WTA Tour: French Open Round of 64 Matches Preview

Tennis player stands with racquet in hand

We preview selected Round of 64 matches from the women's draw of the 2018 edition of the French Open. 

Daria Katsakina 1/6 | Kirsten Flipkens 7/2
Russian 21 year-old Katsatkina has enjoyed a major breakthrough year. It really started in her home country, where a semi-final run in St Petersburg was clearly a sign of things to come. Consecutive finals in Dubai and Indian Wells really catapulted her to stardom. It is perhaps understandable that her form has dipped whilst hitting the clay-courts. She has picked up quarterfinals in Charleston and Madrid, however, but she is clearly still cutting her teeth on the surface that gives her less value for those booming groundstrokes.

Flipkens is clearly a player at a different stage in her career. The 32 year-old has hardly had a stellar season and doesn’t really look to be a match for the Russian. Having said that, she has picked up some encouraging results on the clay. A quarterfinal run in the Samsung Open was recently followed by a semi-final run in the Nuremburg Cup. That included an excellent win over another up and coming star: Kiki Bertens. So these are small signs of a possible upset here. She also easily dispatched of Maria in the opening round, which will give her plenty of confidence.

Katsatkina leads the head-to-head 1-0, though that was a fiercely fought three setter in 2016. It was also on a hard-court, making it even less pertinent. Katsakina will probably win easily here, I just can’t help but gravitate towards it as a potential banana skin, especially with that price of 7/2 for Flipkens. 

Lesia Tsurenko 33/20 | Coco Vandeweghe 4/10
Lesia Tsurenko’s win over Vogele in the first round was all the more impressive considering her recent dismal run of form. She hadn’t won a match since Monterrey and desperately needed a result. In reality, her year hasn’t really yielded too much, but I’m just drawn to that run to the final on the clay-courts of Mexico as a strange outlier. She beat Gavrilova and Mladenovic in that event, highlighting her ability to beat strong opponents on this very surface.

Coco is one of the most enigmatic figures on the women’s tour. Her pure ability off both sides and natural athleticism should see her competing more regularly. Last year’s US Open semi-finalist has had a weird year. She reached the final- on clay- in Stuttgart, but other than that she has only won three other matches the entire year, which includes her first round victory over Siegemund. She clearly has issues with temperament and application that seem to hold her back from taking the next step and becoming an established force on the tour.

The head-to-head between the two reads 1-1, with Tsurenko winning their last encounter in 2017. So once again, looking at all the match’s sand trying to find something playable, I think that the Ukrainian may be worth a bet this week. 

Lucie Safarova 9/4 | Karolina Pliskova 3/10
Few would have thought that it would take the clay to bring out the best results for Pliskova this year. The sixth seed usually struggles on clay, with her typically Czech, flat hitting game best suited to hard-courts. But she hadn’t made it past the quarterfinal stage until she arrived in Stuttgart. There she beat the likes of Kiki Bertens and Jelena Ostapenko, before overcoming Coco Vandeweghe in the final. She then beat Sloane Stephens and Simona Halep en route to the semi-finals in Madrid. So it would seem that she has learnt to adapt her game more to the vagaries of clay.

She will need no introduction to her opponent- compatriot Lucie Safarova. But to say Safarova is undercooked for this event will be something of an understatement. Injury has curtailed her season tremendously, and she only has one clay court win under her belt in preparation. She started the year with a decent Round of 32 run in Melbourne, which did hint at her willingness to perform on the big stage. The 2015 French Open finalist also reached the semi-finals of Wimbledon in 2014, underlying her abilities on the big stage. Age may be slightly against her this year, but Pliskova has yet to truly convince in Grand Slam tennis.

Pliskova leads the head-to-head 6-2, but that does tend to mischaracterise things to an extent. Safarova actually leads their head-to-head matches on clay 2-1, so you could do far worse than 9/4 on her to win. 

Written by Damien Kayat for @Hollywoodbets.net

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