After an exciting day of great grass court tennis here in Birmingham, we will finally see the last of the second round matches decided. The reigning French Open champion Ashleigh Barty will take to the court, as will World No.1 Naomi Osaka, who is looking to defend top ranking spot this week.
WTA Birmingham Day 4 Predictions
Jennifer Brady vs Ashleigh Barty
Head to head: Barty leads 1-0
Ashleigh Barty was impressive in her first match on the grass as she attempts to make a smooth transition onto a brand new surface for the season. She was steady on the backhand side, varying her play with the devilish slice whenever she could and she looked the far more controlled in both the short and the longer rallies.
Jennifer Brady possesses a few similarities to the Barty game as she does have a good backhand slice of her own, and her game can work well in these parts of the world. The slice is effective, but she is a player that plays purposefully with great aggression on the forehand side. She’ll need to serve well and be ultra-aggressive in this matchup against Barty. I just don’t see her winning the encounter if it turns into a chess match. Barty is far more composed and will see things out if it turns into that sort of encounter.
Prediction: Barty in 2
Julia Goerges vs Evgeniya Rodina
Head to head: Level at 2-2
In the third match of the day in Birmingham, Germany’s Julia Goerges takes to the grass to try to tackle the tricky Evgeniya Rodina. Rodina got a good win in the previous round against Kristina Mladenovic, which is always an impressive scalp on a quicker court, but I think she may come undone in this head-to-head.
Rodina’s had some success in this matchup over the years, but the two wins have crucially come on the surfaces that are on the slower side – both in Linz in 2011 and in Indian Wells in 2009. On a slower surface it allows her to defend that little bit better and turn points around in her favour. The last meeting was actually in Beijing in 2016, where Goerges came out the victor, and Beijing’s court is one of the fastest on tour. If Goerges can get a high percentage of strong forehands early in the rally then I can see this being a quick afternoon for Rodina, in truth.
Prediction: Goerges in 2
Venus Williams vs Qiang Wang
Head to head: Venus Williams leads 2-1
Venus Williams got off to a very good start in her first appearance in Birmingham, easily defeating a rushed Belorussian Aliaksandra Sasnovich. The size of the task in the second round is much greater, though, as she faces World No.15 Qiang Wang.
Wang struggled quite a lot in the early stages of her career in really believing in her game and trusting herself as a top player, but she’s grown to feel a lot more comfortable on tour and deserves her position in the Top-20 in the world. She has a strong backhand that is technically perfect, but overall gets by with her solid ball-striking from the back of the court. Her baseline consistency is something that can test the American’s patience and her own consistency. Wang took a big win over the American at the French Open last year, but in quicker conditions and on Williams’ favourite surface, everything points to a straightforward win for the American.
Prediction: Williams in 2
Naomi Osaka vs Yulia Putintseva
Head to head: Putintseva leads 1-0
Naomi Osaka will be playing just her 12th tour-level main draw match on the grass, and comes up against a familiar foe in the next round in the volatile Yulia Putintseva. Osaka had her difficulties in navigating her way through the Greek Maria Sakkari in her Birmingham opener, but again showed those champion qualities needed to keep her presence alive in the draw. Putintseva’s first match was comfortable enough against a rather erratic British wildcard Harriet Dart. The Kazakh will be striving to really make things troublesome for a much more powerful opponent on the day.
The diminutive Putintseva doesn’t quite have the baseline power and the ability to penetrate through the court at a great rate, but she makes her opponents work for their wins and beat themselves at times. She did beat Osaka in Hobart at the beginning of 2018. Unfortunately for her, it is tough to execute her sort of counter-punching game-style on these grass courts, and Osaka zoning from the back of the court is always a huge danger for her. On top of that, Osaka is a much different player than she was at the beginning of that season. She not only feels comfortable in her new role at the top of the game, but she’s slowly getting things right on the grass now. The power should just be too much for Putintseva.
Prediction: Osaka in 2
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