WTA St. Petersburg Tennis Picks, Predictions: Kvitova in for a Battle
Al Bello / Getty Images. Pictured: Petra Kvitova.
It’s been a fascinating start to the WTA 500 in St. Petersburg this week, and the action continues on Tuesday with more intriguing first round matches.
With some players looking to build on their Australian successes and others trying to turn their seasons around, the pressure will be high for all players battling it out in Russia.
Where are the opportunities to attack these matchups? Let’s dive in.
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Petra Kvitova (-175) vs Jule Niemeier (+136)
3:00 a.m. ET, WTA St. Petersburg
Petra Kvitova has certainly not had the start to the season that she was looking for. Kvitova went 1-3 in Australia and struggled to control her groundstrokes.
At the Australian Open, Kvitova went out meekly in the first round to Sorana Cirstea, losing 2-6, 2-6. Kvitova only won 41% of her second-serve points while Cirstea nicely won 69% of her service points.
While Kvitova is known for her huge lefty serve, she was broken four times while failing to break Cirstea's serve all match.
And this type of play was common for Kvitova throughout the Australian Swing, where she wasn’t effective on serve, on return, or at the baseline rallies.
Jule Niemeier did well to advance through qualifying in St. Petersburg. After falling one match short in Australian Open qualifying, Niemeier finished the job here.
The German's qualifying campaign included big wins over Anna Bondar and Natalia Vikhlyantseva, along with a come-from-behind victory over Erika Andreeva.
Niemeier is a solid ball striker and seems to be enjoying the indoor conditions in St. Petersburg. Her serve is working well, as she’s won at least 70% of her first-serve points in all three qualifying matches. On return, she managed to break serve 15 times in the seven sets that she played in qualifying.
This is a matchup between two players who really try to control the baseline and play first-strike tennis. The indoor conditions help both, although Kvitova has a higher ceiling.
While Kvitova should be able to serve through Niemeier at times and use her huge groundstrokes to take control of points, she should still give up plenty of unforced errors. This is evidenced by the 39 unforced errors that she hit against Cirstea in the Australian Open first round.
Niemeier is also used to the conditions, having successfully qualified. What I'm trying to say here is don't be fooled, the world number 118 can hang in there with Kvitova.
Therefore, while Kvitova is overall the more accomplished player, there isn’t too much to separate these players at the moment, and 21.5 games feels a bit too low.
Pick: Over 21.5 games (-125 via PointsBet)
Sorana Cirstea (+220) vs Marketa Vondrousova (-270)
5:00 a.m. ET, WTA St. Petersburg
Sorana Cirstea started out the new season strong in Australia. Cirstea made the round of 16 at the Australian Open before bowing out to Iga Swiatek in three sets.
However, Cirstea did pick up convincing victories over Petra Kvitova in the first round and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the third round. Not a single player, including Swiatek, won even 45% of her first serves against Cirstea’s incredible returning.
Cirstea did a great job of stepping up to the baseline and being the one dictating play, as opposed to allowing a player like Kvitova or Pavlyuchenkova from pushing her around. Until playing Swiatek, the Romanian also served well, winning over 60% of her service points in the three wins in Melbourne.
Marketa Vondrousova fell in the third round of the Australian Open to Aryna Sabalenka. The Czech struggled to handle Sabalenka’s power in the quick conditions in Melbourne, losing from a set up.
In that match, Vondrousova only won 53% of her service points and 34% of her return points. While she was broken just three times combined in her wins over Priscilla Hon and Liudmilla Samsonova, Sabalenka was able to break her serve five times in the one match alone.
Vondrousova’s lefty game is best on slower surfaces, where she’s able to effectively wind up on her heavy forehand and weave her web from the baseline.
The conditions in St. Petersburg don’t seem lightning quick, but they certainly aren’t slow and favor Cirstea over Vondrousova.
When I look at this matchup, given their respective forms and the conditions they’re playing in, 4.5 games seems like a lot to be giving an in-form Cirstea who can hold her own from the baseline.
Pick: Cirstea +4.5 games (-134 via FanDuel)