Tamara Zidansek is odds on to beat Cristiana Ferrando while Kristina Mlandenovic faces off against Ana Konjuh in the Slovenia Open. Damien Kayat previews.
WTA 250 Series
Selected Round of 32 and 16 Matches- 14th and 15th September
14th September- Round of 32
Tamara Zidansek 1/6 | Cristiana Ferrando 4/1
Prior to this year’s French Open, Tamara Zidansek has never gone beyond the 2nd round of a Grand Slam. So, Bianca Andreescu must have felt quite confident going into their opening round tie in Paris. Zidansek pulled off the upset, picking up her first win over a top 10 opponent in the process. She rode that momentum all the way to an incredible semi-final berth. In and of itself, that isn’t too incredible in the turbulent waters of women’s Grand Slam tennis (just look at last week’s US Open). But this has actually been a brilliant year for the clay-court specialist. She reached the final of the Copa Colsanitas before winning her maiden WTA title at the Swiss Open. But her form outside of the sticky stuff has been ordinary. She lost her one and only grass-court match and she is coming off back-to-back first-round defeats in Cincinnati and Chicago. She is essentially the Casper Rudd of the WTA Tour.
But perhaps her limited hardcourt credentials won’t prove too important this week. Ferrando made her debut on the tour in 2016 and has never progressed beyond 268 in the singles rankings. It’s unsurprising given that lack of progression that she has largely plied her trade on the ITF Tour. She has appeared in 12 finals on the ITF Tour, winning four of them. However, the last of those victories came a full four years back in Canada. She earned her spot against Zidansek by beating Lesley Pattinama Kerkhova in three sets. She actually lost the opening set with the dreaded bagel. It showed some gumption for her to claw her way back into that match and ultimately progress.
Verdict: Zidansek in straight sets at 47/100
This will be the first meeting between the 23-year-old Slovenian and the 26-year-old Italian. Clearly, Zidansek will be super motivated to impress in front of her home supporters. More importantly, I think she needs to prove that she is more than a one-surface monster. Zidansek to win in straight sets at 47/100.
Ana Konjuh 36/100 | Kristina Mlandenovic 21/10
It’s easy to forget that Croatian Ana Konjuh once looked primed to be the next best thing in women’s tennis. She became the youngest player to win a WTA Tour title since 2006 when she won the 2015 Nottingham Open. But fitness issues of near-biblical proportion have dogged the Croatian since. Konjuh is now fully fit again and starting to recapture some of that youthful exuberance. She progressed to an impressive 38-19 for the year following an epic three-set victory over fellow Croat Donna Vekic. Konjuh reached the final in Belgrade and the semi-finals in San Jose. She has serious game that can ruffle the best players: she beat Iga Swiatek earlier this year in Miami. The former junior sensation will take some beating this week.
I think it’s fair to say that former World Number 10 Kristina Mlandenovic is not having the best of seasons. Her current year-to-date win-loss record sits at 20-25. Most recently, she lost in the first round of the US Open to Kamilla Rakhimova. I wasn’t overly impressed by her first-round victory against Nika Radisic. She needed to come from behind to overcome the world number 578. Mladenovic is a seven-time Grand Slam champion in doubles and mixed doubles. I think she may be near the point in her career where it will be best to focus on those areas of expertise (harsh as that sounds). But hey, look at what happened to Barbora Krejcikova this year. What do I know?
Verdict: Konjuh in straight sets at 89/100
For what it’s worth, Ana Konjuh leads the head-to-head between these two 2-1. The truth of the matter is that they last played way back in 2017. This was when Mlandenovic was still a potent force on tour. Konjuh looks to have turned her career around while the Frenchwoman is going in the other direction. Konjuh to win in straight sets at 9/10.