Moscow R1: (6) (wc) Karolina Pliskova vs Alexandra Dulgheru
Karolina Pliskova accepted a late wild card into Moscow in an attempt to secure one of the remaining positions at the upcoming WTA Finals Singapore. Pliskova will start her Kremlin Cup campaign with a first round clash against Romanian Alexandra Dulgheru, this will be the first career meeting between the pair.
Karolina Pliskova must reach at least the final this week in order to qualify for her first career WTA Finals campaign. Karolina will need to improve her recent form quite dramatically if she is to do so. Pliskova started the year off so well and seemed a certainty to reach Singapore for much of the season, however her recent form has been unspectacular, highlighted by an embarrassing first round loss in New York. Karolina’s form during the Asian swing was unspectacular, suffering disappointing losses at every event. Pliskova seems to be struggling both physically and mentally after such a long season, however she did show some signs of life last week in Tianjin where she reached the semi-finals before succumbing to Agnieszka Radwanska in straight sets.
Alexandra Dulgheru’s recent form has been quite disastrous. The Romanian has lost 8 of her last 9 matches, including 6 first round exits. Dulgheru failed to win a match during the Asian swing, suffering 3 straight set first round losses.
This will be the first career meeting between Pliskova and Dulgheru. All signs points to a comfortable straight set victory for Karolina Pliskova who will be desperate to keep her Singapore chances alive. The indoor conditions in Moscow should suit Pliskova.
Prediction: Karolina Pliskova to defeat Alexandra Dulgheru in 2 sets
Angelique Kerber and Jarmila Gajdosova will go head to head in the critical opening rubber match between two Fed Cup powerhouses at the Stuttgart Arena in Germany. Germany will be looking to go one step better than their runner-up finish in 2014 but the Germans will have their work cut out progressing past a solid Aussie team.
Jarmila Gajdosova had a fantastic Australian summer, leading to her being picked over Casey Dellacqua to play singles in this critical Fed Cup tie. Gajdosova defeated Andrea Petkovic and Dominika Cibulkova on route to the semi-finals in Sydney before succumbing to eventual champion, Petra Kvitova in a tight three set match. Gajdosova then went on to win her first ever Australian Open main draw match but proved no match for Simona Halep in the second round.
Alicia Molik has seemingly made a smart decision to pick an in form Gajdosova over Casey Dellacqua, Gajdosova has weapons to worry both Angie and Andrea whilst Casey is solid but predictable.
Angelique Kerber made a promising enough start to her season, reaching the quarter-finals in Brisbane and the semi-finals in Sydney. However the German number 1 suffered an extremely disappointing first round loss at the Australian Open, defeated by Irina-Camelia Begu in three lopsided sets.
Angie won the only previous encounter between these two, a 6-3 0-6 6-2 victory in the opening round of the Australian Open in 2014. That match showed that Jarmila has the capabilities to beat Angie, the question is whether she can sustain a high enough level for long enough?
I think Angie’s experience in matches like this will be a critical factor in the outcome of this match. Gajdosova is known to get nervous in big moments and I doubt she will be able to maintain a high enough level when it really matters to win this match, Agnie is too solid.
Prediction: Angelique Kerber to defeat Jarmila Gajdosova in 3 sets
(5) Maria Sharapova vs Alexandra Dulgheru
After a convincing first round victory over compatriot Maria Kirilenko, fifth seed Maria Sharapova takes on Alexandra Dulgheru in the second round at Flushing Meadows.
Sharapova was given an early fright against Maria Kirilenko on Monday night; Kirilenko started the match off exceptionally well to take a 4-2 lead in the opening set. From there Maria Sharapova went on a 10 game winning streak to close out a potentially tough match 6-4 6-0.
Alexandra Dulgheru won just her 2nd Grad Slam main draw match since 2012 on Monday when she defeated Kristyna Pliskova 6-3 6-4. The Romanian has struggled with injury of late and will be a massive underdog in this match.
Sharapova has a perfect 2-0 record over the Romanian, there most recent encounter took place in Madrid last year where Maria came out on top 7-5 6-2. Dulgheru pushed Maria to a third set tiebreaker back in 2011, perhaps this will give the Romanian belief that she can compete with the Russian. However it’s hard to see Alexandra being competitive here, Maria should win in two straightforward sets.
Prediction: Maria Sharapova to defeat Alexandra Dulgheru in straight sets