Tennis is finally back! After an unprecedented interruption lasting almost five months due to the worldwide pandemic, the competitive sport returns this week when the WTA tour hits Palermo.
Trends and Conditions
In a year ravaged by disease, uncertainty, and lack of income, it’s a relief for the players that they can now compete once more. Due to WTA Palermo being the first tournament when the tour resumes, it sees a much stronger field than usual. Even after a multitude of withdrawals due to pandemic concerns, like from world no. 2 Simona Halep, the field sees three top 20-players and seven top 30-players partake. The same cannot be said for the prize pool, however, which will be reduced by 35% compared to 2019. It now totals €163,103 with €20,161 befalling the winner, along with the customary 280 points for a WTA International event. However, due to careful redistribution, the Round 1 prize money is actually up 9% which is a welcome change during these trying times.
Played on medium-slow outdoor clay courts, and with temperatures ranging from 81-94 Fahrenheit over the week, it’s set to be a physically demanding first tournament for the players. In these conditions, it’ll likely be quite evident who’s put in the work during lockdown – and who hasn’t. Fans will also be welcomed back to the stands, although in a limited capacity. Last year’s champion was Jill Belen Teichmann, upsetting the Tennis odds and the no. 1 seed Kiki Bertens, but we’ll see a new champion this year as the Swiss isn’t competing.
Now, without any further ado, let’s break down the draw!
Projected quarterfinals if the seeds hold:
- Petra Martic(1) vs. Elise Mertens(5)
- Anett Kontaveit(4) vs. Donna Vekic(6)
Other notable players in this half:
- Daria Kasatkina
- Patricia Maria Tig
- Laura Siegemund
Spearheading the draw as the no. 1 seed is Petra Martic(+600), who comes off a career-best 2019 in which she broke into the top 20 and made her first Major quarterfinal. Martic isn’t too fussed with results, however, simply relishing the return of the sport:
[…]”So I’m just going to try to enjoy myself. To be back on the court right now is really just a privilege without thinking about any results or any goals or focused on numbers or anything else.”
The Croatian’s path to the quarterfinal looks quite manageable, with Alison van Uytvanck and Kirsten Flipkens unlikely to trouble the clay court magician. A potential quarterfinal meeting with Elise Mertens awaits, who at times exhibited fantastic form before lockdown. The Belgian shouldn’t be too troubled by a Qualifier/Lucky loser or home hope Jasmine Paolini/Darya Kasatkina, the latter still searching for her best tennis.
In the lower section of the top half, Anett Kontaveit(+1200) is the high seed. The mercurial Estonian is a big ball striker off both wings and solid overall but seems to perform better on faster surfaces in recent times. Clay court specialist Patricia Maria Tig, who made the WTA Budapest final last year, could give her trouble if not careful. Should the fourth seed prevail, another tricky test in Laura Siegemund(+6400) could well be on the cards. With two WTA titles on the dirt, along with a 66% win rate over 611 career matches, the German has kept herself quite busy during the lockdown. Though the opposition hasn’t been spectacular, 13 matches in the German Pro Series will have Laura quite ready for action and could cause an upset in this section.
Donna Vekic(+1600) was struggling for form pre lockdown, and the world no. 24 certainly prefers hard court tennis over the red dirt we ́ll see here. She’s been hard at work on clay during the lockdown, however, which should bring about better results. Seeded sixth, the competition in Arantxa Rus and Polona Hercog/Elisabetta Cocciaretto doesn’t look to be strong enough for an upset to take place, however.
In the first quarterfinal, top seed Petra Martic should prove too strong on most her beloved surface, while Laura Siegemund could well take advantage of potentially vulnerable big seeds and make a semifinal run.
Predicted semifinalists: Petra Martic(1), Laura Siegemund
Projected quarterfinals if the seeds hold:
- Ekaterina Alexandrova(8) vs. Maria Sakkari(3)
- Dayana Yastremska(7) vs. Marketa Vondrousova(2)
Other notable players in the quarter:
- Kristina Mladenovic
- Fiona Ferro
- Tamara Zidansek
In the top section of the bottom half, eighth seed Ekaterina Alexandrova(+2000) could well be in for an early exit. While winning WTA Shenzhen earlier this year and proving lethal on faster surfaces, clay doesn’t suit her big hitting game as well. Kristina Mladenovic is certainly no slouch and possesses similar weapons of her own, while more comfortable on the red dirt. The Frenchwoman could be in for a tough test in the second round however, as the feisty Fiona Ferro(+2900) should await. While only exhibition matches, two consecutive victories over her countrywoman will only boost Fiona ́s confidence, and last year ́s quarterfinalist has every chance to make that stage once more.
After a maiden title in Rabat, along with an impressive semifinal run in Rome last season, Maria Sakkari(+800) certainly has the credentials to lift the title this week in this field. With elite movement making a sturdy defensive wall, and a solid forehand to finish points, the world no. 20 should have little trouble dispatching the big serving Kristyna Pliskova. Wild card and former top 5 player Sara Errani or Sorana Cirstea look manageable enough, which should see Sakkari through to the quarterfinals.
Rising Ukranian star Dayana Yastremska(+700) has made plenty of headlines during lockdown, and not always for the right reasons. Involved in a controversial post following the Black Lives Matter protests, the 20-year old has also released her first songs “Thousand of Me” and “Favorite track”. It certainly doesn’t seem like tennis has been at the forefront of her mind as of late, and clay court specialist Sara Sorribes Tormo looks primed to punish that instantly. The dangerous Tamara Zidansek(+5000) looks to be the opponent, and the latter has a great opportunity to make a deep run here.
It wasn’t long ago that Marketa Vondrousova(+600) made massive headlines as she tore through the Roland Garros field to make the final, before the would-be world no. 1 Ashleigh Barty took the title. An unfortunate wrist injury cut the Czech’s 2019 season short, and though initial signs this season were good, Marketa lost four of five clay court matches against top 50 opposition during lockdown. The pathway to a quarterfinal looks kind, however, with a qualifier/lucky loser first up, likely followed by Rebecca Peterson, who struggled with illness and injury pre lockdown.
In the first quarterfinal, it looks to be a competitive matchup, and I think the outsider in Ferro has a great chance to make it one step further. If Vondrousova is on her game, I would expect the Czech to progress without too much trouble, but there is certainly a chance for an upset if not.
Predicted semifinalists: Fiona Ferro, Marketa Vondrousova(2)
With so many unknowns with tennis finally returning, this certainly looks a week to tread with extra caution. A player testing positive for COVID-19 during the tournament will be ruled out, only adding to that. However, four selections do appeal with smaller stakes. Petra Martic is the best player in this field, and playing with freedom makes her the woman to beat. At +600, she is my first selection. Laura Siegemund looks a massive price considering her clay court pedigree and the way her draw could open up, and at +6400 I’m in. Fiona Ferro played well here last season and has impressed during lockdown. Positioned in the weaker bottom half, +2900 is a great price. Lastly, Tamara Zidansek could take advantage of that same weaker bottom half, and is a play at +5000.
- Petra Martic to win WTA Palermo (+600) [0.25u]
- Laura Siegemund to win WTA Palermo (+6400) [0.25u]
- Fiona Ferro to win WTA Palermo (+2900) [0.25u]
- Tamara Zidansek to win WTA Palermo (+5000) [0.25u]
Don’t forget to check your online sportsbooks to find the best available odds.
As per usual, there were so many things to go into, but too little time (and space). If you have any questions regarding my selections for our Tennis Picks, or anything tennis related, feel free to hit me up. Thank you for being with me this far, and until next time, arrivederci!