The WTA Tour makes the relatively short journey from Doha to Dubai in week eight for the Premier level Dubai Duty Free Championships.
Held at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium on a medium to quick Decoturf outdoor hard court, the Wilson balls used by the WTA event (the men’s next week will use Head) tend to fly at this venue, where wind can be a factor on occasion too.
Monday sees the qualifying event complete and the first round proper begin, with five opening round clashes on the card for today.
Kicking us off at 10am UK time is a chance for early doors punters to have a serious think about backing the in-form Lucie Safarova against the struggling Sloane Stephens. Lucie began as a 2.05 shot on opening, but has moved in to 1.74 and perhaps the value has gone a little there.
Carla Suarez Navarro 1.53 vs Nadia Petrova 2.46 - BET and STREAM live on Unibet TV from 11.05
This 11.05 UK time clash is a repeat of last year’s second round encounter here when Petrova thrashed CSN for the loss of just the single game – a feat that isn’t as rare at it should be against a top-20 player such as Carla.
The meeting prior to that, however, was won by the Spaniard 6-0, 6-3 on indoor hard, which kind of sums up the WTA quite nicely and it’s a fine example of the erratic nature of the two players opposing each other across the net today.
Petrova had a tough start to the year with the death of her mother in a car accident. She missed the Australian Open as a result and didn’t start training until mid-January.
Since then, she’s had a low-key comeback to the tour with a qualifying loss in Paris and an error-strewn defeat to Shuai Peng in Dubai last week in a match in which she produced 43 winners and 43 unforced errors as well as getting the trainer out for a back injury.
That aggressive approach could easily brush CSN aside if it’s a day where she finds the lines, but with so few matches under her belt she may find with the balls flying off the racquet that she racks up too many errors.
Suarez Navarro withdrew from Doha last week after a delayed end to her Fed Cup stint citing an elbow injury, which adds another dimension to an already tricky match to call.
The unders really appeals in this one, as Carla tends to lose heavily when she does get beaten and Petrova could also go down in a sea of errors if she’s not on song.
The market has moved significantly in CSN’s favour here, with the Spaniard in to 1.50 from an opening show of narrow favouritism and I prefer the 1.75 about under 21.5 games here.
Venus Williams 1.36 vs Elena Vesnina 3.05 - BET and STREAM live on Unibet TV from 15.05
At around 3pm Venus Williams takes a 0-2 head-to-head record into her match with Vesnina and when considering her health problems too she looks a sketchy 1.36 shot to me.
The Russian has had her injury problems too this year, but she comes here well rested after three weeks off and surely the market has overestimated Williams again. The 1.70 about Vesnina +1.5 sets looks appealing here.
The final first round match of the day looks a total toss-up, with the hit and miss Romanian Sorana Cirstea facing the out of form Italian Roberta Vinci and that looks one for the brave or those with much more faith in either of those two than I have at the moment.
Back under 21.5 games in Suarez-Navarro/Petrova at 1.75
Back Vesnina +1.5 sets to beat Williams at 1.70