The WTA Tour resumes in Thailand and France in week five of the 2014 season, with one Premier and one International tournament scheduled for this week.
France’s Premier level event is the 22nd Open GDF Suez, which has a prize fund of $710,000 and features the likes of Maria Sharapova, Petra Kvitova, Sara Errani and Angelique Kerber.
It’s played on a reasonably lively indoor Greenset hard court at the Stade Pierre de Coubertin, which is another of those surfaces laid on top of wood, leading to a low, skiddy bounce.
Over in Thailand, the PTT Pattaya Open has a $250,000 prize fund and its big draws this week are Sabine Lisicki, Garbine Muguruza, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Sorana Cirstea and Ekaterina Makarova.
Played outdoors on the coast in Pattaya it’s a tough test in hot and humid conditions and it can play on the quick side, but the tournament has relaid the courts this year.
Bethanie-Mattek Sands 1.35 vs Karolina Pliskova 3.10 – BET and STREAM live on Unibet TV from 11.05
Around a year ago this pair met on a hard court in similar, hot, humid conditions in Malaysia to those they will encounter again in Pattaya this time around.
Pliskova won that day in the final of the Malaysian Open to land her first and so far only tour level title, and as a proven performer in these conditions she seems a bit big at 3.10 to beat the same opponent here.
Both players have had injury problems already this season, with Mattek-Sands limping out of Sydney before a first round loss in Melbourne to Sharapova, while Pliskova has been struggling too and endured a long battle in the heat in Melbourne with Dani Hantuchova, losing 12-10 in the decider.
So, to me BMS looks rather short at 1.35 in a match that will involve plenty of aggressive hitting and I would imagine numerous peaks and troughs from both players as their levels vary.
Both of their previous meetings have been close, and in pacy conditions Karolina can use her height and big serve to her full advantage and make this a closer match than prices suggest.
The 3.10 about the underdog winning or the overs at 1.88 and Pliskova +1.5 sets on the handicap at 1.75 all hold some appeal – more so than the 1.35 about the American.
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 1.32 vs Francesca Schiavone 3.30
This match in Paris at around 15.05 UK time will be the seventh career meeting of a series that’s currently tied at 3-3 between the 22-year-old Russian and the veteran Italian.
A-Pavs has won the last two, but she rarely finds things easy against the wily Schiavone, and their most recent encounter in Seoul at the end of last season resulted in a 7-6, 7-6 win for Nastia.
The 33-year-old former French Open champion finds things much tougher just down the road from where she won that title, with only one victory in three appearances at the Stade Pierre de Coubertin since 2004.
Indoors is far from ideal for Schiavone, and other than in Fed Cup she tends to avoid it. She hasn’t been past the second round in such conditions since winning Moscow back in 2009.
Nastia has improved her results indoors lately, with semi-final showings in Moscow and Sofia at the end of last season, but her record in this event is poor too, with two wins from five matches and a first round loss last year to Yanina Wickmayer.
The markets that appeal in this one are the over 9.5 games in set one at 2.33 and the Pavs 2-1 win at 3.50.
Four of their six meetings have featured a close and lengthy opener of over 9.5 games, including the last two, and while I expect Pavs to win in the end it’s tricky switching conditions like this from extreme heat on outdoor hard to indoors in the European winter, so it will probably take time to adjust.
Back over 21.5 games in Mattek-Sands/Pliskova at 1.88
Back over 9.5 games in set one of Pavlyuchenkova/Schiavone at 2.33