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WTA Eastbourne Nature Valley International 2019 draw preview and predictions: Eight of WTA’s top 10 pack Eastbourne draw

Hannah Wilks in WTA Tour 22 Jun 2019
  • Ashleigh Barty leads eight of WTA's top 10 at the Nature Valley International
  • We break down the WTA Eastbourne draw and predict the semifinalists
Ashleigh Barty leads the field at the 2019 Nature Valley International, live from Eastbourne from 23-29 June 2019 (PA Sport)

Eight of the world’s top 10 WTA Tour players lead the draw at the Nature Valley International – but who will claim the prestigious Eastbourne title?

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French Open champion Ashleigh Barty and former winner Karolina Pliskova lead a stellar draw at the WTA Premier tournament in Eastbourne this week, one of the most prestigious stops on the WTA circuit and a key warm-up tournament for Wimbledon.

With eight of the top 10 in the draw, the battles are going to be fierce from the first round but who will emerge victorious at Devonshire Park?

We break down the draw and predict the semifinalists.

Top quarter

Projected quarterfinal: Ashleigh Barty (1) vs Elina Svitolina (5) (0-5)
By the time Ashleigh Barty steps on to court at the Nature Valley International, that ‘1’ by her name could refer to more than her position in the Eastbourne draw. At the time of writing, Barty is two wins away from claiming the world no. 1 ranking after her sensational French Open victory – and playing with tremendous confidence and serenity.

Johanna Konta (PA Sports)
It would, of course, be asking a lot from Barty to go deep at consecutive tournaments with Wimbledon around the corner – but the top seed benefits from a first-round bye, and she would open against Evgeniya Rodina (a surprise fourth-rounder at Wimbledon last year) or dropshot-heavy Ons Jabeur, so it’s not a terrible draw.

Things could get tough in the third round however as she would face the winner of a packed mini-section: Johanna Konta, revived after her run to the French Open semifinals and a two-time Eastbourne semifinalist, who faces an extremely tough clash with Donna Vekic in the first round. Not only is Vekic an excellent grass-court player, on great form in 2019 and due a big result – she already made the Nottingham final on grass this summer – but she and Konta have played some epics on this surface. The winner could face Maria Sakkari, more at home on clay than grass but still a dangerous player.

Barty is 3-1 vs Konta but has a more problematic record against potential quarterfinal opponent Elina Svitolina, who has won all five of their previous meetings. However, Svitolina has problems of her own. The Ukrainian has been struggling with a knee injury for some time and has won just one match since Indian Wells (where she beat Barty); her grass-court record is also a fairly average 10-15. Svitolina doesn’t have the toughest draw, opening against Alize Cornet or Heather Watson, but Anastasija Sevastova could be a problem in the third round and, indeed, is a decent pick to make the quarterfinals. But the semifinalist in this quarter should come from the Konta-Vekic first-round clash.

Semifinalist: Konta

Second quarter

Projected quarterfinal: Angelique Kerber (4) vs Simona Halep (6) (4-6)
Simona Halep (PA Sports)
Another player to have gone deep in an event this week is Angelique Kerber, who at the time of writing has yet to play her semifinal at the Mallorca Open. The reigning Wimbledon champion has had an underwhelming season and her clay-court run was decimated by an ankle injury incurred in training for Madrid, but she looks to be healthy again judging by her results in Mallorca and if Kerber is healthy on grass, then watch out, because the German left-hander – runner-up in Eastbourne in 2010 and 2014 and a semifinalist last year – is very well-suited to do damage on this surface.

Kerber brings what is a current 68-15 win-loss record on grass for her career into Eastbourne, where she could open against Sofia Kenin – who is also in the semifinals in Mallorca, and took out Serena Williams at the French Open, but should have less success against a fellow counterpuncher like Kerber. Her third-round opponent would come from an intriguing mini-section which holds last year’s Wimbledon semifinalist Julia Goerges, currently struggling for form and fitness; Lesia Tsurenko, always tricky albeit not necessarily a player who flourishes on grass; Aliaksandra Sasnovich, who beat Petra Kvitova in the first round of Wimbledon last year; and rising Rebecca Peterson. 

For Simona Halep, playing her first grass-court tournament of 2019, things could get very complicated fast. Her second-round opponent will either be Su-Wei Hsieh, the maddening player from Chinese Taipei who beat her in the third round of Wimbledon last year, or Camila Giorgi, a brilliant grass-court player who hasn’t played a match since March (it would be surprising if Giorgi actually steps on court in Eastbourne). In the third round she could be up against Wang Qiang or, more likely, Barbora Strycova, the Czech veteran and very good grass-court player who’s made the semifinals in Birmingham this week. Hsieh should be a test but it’s a draw Halep can master.

Semifinalist: Halep

Third quarter

Projected quarterfinal: Aryna Sabalenka (8) vs Kiki Bertens (3) (0-3)
Kiki Bertens (PA Sport)
A year ago, this was where it all started for Aryna Sabalenka, with a brilliant run to the Eastbourne final which would boost her into an incredible hard-court stretch that saw her win New Haven and Wuhan and break into the top 10 earlier this year after claiming her third title in Shenzhen.

But it’s proving hard to keep that momentum going. Sabalenka has only won back-to-back matches twice in her last 11 events, and being hustled out of the French Open early by Amanda Anisimova in straight sets for the second Grand Slam in a row can’t have helped matters.

The powerful Belarusian went 0-2 in ‘s-Hertogenbosch and Birmingham – can she get her first win on grass for 2019 in Eastbourne? She starts against rising Tamara Zidansek or Carla Suarez Navarro (neither at their best on grass) but could face defending champion Caroline Wozniacki in a rematch of last year’s final in the third round. Wozniacki hasn’t been at her best in 2019 as she struggles with her health but has a tremendous 27-8 record in Eastbourne and with Belgian veteran Kirsten Flipkens, Daria Kasatkina and Andrea Petkovic among her potential opponents, she might have an excellent shot at the quarterfinals.

World no. 4 Kiki Bertens has already made one grass-court final for 2019 in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, and the Madrid winner proved herself a danger on grass before she did so on hard courts, making the Wimbledon quarterfinals in 2018. With illness, very unfortunately, taking her out of the French Open early, Bertens should be raring to go on grass and she’s got the draw to make some noise, opening against Yulia Putintseva or Danielle Collins with Anett Kontaveit the only potentially threatening third-round opponent. Bertens vs Wozniacki in the quarterfinals?

Semifinalist: Bertens

Fourth quarter

Projected quarterfinal: Sloane Stephens (7) vs Karolina Pliskova (2) (3-1)
Karolina Pliskova won Eastbourne in 2017 (PA Sports)
This could be one of the most interesting quarters of the draw in terms of players who could be dangerous dark horses at Wimbledon.

Returning to Eastbourne for the first time since making the semifinals in 2015, Stephens is 18-10 in 2019 and will be looking to improve on last year’s grass-court results, when she lost the only match she played. But her draw has done her few favours. Stephens will meet either 2018 Wimbledon semifinalist Jelena Ostapenko (also struggling for wins but always dangerous) or Mihaela Buzarnescu in the second round, with Belinda Bencic – on great form in 2019, an Eastbourne champion in 2015 and into the Mallorca semifinals at the time of writing – a potential third-round opponent; Ekaterina Alexandrova and Ajla Tomljanovic, Bencic’s possible second-round opponents, are no slouches either.

2017 Eastbourne champion Karolina Pliskova was extremely unhappy to encounter her twin sister Kristyna in Birmingham, and will be keen to forget that and get some pre-Wimbledon wins under her belt (Pliskova’s underwhelming Wimbledon record is one of tennis’s great mysteries). It could be tricky for the Czech, though: Compatriot Katerina Siniakova, who knocked Naomi Osaka out of the French Open, is one of two potential opening opponents, the other being Margarita Gasparyan, who beat Svitolina in Birmingham. Then in the third round she could face French Open finalist Marketa Vondrousova, a maddeningly good young player whose game should translate lethally well to grass, with Doha champion Elise Mertens also in this section. Still, you have to back Pliskova to prove her Birmingham defeat to Pliskova was just a blip and continue her consistent season.

Semifinalist: Pliskova

Halep d. Konta
Bertens d. Pliskova

Bertens d. Halep

WTA Nature Valley International tennis is live from Eastbourne from 23-29 June 2019

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WTA Eastbourne Nature Valley International 2019 draw preview and predictions: Eight of WTA’s top 10 pack Eastbourne draw

WTA Eastbourne Nature Valley International 2019 draw preview, predictions and tips: French Open champion Ashleigh Barty leads eight of the WTA Tour’s top 10 players but who will come through a packed draw at this key Wimbledon warm-up?

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