournament played on the Spanish soil, the other being the Mutua Madrid Open. Alongside the Ricoh Open played on Dutch lawns, it is also the only grass court event on the WTA played outside Great Britain.

Mallorca is the largest island in the Balearic Islands archipelago, located in the Mediterranean Sea off the southern coast of the Spanish mainland. The Santa Ponsa Tennis Academy, situated in the town of Santa Ponsa, a half-an-hour’s drive from the Balearic capital city of Palma, will be the host of tennis action throughout the week on the Spanish island.

First quarter

Bertens is searching for her first win on grass this year. Photo credit: Oliver Hardt/Getty Images.
Bertens is searching for her first win on grass this year. Photo credit: Oliver Hardt/Getty Images.

This year’s top seed, Pavlyuchenkova, takes her spot at the top of the draw, the Russian facing local wildcard Sara Sorribes Tormo, one of three Spaniards in the main draw. With grass not being the Russian’s best surface, Sorribes Tormo will be hyped up for an upset win here. The winner will then go on to face either Germany’s Julia Goerges or another Spaniard Lara Arruabarrena next.

Across the quarter, fifth seed Kiki Bertens faces a tough opener as she takes on the returning German Lisicki. This match could go either way with the match-hardened Bertens being the on-paper pick to sail through and Lisicki, playing her first match of the year, being a huge fan of the green lawns. Should Bertens win, Shelby Rogers or a qualifier looms in the following round.

Bertens is coming off an early exit on home turf at Den Bosch and like Pavlyuchenkova, grass is not her favourite either although she did reach the last four of Den Bosch in 2015. However, if the Dutchwoman is able to stave off the challenge posed by Lisicki at the first hurdle, expect her to go on powering her way into the semifinals.

Prediction: Bertens d. Sorribes Tormo

Second quarter

In Mallorca, Pliskova will be making her second tournament appearance on the lawns in 2017. Photo credit: Tom Dulat/Getty Images.
In Mallorca, Pliskova will be making her second tournament appearance on the lawns in 2017. Photo credit: Tom Dulat/Getty Images.

Fourth seed Suárez Navarro, who is making her Mallorca debut, is the highest-ranked Spaniard in the draw. The veteran leads the second quarter and she gets rising American CiCi Bellis in her opener. Meanwhile, Mona Barthel squares off against a qualifier, the winner taking on one of Suárez Navarro or Bellis next.

Seeded eighth, struggling Hungarian Timea Babos is on course to meet Suárez Navarro in the last eight, and her draw does not get any easier with equally powerful Kristyna Pliskova as her first opponent of the week. The only other opening round encounter in this quarter sees wildcard Francesca Schiavone take on Eugenie Bouchard, an enticing opener.

Pliskova suffered an early loss in Den Bosch, falling at the first hurdle to the eventual champion, Anett Kontaveit. Now well-rested, expect the tall Czech to go on a deep run here. Suárez Navarro should be able to win a couple of matches to reach the last eight but there, against Pliskova, the Czech should overpower the Spaniard to make the last four.

Prediction: Pliskova d. Suárez Navarro

Third quarter

Vinci will seek to execute her court craft to her advantage on grass. Photo credit: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images.
Vinci will seek to execute her court craft to her advantage on grass. Photo credit: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images.

Third-seeded Garcia is the highest seed of this quarter. The defending champion takes on a semifinalist from last year, former world number Jelena Jankovic, in her opener. With Jankovic struggling to discover her form and Garcia coming off a breakthrough Grand Slam run at the French Open, the Frenchwoman should seal the win easily. Should she win, compatriot Pauline Parmentier or a qualifier looms next.

The standout name here, however, is none other than Kontaveit. The on-form Estonian, having just captured her maiden crown in Den Bosch, faces sixth seed Roberta Vinci in her opener while Luxembourg’s Mandy Minella takes on a qualifier. Kontaveit is high on confidence at the moment but the threat posed by Vinci should not be discounted as the Italian veteran will look to put her flat slices to good use.

Kontaveit could be fatigued coming in from Den Bosch and Vinci does not sound like an ideal opening round opponent for her under such circumstances. Both Garcia and Vinci should live up to their seeding and reach the last eight, and there, the more experienced Vinci should slice her way into her first semifinal of 2017.

Prediction: Vinci d. Garcia

Fourth quarter

Konjuh is coming off a semifinal appearance in Den Bosch last week. Photo credit: Tom Dulat/Getty Images.
Konjuh is coming off a semifinal appearance in Den Bosch last week. Photo credit: Tom Dulat/Getty Images.

The second seed and last year’s runner-up Sevastova bookends the draw. The Latvian number two gets Elise Mertens in her opener. Should Sevastova get past the Belgian youngster, she faces Varvara Lepchenko next but the American would need to see off a qualifier in her opening match first.

Two-time Australian Open champion Azarenka, in the first match of her return from pregnancy, drew Japan’s Risa Ozaki in the first round. This seems like a winnable match for the Belarussian but expect the Japanese player to put up some stiff opposition. The winner of that match would next face either seventh seed Ana Konjuh or a qualifier.

Konjuh, with some wins on grass under her belt, having reached the last four of Den Bosch. Her toughest test of the week could come against Azarenka in the second round but expect the young Croat to come out on top in that encounter and go on to seal a second consecutive semifinal appearance on grass this year.  

Prediction: Konjuh d. Mertens

Semifinals: Pliskova d. Bertens, Konjuh d. Vinci

Mallorca is poised for an all-power final in 2017 as both Pliskova and Konjuh face off for the title. Each of them already has a tournament win to their name, with Konjuh being the one with the grass court title, having won Nottingham in 2015. Moreover, both women also have one runner-up finish each so far in 2017, Konjuh in Auckland and Pliskova in Prague.

Konjuh will look to relish those memories of her Nottingham title run as she guns for her second career title here in Mallorca. However, Pliskova is the far more powerful player and also, the fresher of the pair going into this final. Expect the Czech to come out firing on all wings, overpowering her Croat opponent, to take home her first title on the green lawns.

Final: Pliskova d. Konjuh

Tennis