WTA Preview – week of June 19

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If the vast majority of the top men are in action this week, the same can’t be said for the top guns on the WTA Tour.

The Premier-level tournament in Birmingham, England had a stellar field to start with. Seven of the top 10 and 15 of the top 25 were entered. But as the tournament begins, that original field has been decimated.

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The latest  is world No. 1 Angelique Kerber. And we do mean late; the announcement came Sunday after the draw had been made.

Kerber withdrew with a hamstring injury. It first surfaced in the German’s loss to Genie Bouchard in Madrid more than a month ago, although it may well already have been an issue before that.

Her withdrawal is added to those of French Open finalist Simona Halep, Karolina Pliskova, Agnieszka Radwanska, Madison Keys et al. That’s not to say that the draw still isn’t quite a good one. But it’s not nearly as good as it should have been.

Here’s what to look for this week in Birmingham, as well as the smaller event in Mallorca.

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Aegon Classic Birmingham

Birmingham-smallPlace: Birmingham, Great Britain 
Dates: June 16-26, 2016 
Prize money: $819,940
Category: WTA Premier 
Draw sizes: S32 – D16 
Surface: Grass

Defending champions
Singles: Madison Keys (absent)
Doubles: Karolina Pliskova/Barbora Strycova 

Kerber’s late withdrawal meant the seeds had to be reshuffled.

No. 3 seed Dominika Cibulkova was moved to the top of the draw in Kerber’s spot. And Aussie Daria Gavrilova became the No. 9 seed.

Surprisingly, Garbiñe Muguruza is not playing her home-country’s grass-court event. There must be a story there; she played it last year. Also surprisingly, the Spaniard is playing doubles this week. She’s pairing up with Cibulkova.

Muguruza used to play quite a bit of doubles with countrywoman Carla Suárez Navarro. In fact, they made the WTA Tour Finals together in 2015. But this will be the first time she’ll play this season.

Muguruza and Suárez Navarro played the Olympics together last August. They also played Madrid and Indian Wells. But that was it for the entire 2016 campaign.

In other doubles news: Sania Mirza’s original partner Yaroslava Shvedova pulled out with an injury. So the Indian star picked up American Coco Vandeweghe as a partner this week.

First-round matches to watch: [3] Dominika Cibulkova vs. Lucie Safarova (a semi-finalist in Nottingham last week). Christina Mchale vs. Coco Vandeweghe in an all-American clash. No. 8 Barbora Strycova against the equally demonstrative Yulia Putintseva. 

Projected quarter-final matches:

[3] Dominika Cibulkova vs. [9] Daria Gavrilova
[5] Kristina Mladenovic vs. [7/WC] Petra Kvitova
[4] Johanna Konta vs. [6] Garbiñe Muguruza
[2] Elina Svitolina vs. [8] Barbora Stycova

Those have serious potential – if they happen.

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Mallorca Open

Mallorca1Place: Mallorca, Spain 
Dates: June 19-25, 2017 
Prize money: $226,750 
Category: WTA International 
Draw sizes: S32 – D16 
Surface: Grass

Defending champions
Singles: Caroline Garcia
Doubles: Gabriela Dabrowski / MJ Martínez Sánchez

The Mallorca event might not have the strength of field, as an International-level event up against a Premier. 

But there are some interesting players nevertheless. Top amongst them are two notable returns.

New mom Victoria Azarenka, with Baby Leo in row, will face Japan’s Risa Ozaki in the first round. In her first tournament since the 2016 French Open, she really couldn’t ask for better.

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(Pic: Mallorca Open)

As well, Sabine Lisicki, a former Wimbledon finalist, is finally kicking off her 2017 campaign. the 27-year-old German hasn’t played since retiring from a match at a 125-level event in Hawaii last fall. She is currently ranked No. 134.

Lisicki will face No. 5 seed Kiki Bertens in the first round.

Other first-round matches to watch: No. 4 seed Carla Suárez Navarro vs. up-and-coming teenager CiCi Bellis. Genie Bouchard vs. immortal wild card Francesca Schiavone. No. 3 seed and defending Caroline Garcia will play Jelena Jankovic.

Projected quarter-final matches:

[1] Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova vs. [5] Kiki Bertens
[4] Carla Suárez Navarro vs. [8] Timea Babos
[3] Caroline Garcia vs. [6] Roberta Vinci
[2] Anastasija Sevastova vs. [7] Ana Konjuh

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