This is the 7th year that the WTA tour has stopped in Mexico for the Monterrey Open. The top seed has never won this tournament in its brief history and has only made the Final twice. The good news for this week’s top seed, Ana Ivanovic, is that she is the defending Champion. Ivanovic beat Jovana Jaksic 6-2, 6-1 in last year’s Final. Jaksic’s appearance in the title match marked the 5th time in six years that an unseeded player made the Final. That means expected the unexpected this week in Monterrey.
Last week’s Acapulco Champion Timea Bacsinszky comes in with the best form of any of the players entered this week. She’s made two Finals in three tournaments this year and is seeded 4th. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova will be the other seed to track. She is a three time Champion at this tournament with a 15-0 mark in Monterrey, but is 0-3 to start the season.
The top eight seeds this week are Ivanovic, Sara Errani, Caroline Garcia (Acapuluco Finalist), Bacsinszky, Pavlyuchenkova, Alison Riske, Daniela Hantuchova & Magdalena Rybarikova. Last year, three seeds lost in the opening round. Three seeds also made the semifinals. In 2013, only one seed fell early and again, three seeds made the semifinals. Back in 2012, three seeds were out in the 1st round and two made the semifinals.
So which seeds are the most prone to a potential 1st round upset? Let’s look.
#3 Caroline Garcia
Garcia would be easy to overlook as a potential upset victim in the opening round. Most would think a Finalist from the previous week would be in good form, but I’m not quite set on that here. Garcia benefited from a retirement and walkover to get to the Final last week and Bacsinszky dominated her in the title match. She faces Karin Knapp. While Knapp’s form is not great with three straight losses, she has matched up well against Garcia previously. In three meetings, Knapp won twice and pushed the match to three sets before losing in Montreal last Summer. All three of their meetings came last year with two split on hard courts. Garcia may win, but it doesn’t look like it will be easy.
#6 Alison Riske
She opens against Vera Zvonareva. The Russian has been working her way back from injury this season and has mixed results with a 5-4 record. Mostly, she is beating the lower tier players and then having issues getting past players ranked inside the Top 50. She is just 1-3 vs. players in the Top 50 in 2015. That would cover Riske who is ranked #43. Riske though has not played since the Australian Open when she lost in the 1st round. That could make her ripe for an upset if she can’t find an immediate groove.
#7 Daniela Hantuchova
She pulls a tough match-up to open with Monica Puig. Puig won their only previous encounter on clay last year in three sets, scoring two bagels on Hantuchova in the win. Hantuchova has the better form so far, punctuated at one of her favorite tournaments in Pattaya City with a title. In Monterrrey, she made the Final back in 2010 which is the only time she’s made the trip. Puig made the quarters here last year. She has almost made the quarters in Acapulco and the semis in Pattaya City so far in 2015. She’ll be very tough to beat and this looks like a very possible upset.
#8 Magdalena Rybarikova
Prior to making the quarterfinals last week in Acapulco, Rybarikova had lost four of her five main draw matches this season. That could potentially help ease her out of the rut she was in, but she has to do it against one of last year’s Finalists, wild card entry Jovana Jaksic. Jaksic rarely wins on the WTA level, but she’s 5-2 in main draw matches here the last two years. That alone makes her dangerous.
The top seed should fancy her chances to make another Final coming out of this draw. She opens against a qualifier and then has either Krunic or Parmentier in the 2nd round. While her results have been shaky lately, this should be conducive to success this week. On the bottom of the quarter, Riske and Zvonareva open in the 1st with the winner to get Mladenovic or Smitkova. Both Mladenovic and Smitkova have had problems with winning so far this year, so they may be fodder for the Zvonareva-Riske survivor on the road to the QFs. Smitkova beat Mladenovic twice in indoor hard courts in their career head-to-head meetings. If Ivanovic can’t find her game this week, it’s a golden opportunity for Riske or Zvonareva in this slot. I still think Ivanovic takes this quarter though if she’s got her mind right.
This looks wide open and perhaps the best bet to see an unseeded player get through to the semis. As mentioned previously, Garcia is no sure thing in the opener against Knapp. The winner there faces the winner of Schiavone and a qualifer. Schiavone will be happy to not have to muddle through qualifying this week, but she’s struggling still with consistency. Rybarikova leads the bottom of the quarter and could ease through this section if she gets off to a good start. Should she beat Jaksic, Paulina Hercog or Ana Sofia Sanchez would be next. Both would be passable in the 2nd round. I fancy the winner of Rybarikova-Jaksic to push through this quarter. Jaksic has some sort of magic here, so even with no form to speak of, she should be monitored this week.
Bacsinszky should have every opportunity to continue her roll this week. She faces off against Wickmayer to open, a player she has beaten three out of five career meetings. The most recent one was last year in New Haven, a simple straight sets win for the the Swiss. The winner gets Tsurenko or Shelby Rogers. Tsurenko beat Rogers in Sydney earlier this year. A win by Tsurenko gives her a second shot at Bacsinszky who beat her last week in Acapulco. Hantuchova is the seed up top and again may fall victim to Puig in the opening round. The other 1st round match pits Torro-Flor and a qualifier. This quarter looks like it should belong to Bacsinszky if she keeps her form. If not, look to Puig or Hantuchova as the next best bet.
The Italian opens against American Lauren Davis who did beat her on grass last year. Errani won their only hard court encounter in Sydney in 2014. Errani transitioned from clay to hard courts last week in Acapulco and was dumped out by Puig in the 2nd round. Errani made the semis the last time she played Monterrey back in 2012, but that was her best effort in three tries. Errani is just 50% on this outdoor surface over her last 50 matches, so she will be beatable at some point. I don’t know that Davis is the one though. The winner gets Soler-Espinosa or a qualifier. Up top, Pavlyuchenkova opens with Schmiedlova. Edge to the Russian in this one as she is the better hard court player and yet to taste defeat on these courts. Larsson or Bertens will be up in the 2nd round. Neither is a great hard court player, but Larsson has the definite form edge to advance. This quarter really could go any which way. Pavlyuchenkova has the history here, but very little to like so far in 2015. Errani isn’t a huge factor on this surface, so really just about anyone could come through here.
AND THAT’S THE BOTTOM LINE BECAUSE THE PIG SAID SO ….
Ivanovic really should buck the #1 seed trend in Monterrey by making the Final as her draw is not all that troublesome, but it’s still a cause to pause because of her recent results and that trend. Give Bacsinszsky a legit shot to win back to back tournaments as her form for the better part of 2015 has been rock solid on this surface with few hiccups. If there is a darkhorse in the title mix by next weekend, I like Puig or