Seventh seed Svetlana Kuznetsova has a very tricky opening test at the Wimbledon Championships as she faces an inspired qualifier in Ons Jabeur in the first round of competition. The Russian is looking to replicate her run to the second week from last year, but she has to overcome some quality opponents to be able to do so. Whereas, Jabeur had to go through the qualifying tournament held in Roehampton to earn a main draw ticket to the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, defeating some tricky opponents to reach the main draw at Wimbledon for the first time in her career.
Kuznetsova’s 2017 grass court results
Opting for a much lighter schedule this year, Kuznetsova only played one grass court tourney as a lead-up tournament for Wimbledon. At the rain-plagued tournament in Eastbourne, the Russian had to start battling in three-set matches straight from the second round (she received a bye), having to mount a comeback against Mona Barthel as she was just two points away from being upset. Earning an impressive victory over doubles partner Kristina Mladenovic in three sets, Kuznetsova was forced to play her quarterfinal match on the exact same day against Karolina Pliskova. The Russian came into the match firing but wasted a huge 4-1 40-30 lead in the deciding set only to see her losing eventually.
Jabeur’s 2017 grass court results
After a successful French Open outing, Jabeur made her first appearance on a grass court this year at the Mallorca Open. Despite being handed a tough qualifying draw, the Tunisian managed to seal a place in the main draw, her first ever appearance in the main draw of a WTA grass court tournament. Putting up a tough fight, Jabeur fell in three tough sets against eventual quarterfinalist Ana Konjuh, losing five straight games from being 3-1 up in the deciding set.
Moving onto the Wimbledon qualifying tournament, Jabeur fended off the tough challenge of Russian young rising star Sofya Zhuk in straight sets in the opening round before surviving a thriller against Luksika Kumkhum. The third seed then easily outclassed Asia Muhammad in the final qualifying round as she earned herself a place in her first ever Wimbledon main draw.
On paper, it looks to be a one-sided match with Svetlana Kuznetsova triumphing easily. In fact, the match would be much closer than expected especially with Jabeur already having the momentum running in her.
One would think that the Tunisian has the benefit of already getting through the qualifying draw, but the playing courts in Roehampton is a totally different case as compared to those at Wimbledon, with the conditions and the quality of the courts being extremely different despite only being separated by a 15-minute ride.
Svetlana Kuznetsova obviously has more weapons amongst the two, and if she were to play some decent tennis, getting the win should not be much of a problem. Her powerful backhands and topspin forehands allow her baseline game to be very solid, and the serve is another weapon for the Russian. To defeat a very dangerous player in Jabeur, Kuznetsova has to be solid and consistent in all aspects of her play.
If Jabeur were to create the huge upset, she has to be firing on all cylinders. Usually mixing in slices and net play in her game already, it could be very beneficial on a fast surface like grass. Against Kuznetsova, who aims to control play from the baseline, one of the ways to play her is to go up to the net and finish off the points there, keeping her at bay. Slices could help Jabeur when she is struggling on the defense, but the Tunisian has to be very consistent in her play.
All in all, Kuznetsova is still the huge favorite in this clash but Jabeur will look to provide some troubles for her higher-ranked opponent. The Russian has to be playing well as the Tunisian is not a player who is easy to tramp over, therefore this would be one of the matches to watch in the first round.
Match Prediction:  Svetlana Kuznetsova d. [Q] Ons Jabeur in straight sets