WTA Tour: Birmingham Classic Selected Round of 16 Matches Preview

Tennis player holds racquet

We take a look at selected Round of 16 matches taking place at the WTA Tour's Birmingham Classic. 

Magdalena Rybarikova 9/20 | Kristina Mladenovic 31/20
At 29 years of age, Slovakian Magdalena Rybarikova, the current World Number 20, is a veteran on tour. The four time WTA winner had a brilliant opening round win over Karolina Pliskova that has seen her price shorten quite dramatically for what I believe will be a tight encounter here. Last year’s surprise Wimbledon semi-finalist also has tasted victory on these very courts before. She won the first of her four titles here with a victory over Lin Na in 2009. So she clearly has a grass-court pedigree. This year has proved tough for the Slovak. Her excellent run to the final 16 in Melbourne really was the highlight of what has been a disappointing campaign. She will be hoping that the muscle memory of playing in such familiar surrounds will assist her this week.

Mladenovic has proved to be one of the more enigmatic players on tour, often going ages without picking up a win. She won her first WTA title in St Petersburg last year, and she also reached the final in St Petersburg again this year, losing to Petra Kvitova in the final. So she clearly has the ability to go deep in events. She reached the quarters in Mexico and the Round of 16 in Madrid. But generally her form has been patchy at best. At over 6 feet in height, the former French Open and US Open Quarterfinalist should be a perfect fit for grass. But if her first serve goes wayward her woefully underdeveloped second serve can become exposed.

Rybarikova leads the head-to-head 2-0, which includes a titanic tussle in the WTA Elite event last year. The other match- way back at Roland Garros in 2009, also went to 8-6 in the 3rd set. So I would hazard to guess that Mladenovic is good value at 31/20. 

Elina Svitolina | Alize Cornet
It’s been an interesting year for the number 2 seed Elina Svitolina. She really burst onto the scene last season with a devastating all-court game that saw her clinch three WTA Premier events. She is still yet to translate that into greater success on the Grand Slam level; her quarterfinal appearance in Melbourne earlier this year matched her all-time best performance in a Major. She has also won three events already this season, starting in Brisbane. She then went on to win in Dubai before yet another victory in WTA Premier Event. Her victory in Rome came after a series of disappointing returns on clay. She would only go on to reach the 3rd round in the French, underlining her mercurial nature.  Her victory over Donna Vekic was not without a huge scare for the Ukrainian Number One.

The 28 year-old French woman overcame a set deficit of Makarova to progress to this encounter. The way she powered home to victory in that final set was indicative of the potential that she does possess. The clay-court exponent would have felt disappointed by being knocked out by fellow countrywoman Parmentier in the 2nd round of the French Open. Cornet has shown reasonable form on grass before, reaching the Wimbledon 4th round back in 2014. She also enjoyed a good run to the quarterfinals in Charleston, beating Caroline Garcia en route.

Elina Svitolina leads the head-to-head by a surprisingly small margin of 3-2. Having said that, the Ukrainian has won their last three encounters. Svitolina will start as the huge favorite and should represent the ultimate in terms of a safe backer this week.

Written by Damien Kayat for @Hollywoodbets.net

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