While we continue to inhale a few kilos worth of chocolate, the world’s top tennis players are toiling around on sun-kissed clay. This week, the WTA’s best are in Stuttgart for a Premier tournament that gives the winner a brand new Porsche. There’s money and ranking points as well of course but a Porsche goddammit!
Here are my four players to have on the radar.
The world no.4 already has a fancy car in her garage as defending champ. However, you can be sure that she’d like another one to go with it.
The 27-year-old is third in the WTA singles race thanks to a superb start to 2019. Pliskova won a title in the first week of the season (Brisbane) and went on to reach the last four of the Australian Open. The Czech maintained her form through March and comes to Stuttgart rested after skipping the Fed Cup.
Pliskova is in the second quarter of the draw and gets a bye through to the next round. There, she will face the winner of Garbine Muguruza and Victoria Azarenka, and is projected to meet Anett Kontaveit in the quarters.
You’ll notice that I haven’t gone with Simona Halep, Naomi Osaka or Angelique Kerber here. Two-time semifinalist Halep could, of course, win the title but I wonder if she will be drained from Romania’s dramatic 3-2 loss to France last week. I also think that Kiki Bertens, who I’ll discuss in a moment, could pose a lot of trouble should they meet.
In a surprise to most of us, Osaka has only won three matches in the three tournaments she has played since Melbourne. She sits in a volatile quarter here with Kerber, Elise Mertens and Hsieh Su-Wei. Anything could happen there.
From one Czech player storming the WTA to another. Petra Kvitova is one of the best players on tour right now with 20 wins already in the bag. After winning Sydney in the early weeks of January, the 29-year-old went on to lose that dramatic final in Melbourne. In the time since, Kvitova made the final in Doha and the quarters in her last event, Miami.
The lefty is a two-time semifinalist in Stuttgart and has also had the week off to prepare. Kvitova has a bye in the first round and will play Dominika Cibulkova or a qualifier in the second. She is projected to meet Anastasija Sevastova in the quarters and Halep or Bertens in the semis.
While Bertens has enjoyed fantastic results on hard courts recently, she is still at her best on the red stuff. The 27-year-old returns to the dirt in great spirits as she sits at seven in the WTA rankings. Bertens captured the St. Petersburg title in February and had solid showings in Indian Wells and Miami.
Another player to have rested during Fed Cup week, Bertens will try to improve on her dismal record in Stuttgart. It currently reads: two appearances, two first-round losses. Yes, dismal.
Bertens will play a qualifier in the first round and is projected to meet Belinda Bencic in the second. Simona Halep – who Bertens defeated in their last clash – is her projected quarterfinal opponent.
After a mixed start to the season, The Estonian comes to the clay with confidence. Kontaveit just found form in Miami as she surged to the last four. A semifinalist in Stuttgart 12 months ago, she should be a formidable threat again this week.
The 23-year-old has been drawn in the second quarter and starts against Caroline Garcia. The Frenchwoman could be vulnerable after playing three matches for France last week. The winner of that match will face Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova or Julia Goerges in the second round, and probably Pliskova in the last eight.