Martic vs van Uytvanck WTA Palermo tennis live streaming, preview and predictions
Top seed Petra Martic begins her campaign at the first WTA tournament since early March as she faces Belgium’s Alison van Uytvanck in Palermo on Tuesday.
Martic vs van Uytvanck is live from Palermo on Tuesday 4 August at 5.30pm local/4.30pm BST
Twenty-one weeks after the WTA Tour was suspended due to the global health crisis, the highest level of women’s tennis is back, and the first tournament of its restart is the Palermo Ladies Open.
World no. 15 Petra Martic leads the field at the International-level tournament but faces a tricky opponent in her first match since Doha in late February, in the form of Belgium’s Alison van Uytvanck. A former French Open quarterfinalist, van Uytvanck is proficient on clay but is looking for just the third win of her career over a top-20 opponent.
Read on for our preview, predictions and live streaming information.
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Martic and van Uytvanck have played just once, at the Australian Open on hard courts in January 2018. Martic won 7-6(5), 6-3
Nobody really knows what exactly to expect as the WTA returns to action – players are understandably rusty after a five-month lay-off, possibly the longest of their careers if they have been lucky enough to avoid serious injury.
Martic hasn’t been lucky, with significant time in the 29-year-old’s career lost to back, foot and wrist injuries over the years. The Croatian has had the best results of her career in the past couple of seasons after hooking up with Sandra Zaniewska: Ranked as low as world no. 659 when she returned from injury in April 2017, Martic won the WTA 125k in Chicago in 2018, reached her first WTA Tour final for six years in Bucharest the same year and went on to have a career-best 35-17 season in 2019.
That banner year included a first Grand Slam quarterfinal at the French Open, where she ousted Karolina Pliskova; a first WTA Tour title on clay in Istanbul, defeating Marketa Vondrousova in the final; a first WTA Premier final made in Zhengzhou; semifinals in Charleston and Birmingham and last-16 finishes at Wimbledon and the US Open.
A slow start to 2020 saw Martic fail to win back-to-back matches in her first three events, but she was just beginning to find momentum with a run to the semifinals in Dubai and she has said all the right things as the top seed in Palermo, suggesting that a player who is often torturously stressed on court is genuinely just happy to be back.
Like Martic, van Uytvanck is a former French Open quarterfinalist, but her last eight appearance came back in 2015 and was helped by a distinctly soft draw. That’s not to say van Uytvanck isn’t an excellent player. The Belgian has four career WTA Tour titles to her name – all on hard courts at International level – and is possibly best known for upsetting defending champion Garbine Muguruza in the second round of Wimbledon in 2018 with an exemplary display of attacking tennis.
Lacking consistency, van Uytvanck has been up and down in the rankings since she first broke into the top 100 back in 2014. Currently ranked world no. 57, she too had just begun to find momentum before the WTA Tour was shut down in March, having made the semifinals in Lyon where she lost an absolute thriller to newly-minted Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin in three tie-break sets.
Van Uytvanck lost her only previously meeting with Martic in two reasonably tight sets, and has an unimpressive 2-29 record against top-20 players, losing her last 13 matches. Martic’s compact game is a good fit for the sometimes tricky and windy conditions in Palermo while van Uytvanck tends to be too erratic, but after a lengthy lay-off like both have endured, a match that goes to three sets should be expected.
Prediction: Martic d. van Uytvanck, 2-1
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The first ATP or WTA Tour event since early March, the Palermo Ladies Open has a stellar lineup of players led by world no. 2 Simona Halep.
The Palermo Ladies Open is set to be the first elite international tournament since the ATP and WTA Tours were suspended in early March.
World no. 2 Simona Halep leads five of the top 20 currently slated to play, including world no. 14 Johanna Konta and 2019 French Open runner-up Marketa Vondrousova. For a WTA International-level event, which was won last year by then-world no. 82 Jil Teichmann, the field is very strong – the lowest-ranked player with direct entry into the main draw is world no. 69 Kristyna Pliskova.
Tournament director Oliviero Palma told the AP in a phone interview:
‘The entry list is incredible. It’s practically like a Premier.’
The prize money for the Palermo Ladies Open has been reduced from $250,000 to $225,500, but it has not reduced interest from top players in competing.
‘A top-10 player could care less about the prize money here. They’re coming just because they want to play and return to their normal lives.’
The field could get even stronger for the Palermo Open when it begins on 3 August – world no. 3 Karolina Pliskova has requested a wildcard into the tournament, but only if the US Open is cancelled.
The US Open is supposed to be played behind closed doors in New York from 31 August-13 September, but doubts persist about whether or not it will take place, especially after the cancellation of the ATP 500 Citi Open which was supposed to take place two weeks earlier in Washington, D.C. Not only is the USA the nation in the world worst hit by COVID-19, but players could be forced to quarantine on their return to Europe from the USA, which would jeopardise their ability to compete in three big clay-court events set to take place within a four-week span beginning on the day of the US Open men’s final: The Madrid Open, the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome and the French Open in Paris.
Even if the US Open does take place, it seems likely that some players, especially those based in Europe, will choose to stay in Europe and prioritize clay-court tournaments over what would now be a three-week American swing of events played behind closed doors.
‘These tournaments are going to become more like regional events in these conditions. There’s going to be an American circuit and a European circuit.’
The Palermo Ladies Open plans to permit 280 spectators in for each session. Players will be required to abide by several rules aimed at ensuring safety: Handling their own towels instead of the ballkids fetching them; no handshakes at the end of matches and no showers for players at the venue.
Players and their teams will be administered nasal swabs to test for COVID-19 before they leave for Palermo, when they arrive and then every four days thereafter.
All eyes will be on the Palermo Open as it is the first tournament since March, especially because there have been a few high-profile exhibition events which have not gone well. The Adria Tour, organized by Novak Djokovic in the Balkans, was cancelled after a slew of players tested positive for COVID-19. The first tournament in the USA to allow spectators promptly had a player, Frances Tiafoe, test positive, while the World Team Tennis (WTT) exhibition league dismissed WTA player Danielle Collins for breaching health and safety protocols this week; Collins said she was not made aware of the rules she was dismissed for breaking.
Each tournament which takes place will be a test case for the ones that follow, as Palma is well aware:
‘It’s certainly a big honor for us but also a matter of great responsibility. We’re the first in the world and we need to experiment all of the new rules.’
The news that all 11 ATP and WTA Tour events scheduled to be played in China in 2020 have been cancelled means that playing opportunities are looking more and more scarce, especially for the WTA, which further adds to the pressure on the Palermo Open.
Simona Halep and Johanna Konta lead a very strong field for the Palermo Ladies Open, the WTA’s first tennis tournament since the tour was suspended.
WTA Tour tennis officially returns on 3 August 2020, four and a half months after all professional tennis was suspended.
And judging by the entry list for the Palermo Ladies Open, the players are itching to get back on to the court after a lengthy spell of inaction.
The 31st Palermo Ladies Open, as an International-level event played on clay in the post-Wimbledon lull, would normally struggle to attract a particularly star-studded field. The top seed in 2019 was world no. 5 Kiki Bertens, but the second seed was world no. 53 Alize Cornet and the eventual champion, Switzerland’s Jil Teichmann, was ranked world no. 82 at the time.
But in 2020, the tournament takes on a new significance as the first WTA Tour event to be played since tournaments in Monterrey and Lyon finished on 8 March.
World no. 2 Simona Halep, the reigning Wimbledon champion and winner of the French Open in 2018, heads the entry list.
Halep is joined by four more top-20 players, all of whom had good results on clay in 2019: Johanna Konta, who reached the final of two clay-court tournaments in 2019 as well as the semifinals of the French Open; Marketa Vondrousova, who finished runner-up to Ashleigh Barty at Roland Garros in 2019; Rabat champion Maria Sakkari; and Petra Martic, who won Istanbul on clay in 2019 and reached the quarterfinals of the French Open.
There are two more French Open champions in the field as well: Svetlana Kuznetsova (2009) and Jelena Ostapenko (2017).
Other notable entrants include former top-10 players Kristina Mladenovic and Daria Kasatkina, and two other players who reached Grand Slam quarterfinals recently, Anett Kontaveit and Donna Vekic. The lowest-ranked player with direct entry at the time of writing is world no. 69 Kristyna Pliskova.
The Palermo Open has granted one wildcard to the hard-hitting Italian player Camila Giorgi, but said it is hoping to attract another top-10 player, with world no. 8 Belinda Bencic a possibility.
The eagerness of players to get back to competing and doing their jobs is understandable, but is also a stark contrast to the ambivalence expressed by many about playing the US Open, which is scheduled to be played behind closed doors from 31 August-13 September.
Halep has said she is ‘worried’ while Angelique Kerber and Elina Svitolina have also expressed doubts about the prospect of travelling to the USA, which currently has over 3.4 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 and more than 138,000 deaths.
Even if players feel comfortable travelling to the USA, safety protocols mean that entourage numbers will be limited, which is something that top players are not used to.
Given that a four-week European clay-court season, jamming together the biggest events of May and June into the space of a month – Madrid, Rome and then the French Open – immediately follows the US Open, and would require players to make a brutally swift transition from clay to hard courts, it’s unsurprising many are tempted to sit out the US Open. The WTA’s revised rankings system also will not penalise players who do not compete at the US Open in 2020 as they can still count their 2019 result, although it’s obviously an opportunity to do better for some.
Whatever happens with the US Open, it’s clear that the Palermo Open will be fielding a very strong list of players when it begins on 3 August.