The big names of the WTA Tour are back in action this week as we head to Germany for the Premier level Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart.
This tournament is played on indoor clay at the Porsche Arena and conditions here tend to be on the fast side for a clay event, with several players commenting upon the speed and also slipperiness of the surface in recent years.
Maria Sharapova defeated Na Li in the final here a year ago and Sharapova is back to defend her title this time around, which is hardly surprising as a Porsche brand ambassador and the Russian is one of seven top-10 ranked stars in the field this week.
Aga Radwanska is top seed and the Pole, who was on Fed Cup duty until Sunday in Spain, is joined by Simona Halep, Petra Kvitova, Angelique Kerber, Jelena Jankovic and Domi Cibulkova.
Indeed, Sharapova, Cibulkova and Jankovic are the only two of the top-10 stars in attendance this week that didn’t play Fed Cup over the weekend and there is likely to be some form of hangover from the others one would expect.
Although Cibulkova didn’t play Fed Cup she did make the final in the International level event in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday, so she too will be fatigued presumably.
Monday’s schedule, as a consequence, is very light with only one match in the main draw and a handful of qualies scheduled for today.
Caroline Wozniacki 1.35 vs Kaia Kanepi 3.10
This 19.00 UK time match will be the seventh career meeting between this pair, with the Dane currently ahead 4-2, but this could be tricky for her.
The layers may well have been swayed by the thrashing that Woz dished out to Kaia in their last meeting, which was on hard courts in Seoul around 18 months ago, but that match has little bearing on today’s encounter.
Of their six prior clashes only one was on clay and that was at the French Open of 2012 when Kanepi won in three sets and only on that one occasion in Seoul has Wozniacki beaten the Estonian comfortably.
Kanepi has had a rough time of it on tour lately, with a viral illness and food poisoning hampering her progress and certainly having a bearing on recent results, which haven’t been the best.
She has a decent shot of an upset today though or at least of making this close, with both players likely to take a little time to get used to the unusual conditions here on the indoor clay.
Caro had a poor campaign on the red dirt last season, losing six of eight matches on the clay and being beaten as a 1.28 favourite or shorter five times in that spell it’s hard to have much confidence in her today in her first clay match for a year.
Two of those losses were to the big-hitting Bojana Jovanovski and Kanepi will come at her in a similar vein today, with the Estonian enjoying going for her shots and trying to push Caro around on this quick surface.
It will be interesting to see if Woz employs her new, more aggressive approach on the clay and there is certainly enough doubt about her in today’s circumstances to make the 1.35 about her very short.
The 1.80 about Kanepi winning a set or the 3.10 about her winning the match both appeal today.
Back Kanepi +1.5 sets to beat Wozniacki at 1.80