Six players to watch in Birmingham



Originally published on 17/06/17 00:00

tennishead takes a closer look at six WTA players who will look to make the most of their stay in the West Midlands:

Angelique Kerber [GER]

WTA Ranking: 1

Best Result in Birmingham: Champion (2015)
2016 Grass Record: 8-2

The world No.1, Angelique Kerber, may be the top seed but she has been out of form for the majority of the year. Perhaps a change in surface will help the 29-year-old awaken from her slump and slowly began the process of building momentum.

Kerber, who was defeated in last year’s Wimbledon final by Serena Williams in straight sets, desperately needs to use the grass-court warm-up events to get some victories under her belt.

Birmingham has been a happy hunting ground for the US Open champion in the past, though, and she lifted the trophy in 2015.

Barbora Strycova [CZE]

WTA Ranking: 20

Best Result in Birmingham: Runner-up (2014 & 2016)
2016 Grass Record: 6-2

The Aegon Classic in Birmingham tends to bring out the best in Barbora Strycova. The Czech has reached the final twice before however she has not yet managed to capture the title.

Strycova, an excellent doubles player, is a savvy grass-courter and she uses her net skills to good effect. The 31-year-old reached the Wimbledon quarter-finals in 2014 – her best Grand Slam result – and she will relish this period of the season.

Garbine Muguruza [ESP]

WTA Ranking: 15

Best Result in Birmingham: 1st Round (2015)
2016 Grass Record: 1-2

It’s unusual to see Garbine Muguruza ranked No.15 in the world, but this year she has been unable to recapture the form that propelled her to the Roland Garros title in 2016.

The Spaniard had to deal with the added pressure of being the defending champion in Paris and she will view the grass-court season as an opportunity to start afresh.

With an attack-minded game and a willingness to advance into the forecourt, Muguruza can be a dangerous proposition on grass. She reached the Wimbledon final in 2015 and managed to bag the doubles title in Birmingham two years ago.

 Coco Vandeweghe [USA]

WTA Ranking: 20

Best Result in Birmingham: Semi-finals (2016)
2016 Grass Record: 11-2

Coco Vandeweghe may have only won two titles in her nine-year career, but they both came on grass at the Ricoh Open in s-Hertogenbosch.

With a potent first serve and good volleying skills, it’s easy to see why the American is comfortable on grass – and she reached the quarter-finals in SW19 two years ago.

The 25-year-old suffered a surprise first round defeat to Carina Witthoeft in the Netherlands last week, so she will be eager to get back on track in Birmingham.


 Dominika Cibulkova [SLV]

WTA Ranking: 6

Best Result in Birmingham: Debut
2016 Grass Record: 9-1

Dominika Cibulkova enjoyed a prosperous grass-court season last year. The 28-year-old won the Aegon International in Eastbourne and followed that up with a quarter-final appearance at Wimbledon.

The Slovakian, who won the 2016 WTA Finals in Singapore last year, is comfortable with the grass beneath her shoes however she suffered a surprise first round defeat to the world No.161, Antonia Lottner, at the Ricoh Open last week.

Cibulkova struggled with her serve for the duration of the match, and she will hope for better in Birmingham.

Kristina Mladenovic [FRA]

WTA Ranking: 13

Best Result in Birmingham: Semi-finals (2015)
2016 Grass Record: 7-4

The Frenchwoman has made significant progress this season and she has the tools at her disposal to perform well on grass.

Mladenovic reached the final of s-Hertogenbosch last year but she has not made it beyond the third round of Wimbledon. After a strong showing at Roland Garros, the 24-year-old looks primed to have a successful grass-court season.



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