Top ten stars, Belinda Bencic and Kiki Bertens lead the field at the St. Petersburg Ladies Trophy, with former champion, Petra Kvitova also joining a quality field at the indoor event. The St. Petersburg Ladies Trophy is live from 10-16 February.
Following last week’s Fed Cup action, the WTA Tour resumes this week, with a number of big names featuring at the St. Petersburg Ladies Trophy in Russia.
The draw boasts two top-ten players- Belinda Bencic and defending champion, Kiki Bertens- and three other former winners, Petra Kvitova, Jelena Ostapenko and Kristina Mladenovic. Who will go away with the 2020 title?
We preview the St. Petersburg draw.
Projected Quarter Final: Belinda Bencic (1) vs Maria Sakkari (6) [H2H: Sakkari leads 1-0]
Belinda Bencic has fond memories of St. Petersburg- she was a finalist in 2016, a run that heralded her first ascent to the top ten. A lot has happened since then, with the Swiss tumbling down the rankings following a series of injury problems, but she has been back on the up in the last couple of years, and returned to the top-ten in 2019. Bencic has not quite hit the heights of last season, when she claimed titles in Dubai and Mallorca, reached a maiden Grand Slam semi-final at the US Open, and made a debut appearance at the season-ending WTA Finals, but she has made a steady start to the year, reaching the quarter finals in Shenzhen and the third round at the Australian Open.
She is coming off a mixed Fed Cup week, during which she scored a convincing victory over Daniela Dabrowski, but suffered a surprise defeat to young gun, Leylah Annie Fernandes. Thankfully for her and Switzerland, the Swiss were able to finish off Canada and qualify for the inaugural Finals in Budapest in April.
Bencic gets a bye into the second round in St. Petersburg, where she opens against either Svetlana Kuznetsova or Jennifer Brady. Should she scale that hurled, she is projected to meet Maria Sakkari in the quarter finals. Sakkari should be too good for Vitalia Diatchenko in the first round, but she could have her hands full against former French Open champion, Jelena Ostapenko or Alize Cornet in the second round. Ostapenko arrives St. Petersburg on the back of a very good week in the Fed Cup. Latvia fell just short to the USA, but Ostapenko was in fine form, pushing Serena Williams hard in a 7-6 7-6 loss, before taking down Australian Open champion, Sofia Kenin in three sets. If she can reproduce that sort of form, the former St. Petersburg champion could well be set for another deep run.
Predicted quarter final: Belinda Bencic vs Jelena Ostapenko
Semi-Finalist: Belinda Bencic (11/2 @ Coral to win the tournament)
Projected Quarter Final: Johanna Konta (4) vs Elena Rybakina (8) [H2H: No previous meeting]
Fourth seed, Johanna Konta arrives St. Petersburg still seeking her first win of the season, having suffered opening round losses in Brisbane and the Australian. The British wildcard has a bye into the second round, where she opens against French qualifier, Oceane Dodin or Slovak, Viktoria Kuzmova. It’s a great chance for Konta to get off the mark in 2020, as Dodin and Kuzmova have only managed one WTA main draw win between them this season.
On the opposite end of that spectrum is Kazakhstan’s Elena Rybakina, who spearheads the other end of this quarter. Rybakina has made a flying start to the season, winning the Hobart title, making the final in Shenzhen, and reaching the third round of the Australian Open, where she was beaten by world No. 1, Ashleigh Barty.
The 20-year-old Rybakina starts her tournament against Katerina Siniakova, a tough start considering that Siniakova has been as high as No. 31 in the world. However, the Czech is 0-2 in 2020 and has lost her last five WTA matches. If Rybakina gets past Siniakova, she will take on either former world No. 4, Caroline Garcia, or crafty Latvian, Anastasija Sevastova.
Garcia is 2-3 on the tour this year, while Sevastova is 0-3, but the latter did pull off a huge Fed Cup win over Serena Williams last week, and should be in confident mood heading into St. Petersburg.
Still, you’ve got to back the woman in form, Rybakina to come through this quarter.
Predicted Quarter Final: Johanna Konta vs Elena Rybakina
Semi-finalist: Elena Rybakina (25/1 @ bet365 to win the tournament)
Predicted Quarter Final: Petra Kvitova (3) vs Donna Vekic (7) [Kvitova leads 2-1]
Petra Kvitova has been in good form in 2019, opening with a semi-final run in Brisbane and reaching the quarter finals at the Australian Open, and the Czech left-hander enters St. Petersburg as one of the favourites for the title. Always dangerous on these indoor hard courts, Kvitova was champion in St. Petersburg in 2018, while she made the quarter finals last season.
The two-time Grand Slam champion has a bye into the second round, and could open her tournament against Kristina Mladenovic in a repeat of the 2018 final. Mladenovic must first get past Alison Van Uytvanck in the first round if that rematch is to happen.
On the other side of this quarter is Donna Vekic, beaten finalist in 2019. Vekic has been steady this year- she lost to Yulia Putintseva in her opening match of the season in Brisbane, but she has since made the quarter finals in Adelaide and the third round of the Australian Open. Vekic faces qualifier, Kristie Ahn in the first round in St. Petersburg, while one of Daria Kasatkina or Ekaterina Alexandrova will be waiting in the second round- if she makes it past Ahn.
Alexandrova has caught the eye this season, winning the Shenzhen title and reaching the third round of the Australian Open. She also played a pivotal role in Russia’s Fed Cup win last week, winning both of her singles matches as the Russians edged out Romania to reach the Fed Cup finals. The 20-year-old made the quarter finals in St. Petersburg last season, and could be set for another strong week on home soil.
Predicted Quarter Final: Petra Kvitova vs Ekaterina Alexandrova
Semi-Finalist: Petra Kvitova (10/3 @Ladbrokes to win the tournament)
Projected Quarter Final: Kiki Bertens (2) vs Marketa Vondrousova (5)[Vondrousova leads 1-0]
Defending champion, Kiki Bertens has a bye into the second round, where she opens against either Veronika Kudermetova or Yulia Putintseva. Bertens produced a strong week in St. Petersburg last year, dropping just one set en route claiming the title. She also overcame some very tough opposition, beating Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Aryna Sabalenka and Vekic.
The Dutchwoman spent all of last season inside the top-ten, peaking at No. 4 in May after winning her maiden Premier Mandatory title in Madrid. She has made a solid start to 2020, opening with a quarter final in Brisbane, and reaching the fourth round of the Australian Open. Bertens also recorded two wins for Netherlands in the Fed Cup last week, beating Sabalenka and Aliaksandra Sasnovich, but it was not enough as the Dutch fell to Belarus, and will therefore not be present in April’s Finals in Budapest.
If Bertens gets through a tricky St. Petersburg opener against Putintseva or Kudermetova, she is projected to meet last year’s French Open finalist, Marketa Vondrousova in the quarter finals. After missing the second half of last season through injury, Vondrousova is still working her way back to top form. The left-hander was a quarter finalist in Adelaide (lost to Ashleigh Barty), but lost a tight one to Kuznetsova in the first round of the Australian Open. Vondrousova starts her St. Petersburg bid against Australia’s Ajla Tomljanovic, with the winner moving on to face one of two qualifiers, Anastasia Potapova or Liudmila Samsonova in the second round.
Predicted Quarter Final: Kiki Bertens vs Ajla Tomljanovic
Semi-Finalist: Kiki Bertens (13/2 @ bet365 to win the tournament)
Belinda Bencic vs Elena Rybakina
Petra Kvitova vs Kiki Bertens
Elena Rybakina vs Petra Kvitova