OWorld number nine Sloane Stephens makes her grass court debut for 2019 as she battles Jelena Ostapenko in a Round of 32 clash at the Nature Valley International. This will be the second time the American and Latvian will face off with Stephens claiming a 7-6 (5), 6-1 win in the final of the Miami Open last year.
Ostapenko is looking to build on her quarterfinal showing at Birmingham last week where she defeated Johanna Konta in the second round. She defeated Mihaela Buzarnescu in straight sets in the first round here. Stephens is playing for the first time since reaching the French Open quarterfinals, where she lost badly to Konta, winning just five games.
Stephens looking to find success on grass
The former US Open champion is playing in Eastbourne for the first time since 2015, when she reached the semifinals, where she lost a three-set match to Agnieszka Radwanska. Stephens has been in good form recently, reaching the last four in Madrid and the last eight in Paris.
Ostapenko is 4-3 lifetime in Eastbourne having gone one round further each year she's played: the second round in 2016, third round in 2017 and quarterfinals in 2018. Her Birmingham run snapped a streak of three straight tournaments in which she lost in the first round, having not previously won a match since Madrid.
Ostapenko is one of the most aggressive players on tour and will be looking to dictate every chance she gets. Her serve has been a liability in recent times, double-faulting almost 20 times in her quarterfinal loss to Petra Martic in Birmingham last week. Stephens is a superior defensive player and will no doubt make the Latvian play many extra shots, but she can switch to offense when needed.
With this being only their second career meeting, there's not a lot of familiarity between the two players and their only other matchup was on a hard court. Based on recent grass results, Ostapenko has a very good chance of winning, but how she serves will be one of the keys to who winds up victorious. Stephens is the better mover and has more versatility to her game, but lack of focus is an issue at times for the American.
In what should be a close match, Ostapenko should prevail and pick up another quality victory.
Prediction: Ostapenko in three sets