The first round of WTA action wraps up on Thursday as fans find out who advances to play seeded players (who were given first-round byes) in the second round.
But let’s forget about the seeds for a second. There are some mouth-watering clashes in store for us today that everyone should keep an eye on.
Kim Clijsters’ comeback at age 37 captured the attention of the tennis world when she announced it back at the start of the 2020 season – but it hasn’t been without its setbacks.
She played a tight match with Garbiñe Muguruza in Dubai to kick off her return to professional tennis, suffered some injuries setbacks, nearly won her first round at the 2020 US Open, caught COVID-19, fought back to fitness… and here we are.
An encouraging match against courtcraft wizard Hsieh Su-Wei last week in Chicago proved that she still has what it takes to compete with the best, but the two-time BNP Paribas Open championship will have a completely different challenge ahead of her in the form of World No. 53 Katerina Siniakova at 3:00 p.m. PST.
Though Siniakova’s biggest accolades have come on the doubles court (she’s a three-time Grand Slam doubles champ with Barbora Krejcikova), she’s no slouch in singles either. With ribbons of golden hair bouncing with every purposeful stride, the Czech covers the court with tenacity and will be prepared to counterattack the Clijsters firepower.
If the fan-favourite Belgian can find her serve and hit with precision to offset her diminished footspeed, the win is hers for the taking – but Siniakova won’t go down without a fight.
— Olympics (@Olympics) July 31, 2021
Former World No. 14 Marketa Vondrousova had been having a mostly average season by the lofty standards she set back in 2019. Injuries derailed a sophomore season after her run to the final of Roland-Garros, and she struggled to find the crafty left-handed shot-making that saw her trouble many of the world’s best.
But then the Olympics happened.
Sure, there are no points or prize money at the Olympics. But the chase for a coveted Olympic medal brought out the best of Vondrousova, who pulled together a remarkable run in which she brushed aside tournament-favourite Naomi Osaka and nemesis Elina Svitolina before falling just short of gold against Belinda Bencic.
Her best tennis will be tested when she takes on Viktorija Golubic, second up on Stadium 2 after 11:00 a.m. PST. Golubic, for her part, has been in form since the start of the season, amassing an impressive 45/19 singles record, including two finals and a maiden Grand Slam quarter-final at Wimbledon.
The Swiss’ flashy one-handed backhand will be put to the test against Vondrousova’s lefty forehand angles and fans should be prepared to see every inch of the court being used in what’s sure to be a competitive and compelling contest in the Southern California desert.
For one, they both play all-court tennis; Garcia with a bit more power, Flipkens with a little more panache. They’ve also seen the heights of the women’s rankings, with the Frenchwoman reaching a career high of No. 4 a few years back and Belgium’s Flipkens peaking at No. 13 back in 2013.
They also haven’t played each other since 2016, the season in which they played all three of their career meetings, with Garcia owning the slight edge. Neither might be at their top level at the moment, but this first-round draw provides both with an opportunity to capitalize and set up an interesting second-round clash against Coco Gauff, the No. 15 seed.