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Qualies Corner: Wimbledon 2016 (Part II, Women)

Tatjana Maria. Photo: Christopher Levy

Tatjana Maria. Photo: Christopher Levy

With the final day of Wimbledon qualifying upon us, TTI takes a look at the 24 women vying for a place in the main draw at the All-England Club. At the end of today’s play, only 12 will make it through — and Victoria Chiesa and René Denfeld make their picks. 

René Denfeld: Tatjana Maria (GER) [1] vs. Rebecca Peterson (SWE) [13]

Last year, Maria made the third round of a Grand Slam for the first time at Wimbledon, but this year has been a fairly different tale for her — a string, or rather months of first round losses at the beginning of the year saw the German’s ranking dip outside the Top 100 and instead of being directly into the main draw, the 28-year-old has go through the “potato fields” of Roehampton (credit to Timea Bacsinszky) first.

Nonetheless, Maria made her way through the first two matches with ease — and maybe after all the drama(lizé) of the French Open, there’s just a certain spring back in her step.

The woman standing between her and the main draw is Sweden’s Peterson, who just about scraped past Katie Boulter in the second round. The Brit was already up a set and 5-0 in the second, had match point and then it all fell to pieces — as Peterson ended up winning, 4-6, 7-6(3), 6-3.

Rebecca Peterson. Photo: Christopher Levy

Rebecca Peterson. Photo: Christopher Levy

There’s a chance the Swede gets a certain second wind after being so close to defeat, but overall, the German is the favorite in this match on this surface — and should prevail if she can execute her variable tennis.

René’s Pick: Maria in straight sets.

Victoria Chiesa: Amra Sadikovic (SUI) vs. Chang Kai-Chen (TPE)

No matter who wins this one, it’ll be a great story.

Amra Sadikovic. Photo: Christopher Levy

Amra Sadikovic. Photo: Christopher Levy

In one corner, you have the Swiss Sadikovic — a talented ball-striker with all the shots who retired well before her time only to return in 2015. In the other, Chang — one a staple in the Top 100 who’s struggled with injury for much of the past few seasons. Sadikovic’s had the flashier run thus far, taking out the big-hitting Frenchwoman Oceane Dodin before upsetting her compatriot — and fellow one-handed backhand slice-owner — Viktorija Golubic in the second round. To Chang’s credit, she’s scored wins over Julia Glushko and Alexandra Panova as she looks to make her first Wimbledon main draw in five years.

The Swiss’ game is a throwback on the grass courts, as she relies on her serve and hands around the net to win her matches. With Chang’s ability to rally from the baseline, this makes for an interesting matchup that’ll likely hinge on Sadikovic’s ability to mix things up.

Vika’s Pick: Sadikovic in three sets.

RD: Zhang Kai-Lin (CHN) [3] vs. Jana Cepelova (SVK) [14]

With the exception of a section here and there, the women’s qualies draw has held up pretty well — and when there were upsets, most of them were within the realms of expectations.

In this part of the draw, headlined by Zhang and Cepelova, there was none of that — even if the Chinese had an almost absurdly difficult draw to even make it to the final round of qualifying — Lucie Hradecka and Tereza Smitkova are most certainly not easy to face on grass courts.

Cepelova had significantly less trouble on the grass and is one win away from returning to the tournament site that has given her one of the biggest wins of her career — the Slovak took out a wobbly Simona Halep last year and while she’s the lower seed, Cepelova has the experience to see this through — even if Zhang is at a career high ranking and has more than proven herself with two quality wins this week.

René’s Pick: Cepelova in three sets.

VC: Aleksandra Krunic (SRB) [4] vs. Duan Ying-Ying (CHN) [16]

You’d be hard pressed to find a bigger contrast of styles than this match.

Both Krunic and Duan had Wimbledons to write home about last year, with Krunic defeating Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci en route to the third round and Duan upsetting Eugenie Bouchard in her main draw debut at the All-England Club.

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Duan’s played a pair of three-setters to defeat a pair of Americans in Grace Min and Taylor Townsend to get to this point, while Krunic needed every ounce of her guile to rally from a set down against the in-form Elise Mertens, in a match between two players who both could’ve been dangerous in the main draw.

They’ve split two meetings on hard courts previously, and the big-hitting Duan might have the edge on a quick surface like grass; she’ll look to avoid any sort of rallies where the Serb could outfox her, but Krunic most certainly has the edge in fitness — if this one goes long, Duan might wilt.

Vika’s Pick: Krunic in two tight sets

RD: Maria Sakkari (GRE) [5] vs. Maryna Zanevska (UKR) [22]

This is one of the all-seeded final rounds of qualifying I personally didn’t see coming. Sakkari is capable of flattening out her first serve, but a lot of her other strokes are fairly reliant on topspin — for her to move through her first two competitive grass court matches without dropping a set is a solid effort, regardless of opposition.

Maria Sakkari. Photo: Christopher Levy

Maria Sakkari. Photo: Christopher Levy

On the other hand, there’s Zanevska, who hardly has much more experience on the slippery surface and yet was able to avoid the “upset” against Portugal’s always-dangerous Michelle Larcher De Brito, who’s been a regular spoiler for some of the bigger names on grass in the past.

As a result, we have a meeting between two seeded players that maybe wasn’t all that expected — with a slight advantage for Zanevska who was properly tested and got past a very tricky opponent in the second round.

Maryna Zanevska. Photo: Christopher Levy

Maryna Zanevska. Photo: Christopher Levy

René’s Pick: Zanevska in three sets — overtime not entirely unlikely.

RD: Barbara Haas (AUT) vs. Julia Boserup (USA)

While Zanevska-Sakkari is an unexpected all-seeded final qualifying round, the encounter between Haas and Boserup is a surprise of similar level.

Haas’ upset over Lauren Davis stands out — just like Sakkari, the Austrian had never played a competitive match on grass before. Overall, though, Boserup should go as favorite into this match — she’s played decently on grass previously and posted two very convincing wins over compatriots Jennifer Brady and Jessica Pegula.

René’s Pick: Boserup in straight sets.

RD: Tamira Paszek (AUT) [7] vs. Andrea Hlavackova (CZE)

While one “Silent H” fell in the first round of qualifying, the other has a shot to make it into the main draw of Wimbledon. Hlavackova hasn’t dropped a set in her way to the final round of qualifying — much like her opponent, noted grass-ophile Paszek. The two-time Wimbledon quarterfinalist and and 2012 Eastbourne champion is still trying to find her way back into the Top 100 after dropping out of the double-digit rankings around this time three years ago.

Paszek didn’t have the easiest of times against British wildcard Lisa Whybourne, rallying from a break down in the second, but she probably goes into this as the favorite after a solid grass court swing so far.

René’s Pick: Paszek in three — probably dramatic — sets.

RD: Luksika Kumkhum (THA) vs. Vania King (USA)

Gosh, this section has had it all — King drawing, and subsequently ousting her doubles partner, Alla Kudryavtseva in three sets. Ash Barty’s return to the Grand Slam stage looked solid and then suddenly, Kumkhum played spoiler at the Australian’s comeback party to book her place in the final qualifying round.

With Lourdes Dominguez Lino and Silvia Soler Espinosa at the front, it was never likely for a seed to truly emerge from this section, so having a final round between Kumkhum and King for all the unseeded and looming-ness makes… sense? Kumkhum’s double-handed flat strokes are obviously a good match to the grass courts but overall, I’d give the edge to the American here.

René’s Pick: King in straight sets.

VC: Barbora Stefkova (CZE) vs. Mandy Minella (LUX) [17]

If we’re being completely honest, Minella shouldn’t even be here. The lady from Luxembourg was 0-8 on grass in her career before last year’s Championships, and has never made it out of qualifying at the All-England Club.

Mandy Minella. Photo: Christopher Levy

Mandy Minella. Photo: Christopher Levy

It didn’t look likely that she was going to do so this year either — as Romania’s Ana Bogdan served for their opening round qualifying match not once, but twice, in the second set before Minella rallied for the win. On Wednesday, Misa Eguchi also had the No. 17 seed on the ropes after Minella won the first set, as the Japanese woman dominated the tiebreak 7-0 and built a 5-1 lead in the decider. She, too, never reached match point as Minella ran off six games in a row to win it.

On the other side of the net is Czech Stefkova, who’s a decade younger than Minella but certainly hasn’t seemed it in Roehampton — she’s dispatched both Tereza Mrdeza and No. 9 seed Kristina Kucova in straight sets en route to getting here. This is just her second-ever tournament on grass in her career, but the first one went pretty well — she reached the final of the Aussie $25,000 event in Midura in February.

Nonetheless, Minella is already playing with house money and she might ride that luck all the way to the main draw.

Vika’s Pick: Minella in three sets

VC: Harriet Dart (GBR) vs. Ekaterina Alexandrova (RUS)

It’ll be the local vs. (another) marathon woman in this match.

Dart’s had a little bit of luck with her draw following a first round win over Liu Fangzhou; she defeated Risa Ozaki in straight sets on Thursday only after the Japanese came back in the early morning to finish a marathon with Dart’s compatriot Freya Christie. The British teenager had a pair of match points but couldn’t convert, only to see Ozaki win 6-7(7), 7-6(4), 7-5 in 3:42 over the span of two days. With little left in the tank presumably, she went down rather tamely to the 19-year-old, 6-4, 6-3.

Harriet Dart. Photo: Christopher Levy

Harriet Dart. Photo: Christopher Levy

The Russian played a marathon to get here against Steffi Vogt — after the pair split 6-4 sets, they played 26(!) games in the third for the longest decider of Wimbledon qualifying thus far. After saving a match point, Alexandrova broke at love and served out the 6-4, 4-6, 14-12 win in a tidy 2:21 — all things considered.

Although Dart will have the crowd’s support, if her 15 aces in the match are any indication, Alexandrova plays a big game that will serve her well on grass — even though this is the first time she’s ever played on it.

Vika’s Pick: Alexandrova in straight sets

VC: Irina Khromacheva (RUS) [11] vs. Marina Erakovic (NZL) [19]

Both girls’ finalists from the 2011 Wimbledon Championships featured in the qualifying draw here, with champion (and comeback-ing) Barty going out to Kumkhum on Thursday. Khromacheva is still here, though, posting wins over Sara Sorribes Tormo and Andreea Mitu to get as close as she’s ever come to the ladies’ event at the All-England Club — in the first time she’s ever even played the qualifying.

With both Sorribes Tormo and Mitu more at home on clay, the Russian lefty will see Erakovic on the other side of the net on Friday — who’s reached the third round twice in her career at Wimbledon. The Kiwi’s struggled with injury over the past year-plus, and has seen her ranking fall to No. 149, but she’s a well-established Top 50 player when playing well.

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While it’s hard to believe that Khromacheva is still only 21 years old — as the “lost member” of the trio that dominated in juniors with Daria Gavrilova and Yulia Putintseva — it’d be nice to see her finally in the women’s singles draw of a Grand Slam. I just don’t think it’ll be here.

Vika’s Pick: Erakovic in straight sets

VC: Zhu Lin (CHN) vs. Paula Kania (POL)

Zhu and Kania seem a little out of place here, but in one of the most open sections of the qualifying draw, here they are. Both these players have gone viral for very different reasons briefly in their careers, with Zhu having one fateful moment against Francesca Schiavone in Indian Wells last year. Kania had a noteworthy Wimbledon in 2014, as she qualified and lost to Li Na in competitive straight sets in the first round — which, on the surface, really isn’t all that extraordinary. Of course, it becomes such when you consider that match was not only Kania’s first in a Grand Slam main draw, but her first main draw of any WTA Tour event.

Since then, though, the Polish No. 4 has struggled — and she currently sits outside the Top 200. She’s had two decent wins in Roehampton, taking out Mallorca quarterfinalist Veronica Cepede Royg and veteran Virginie Razzano and this match against Zhu could go either way. Without flipping a coin, I’ll take Kania — purely because she’s tasted a little success at Roehampton already.

Vika’s Pick: Kania in three sets

Who do you think will make it through to the women’s draw? Sound off in the comments!

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