The WTA International takes center stage at Upper Austria Ladies Linz Open. Damien Kayat previews the matchups between Elise Mertens vs Anhelina Kalinina as well as Vavara Gracheva vs Ekaterina Alexandrova.
Photo Copyright – Steve Haag Sports
Upper Austria Ladies Linz Open
Selected Round of 32 Matches- 11th November
Elise Mertens (2) (1/14) vs Anhelina Kalinina (6/1)
This is something of a David and Goliath encounter (gender dynamics aside). Anhelina Kalinina is a 23-tear-old Ukrainian who largely participates on the ITF tour. She was actually forced to withdraw from a final in February due to injury. Kalinina showed huge potential as a junior, reaching the US Open final in that category. But things just haven’t materialized for her on the tour proper. The winner of ten ITF titles has enjoyed a torrid post-lockdown period. She has only won four matches- on any circuit- since the resumption of the tour. That includes her two qualifying victories this week. But her indoor stats for the year make for decent reading (on any circuit). She currently has a win-loss ratio of 7/1 on indoor surfaces for 2020. She will need to draw on every ounce of ability if she stands any chance of overcoming the formidable Elise Mertens.
Belgian talent Elise Mertens burst onto the scene with that unheralded semi-final run at the 2018 Aussie Open. Since then she has fitted in and out of relevance as new talents emerged (just look at the likes of Kenin and Osaka). But Mertens has experienced some of the most consistent form of her career since tennis returned. She reached the semi-finals of the Western and Southern Open prior to a quarterfinal run at the US Open. She would go on to reach the quarterfinals in Rome before a poor defeat at Roland Garros. She seemed to snap out of that quickly with yet another quarterfinal at the Ostrava Open. She hadn’t dropped a service game in that event until she met Azarenka in the quarterfinal. Everything just seems to be working for the dynamic Belgian. Her formidable court coverage and ability on return makes her one of the fiercest competitors on the tour.
This will be the first meeting between these two. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that Kalinina is up against it. Mertens is currently ranked 21st in the world while the Ukrainian sits at 163rd. There is nothing that can tempt me away from a straight-sets Mertens victory at 3/10.
Vavara Gracheva (34/10) vs Ekaterina Alexandrova (4) (2/11)
World Number 33 needed a pick-me-up this week following her meek first round exit at the Ostrava Open. She got it with a terrific performance against Katerina Siniakova. She broke Siniakova in her first service game to love. The Russian started the year in incredible fashion, beating the likes of Muguruza en route to the Shenzhen title. It actually made her the first winner of a WTA title this decade. She followed that up with a decent 3rd round showing at the Aussie Open. But things have been fairly static since then. In the post-lockdown period, she has only managed consecutive victories in one of eight appearances. It will be interesting to see how she fares against compatriot Vavara Gracheva.
20-year-old Vavara Gracheva is coming off a commanding victory over Zavatska in her opening round match. The World Number 95 is really still looking for that major breakthrough onto the tour proper. She reached the semi-finals of the Cagnes-Sur-Mer event a few months back on the ITF Tour. But the Russian recently did enjoy the highlight of her young career. Almost completely unheralded, Gracheva made it into the final 32 of the US Open. Along the way she accounted for the super-experienced Mlandenovic. Her victory over Zavatska in her opening match actually snapped a three-match losing streak post-US Open. Can the young Gracheva once again elevate her game to combat the uber-talented Alexandrova?
This is one of those ones where you have to hunt for value. There’s always a tightening of the screws when compatriots are involved. Ekaterina to win in three at 28/10 carries some weight.
Written by Damien Kayat for Hollywoodbets