Second round matches begin on Day 3 at the Nature Valley Classic in Birmingham, and there are plenty of top names on the schedule. The match of the day, without question, is British No.1 Johanna Konta’s match against former French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko. Have a look at our predictions as we dissect the best matches of Day 3! (Also, not all of the Day 2 matches were completed due to rain, so we still have predictions for those, including Ashleigh Barty vs Donna Vekic.)
WTA Birmingham Day 3 Predictions
Margarita Gasparyan vs Petra Martic
Head to head : Martic leads 1-0
In a stylish clash between two resurgent comeback kids of the tour, Margarita Gasparyan will face Petra Martic for a place in the quarterfinal. Gasparyan earned her second Top 10 win of her career when she beat Elina Svitolina in the first round, and her aggressive brand of tennis is something that matches up impressively to these quicker conditions on the grass courts. Gasparyan is one of the rare players that uses a one-handed backhand in the women’s game, and that single shot that allows her to take over points with one stroke or two because of the effortless way she can change direction with it. The backhand down the line is a shot that earns her big wins, and it is something to look out for as she tries to take down the Martic forehand side regularly.
Martic has really been flying high this season. Gone are the days of her regular injury troubles, which have really dictated the vast majority of her career. She put together the best clay court run of her career, winning Istanbul, the first tour-level title of her career. She then did the unthinkable and made a Major quarterfinal for the first time. She’s clearly confident right now, and with 13 wins in her last 15, matches she looks to be the favourite to come out on top in this encounter.
Prediction: Martic in 3
Kristyna Pliskova vs Karolina Pliskova
Head to head: Karolina Pliskova leads 5-4
The last match of the day features the battle of the twin sisters, as the Czechs Kristyna and Karolina Pliskova meet for the first time in six years. The Pliskovas have often talked about the weird feeling of playing each other on the circuit, but this will be the first time ever that the pair meet in a tour-level main draw match.
Kristyna Pliskova has been playing some really good tennis this week. Coming through three qualifying rounds without dropping a single set, and she has mentioned how she enjoys playing on the faster surface. She also noted that the green grass in Birmingham is very different than the slower court in s-Hertogenbosch last week. The speed of this surface fits well with her game, it prevents her from being pushed into longer exchanges, which means her movement becomes less problematic and the points are quick-fire a lot of the time.
Karolina Pliskova was very good in her first match back on the grass, where she beat Mihaela Buzarnescu with not much trouble. She’s one of the top players that are still finding their game on the surface. She’s won titles and achieved big things here, but she still hasn’t found the winning formula at Wimbledon just yet. One thing that will be interesting is how both players react to the peculiar, unique situation of playing a huge match against a relative. I think it will be close, but Karolina Pliskova is in devastating serving form right now and should have the edge both in reliability and in experience.
Prediction: Karolina Pliskova in 2
Su-Wei Hsieh vs Barbora Strycova
Head to Head: Tied at 3-3
Two good friends collide in the second round, as occasional doubles partners Hsieh and Strycova fight to elongate their stay in Birmingham. Strycova knocked out the British hope Heather Watson in the first round and snapped a bit of a losing streak, but she looks far more at home now she’s playing on a grass court and this is a tournament she’s performed ever so well in over the years. Hsieh edged things in her first round against the slumping Aryna Sabalenka as she came through in a 3rd set tiebreak, but it will be a very different sort of match this time around.
This match will feature points being ended in a variety of different ways with unorthodox spins, crazy angles, a good use of the drop shot whenever possible, and unique ways to get the desired result without necessarily trying to overpower the opponent from the back of the court. The Czech always tends to save a good level for this event and does have the edge in forecourt prowess which might just see her through.
Prediction: Strycova in 3
Johanna Konta vs Jelena Ostapenko
Head to Head: Konta leads 2-1
Konta won a very good match in the first round against Anett Kontaveit. Konta recognised that that was a match that was totally in her hands, but she needed to find a way to be the aggressor and focus on getting the first strike in each rally. On the whole, she steadied herself well on serve in the important moments. Unfortunately for Konta, the matches don’t come any easier as she tries to take down a Grand Slam champion in Ostapenko.
The Latvian has been one of the worst performers on tour this year, though, only winning eight matches this season. There have been several matches in the last twelve months where she simply cannot find the court at all. Part of the reason for this is injury, but technically her downfall lies with the problems on serve. She’s served 128 double faults in the first half of this season (the fifth highest on tour so far), and if she had played even more matches you could argue she could be at the top of the list. She can go through games without even making her opponent make a play on return, so it will be crucial for Konta to make her present felt immediately from the first return.
This is another one of those matches where the person that plays more tentative and passive will often come up short in the exchanges, but Ostapenko has far more frailties to go alongside the power that Konta can really exploit from rally to rally.
Prediction: Konta in 2
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Disagree with our Day 3 predictions? Feel free to let us know your thoughts in the comments.