Top seed Petra Martic begins her campaign at the first WTA tournament since early March as she faces Belgium’s Alison…
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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