WTA Tour: Connecticut Open Selected Matches Preview

Tennis player holds racquet

Damien Kayat previews two matches from the opening rounds of the Connecticut Open which takes place this week at the Cullman-Heyman Tennis Centre. 

Daria Gavrilova 8/10 | Kristina Mladenovic 9/10 – Ro16
24-year-old Daria Gavrilova has had a year of sharp contrasts. Clearly extremely talented, the Aussie of Russian descent has experienced a massive decline in form heading into what should ostensibly be her strongest time of the year. Let’s not forget, Gavrilova was the surprise champion of this event last year with a victory over Dominika Cibulkova in the final. She also has two other hardcourt finals under her belt in recent seasons. But after semi-final appearances in Sydney and Mexico to start the year, things haven’t quite gone according to plan for Gavrilova. A Round of 16 showing at the stacked Rome event has been as good as it has got. She got obliterated in the third round of both the French Open and Wimbledon, while opening-round losses at both Cincinnati and Canada make for ominous reading ahead of her title defence.

Speaking of disappointing seasons, few can compare with that of 2017 Hopman Cup champion Kristina Mladenovic. The ever-mercurial Frenchwoman started the year with a poor opening round loss at the Aussie Open. That disappointment would have been alleviated somewhat by the fact that she would go on to capture the Double’s Title alongside Timea Babos. She then picked up her best singles’ result of the year with a run to the St Petersburg Final. Since then her singles season has been little short of disastrous. A run to the quarters in Mexico has been her best performance and it seems as if the 25-year-old Frenchwoman is content with focusing on her Double’s career.

This will be the fourth meeting between these two, with Gavrilova holding the edge with a 2-1 head-to-head record. All of those meetings have been on the hardcourts and Mladenovic’s recent dismal form makes her exceptionally unappealing at 9/10. In fact, Gavrilova to win in straight sets at 37/20 looks inviting to me. 

Kiki Bertens 23/20 | Anett Kontaveit 13/20 - Ro32
You have to hand it to Kiki Bertens, she has a way of constantly surprising you. Not content with already featuring in two finals this season. Bertens took a massive step up the pecking order this weekend with a WTA Premier 5 victory in Cincinnati. The winner in Charleston and finalist in Madrid has always been something of a clay-court specialist. But her exploits in reaching the quarter-finals of Wimbledon highlighted the degree to which she has grown as an all-court player this season. She then went on to reach the quarters in Canada before a tremendous week in Cincinnati. And it wasn’t as if she did it the easy way. She played Coco and Wozniacki in her opening matches, before facing red-hot Kvitova in the semis and World Number One Halep in the final. Will she be able to replicate that form in such a quick turnaround?

22-year-old Estonian has quietly gone about her business this season without causing so much as a ripple. Yet a closer look at her results show a great deal of steady improvement. She beat Ostapenko en route to a creditable Round of 16 showing in Melbourne. She then reached the Round of 16 in Dubai before a relatively barren run leading up to the clay-court season. But the clay brought with it tremendous success. A run to the semis in both the Madrid and Rome events bolstered her credibility to a huge degree. She then reached the final 16 at the French before a decent enough showing at Wimbledon. She beat Strycova and Sakkari in Cincinnati last week and will feel confident of a decent run in Connecticut

I guess it’s unsurprising that Bertens leads the head-to-head 2-1. She has won the last two meetings including in Cincinnati last week. So I’m truly perplexed by her odds at 23/20. Granted, Kontaveit’s one victory over Bertens came in this event in 2016. But Bertens has grown immeasurably as a player and is the justifiable favourite here. 

Written by Damien Kayat for @Hollywoodbets.net

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