The spring clay court swing is over and done with for another year and the world’s best female tennis players head for the grass on week 24 of the WTA Tour.
The first event of the grass season is the Premier level AEGON Classic in Birmingham, UK, where the field has been rather badly affected by post-French Open withdrawals.
Jelena Jankovic, Genie Bouchard, Sabine Lisicki, and Garbine Muguruza are the highest profile of those missing in a tournament where the new number one seed is Ana Ivanovic.
Dani Hantuchova is back to defend the title she won last year by beating Donna Vekic in the final and conditions should be quite slick given the recent rain and the fact that the courts were overhauled at the Edgbaston Priory Club last year.
We signed off the French Open with a winner as Maria Sharapova defeated Simona Halep on Saturday and Monday’s play on the grass features 16 matches to evaluate.
Donna Vekic 2.12 vs Belinda Bencic 1.69 - BET and STREAM live on Unibet TV from 11.05
Last year’s finalist being priced up as underdog against a player who has played one match at this level on grass – and lost it – seems a rather strange choice by the layers, with Vekic a 2.12 shot to defeat future star Bencic.
The 17-year-old Swiss prospect has impressed this season with wins over the likes of Sara Errani, Nastia Pavlyuchenkova, and Camila Giorgi, but they all came on clay and she has never so much as played a main draw match on grass at tour level.
She lost her sole qualifying match in Rosmalen back in 2012 and her only other experience of grass came in two low grade ITF events in Japan at the end of last season, where she lost to world number 153 Eri Hozumi.
That’s not to say that she won’t be a great on this surface one day of course, but for now she’s unproven on grass to put it kindly, while Vekic is out to defend those final points from last year.
She seems to have been around a while, but Vekic is also just 17 (18 in a few weeks) and she came off a first round loss at the French to make the final here a year ago.
Who’s to say she can’t repeat that feat, with an obvious affinity to the surface, no doubt gained from spending plenty of time in London and being coached by David Felgate?
This may be a case of the wrong favourite and at odds-against Vekic looks a bit of value here.
Elsewhere, the others I’m tempted by today include Ajla Tomljanovic, who should be very confident after her French Open, but she faces Mona Barthel, who only seems to find the court when I back against her, so those not seemingly jinxed by the German might like the 1.71 about the Croat there.
I also quite like Yanina Wickmayer as underdog against another erratic big hitter in Bojana Jovanovski, but having been courtside for a truly woeful showing from the Belgian at Eastbourne last year on the grass I might pass.
That match was typical Wickmayer, having beaten former Wimbledon champ Petra Kvitova then Maria Kirilenko, Wicky won two games against Elena Vesnina in the semi-finals and could barely win a point.
She has a 3-0 career lead over Jovanovski though and might be worth chancing on a surface where Bojana has won just six matches in her career in main draws.
Camila Giorgi made the fourth round of Wimbledon as a qualifier to shoot to prominence last year and she faces Britain’s Katy Dunne, the 19-year-old from Hemel Hempstead, who’s beaten Alizé Lim and Timea Babos to reach this stage.
If the Italian is on one of her wilder days Katy could make that one interesting, but one would expect Giorgi to have too much class in the end.
Back Vekic to beat Bencic at 2.12