The ladies of the WTA Tour continue their warm-up for this year’s Australian Open with two events in Sydney and Hobart this week.
Week One of the tour saw seven matches ending in retirement or withdrawal, and several players have pulled out of this week’s tournaments citing injury or fatigue – hardly a great sign in just the second week of the season.
But the Premier level Apia International in Sydney still boasts seven of the top 11 players in the world, with Agnieszka Radwanska looking to defend the title she won 12 months ago courtesy of a double bagel thrashing of Dominika Cibulkova in the final.
This joint ATP/WTA event is played on Plexicushion outdoor hard courts which were on the quick side last year, and any extreme heat is likely to make that the same again this week.
There are seven matches on the card in Sydney overnight and in the morning, whilst Hobart’s International level tournament has three singles matches scheduled for tonight.
Radwanska has, as is her wont, been struggling with a shoulder injury and played a lot of tennis lately. The Pole takes on Bethanie Mattek-Sands at around 1am UK time in a match she should win, but perhaps not as comfortably as a 1.18 shot should.
Lauren Davis 3.40 vs Sara Errani 1.30
This clash of two of the tour’s smaller players could represent a bit of value in backing Lauren Davis, who has started the season well and has a bit more on her ground strokes than she did last season.
Sara Errani, in contrast, has struggled so far to find any kind of rhythm and was beaten in Shenzen last week by Vania King after edging past Saisai Zheng in a final set tie break.
The Italian overcame her great friend Roberta Vinci in a pretty awful match first up in Sydney, and she’ll need to improve if she wants to avoid a hard day’s work here.
American Davis has won five of her six matches so far this season and was only beaten in the Auckland quarters by Jamie Hampton in a decider, so she’ll be confident of at least making a good match of this against the world number seven.
Also in action tonight are Petra Kvitova, Caroline Wozniacki and Angelique Kerber, and of the three of them I would expect Wozniacki to be made to work the hardest against the talented but erratic Lucie Safarova.
Wozniacki has been struggling with a shoulder injury and I would expect the attacking Safarova to try and pounce on any weak deliveries from the recently betrothed Dane. The overs looks likely in that encounter.
Kvitova plays her first competitive match of the year after three wins in the Hopman Cup, and she faces a fatigued opponent after Christina McHale ground out a win over Alize Cornet in almost three hours on Monday.
Kerber could have a tough day if Kanepi finds her range, as the Estonian showed when beating the German at Wimbledon last season, but if there’s plenty of wind I would fancy Kerber’s less erratic game to prevail.
Over in Hobart, Alison Riske generally plays well in the wind, but her record against lefties such as Casey Dellaqua isn’t great and her price looks a little short to me.
Back Davis +1.5 sets to beat Errani at 2.0