The WTA's European clay court swing continues as one of the two WTA tournaments this week will be hosted in Prague, Czech Republic for the J&T Banka Prague Open. The tournament entries are headlined by this year's Miami Open finalist and last year's French Open finalist, who hold the top two seeds.
Svetlana Kuznetsova sits at the top of the draw as the top seeded player. She will return to tour action for the first time since her dream run at the Miami Open last month. The Russian's clay court game is rather streaky and her first round loss in Prague last year proves it. The world number 13 is presented with overwhelming talent in her quarter of the draw with Dominika Cubulkova and Monica Puig as potential quarterfinal opponents.
Joining Cibulkova and Puig is a rising British talent in Naomi Broady, American Madison Brengle, and Aliaksandra Sasnovich. Cibulkova, the seventh seeded player, is fresh off a title win in Katowice, but the quick transition to the clay could cause the Slovak problems. Monica Puig will be there to challenge Cibulkova as they will most likely go head-to-head for a spot in the quarterfinals. The top seed, Kuznetova, will take on Sasnovich, and if she is to win she will then face a hard-hitting opponent of either Broady or Brengle.
Prediction: Kuznetsova over Puig in the quarterfinals.
Samantha Stosur leads the charge in the second quarter of the Prague Open draw. The Aussie is the fourth seed this week, but her previous clay court performances this year have shown her inability to consistently win matches. But, her last two titles came on the European dirt which will sit in the back of the fourth seed's mind when she steps onto court against Danka Kovinic for her first round encounter.
Stosur and Kovinic are joined by the fifth seed in Barbora Strycova, two wild cards, Margarita Gasparyan, and Olga Govortsova. Jana Cepelova is among the three wildcards this week in Prague. Her crafty play will cause trouble for her oppositions as she holds wins over Serena Williams and Belinda Bencic on the dirt, but her recent clay court performances have not been ideal. With the momentum Strycova holds and the aggressiveness of Kovinic, they will most likely set up a matchup for a spot in the semifinals.
Prediction: Kovinic over Strycova in the quarterfinals.
Karolina Pliskova will return to her home country to defend her 2015 title at the Czech Lawn Tennis Club. The Czech number three made her way into the quarterfinals in Stuttgart last week before losing to Agnieszka Radwanska. But, Pliskova had quality wins over Ana Ivanovic, as well as Lucie Safarova. All eyes will be on the hard-hitting world number 18 while she deems the favorite to lift her second straight J&T Banka Prague Open trophy.
The top names in Pliskova's quarter of the talented draw are Yanina Wickmayer, Camila Giorgi, and Alize Cornet. Wickmayer and Giorgi will go head-to-head in a rematch from the first round in Prague last year. The Italian's form will trouble the eighth-seeded Belgian to most likely book her a winnable second round against a home-hope in Denisa Allertova. The three seed will have no trouble against Stefanie Voegele or Alize Cornet who have both been battling back from injuries.
Prediction: Pliskova over Giorgi in the quarterfinals.
Lucie Safarova will hope to turn around her recent slump as she struggles back from an absence due to a bacterial infection. The Czech number two failed to defend her Qatar Total Open title while she has yet to earn a singles win this year.
Although, her brilliance on the doubles court has not been halted, with her having taken the Miami Open doubles title and the runner-up trophy in Charleston alongside Bethanie Mattek-Sands. Her quarter of the draw will deem troublesome with young talent and clay court successors.
The sixth-seeded Jelena Ostapenko and last year's finalist, Lucie Hradecka could potentially face off in the quarterfinals. Ostapenko's fearless and feisty tennis has vaulted her into the top 40. She will need to battle past Ana Konjuh and Kristyna Pliskova to get into the final eight, and her recent results have proven she has what it takes to make deep runs in tour level events.
Lucie Hradecka lost a heart-breaking final to compatriot, Karolina Pliskova, last year in Prague. Her huge serve and skills at the net will push the number two seed, Lucie Safarova, beyond her limits as Hradecka will continue her home-soil form this week.
Prediction: Hradecka over Ostapenko in the quarterfinals.
Semifinal Predictions: Kovinic over Kuznetsova. Pliskova over Hradecka.
Karolina Pliskova should continue her winning ways on her home soil as yours truly predicts that she will lift her second consecutive trophy in the Czech Republic's capital. Her serve, heavy ground strokes, and recent form provide support for the prediction that the Czech number three will dominate the courts of Prague.