WTA Rabat first round preview: Ekaterina Makarova vs Yanina Wickmayer

A mouth-watering first round clash in Rabat sees Ekaterina Makarova face off against Yanina Wickmayer in a battle of former Top 20 players, with the winner most probably facing top seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the second round.

WTA Rabat first round preview: Ekaterina Makarova vs Yanina Wickmayer
Both players would fight for a spot in the second round | Photo: (Makarova) Julian Finney/Getty Images Europe (Wickmayer) Clive Brunskill/Getty Images Europe

The first round of the Grand Prix SAR La Princesse Lalla Meryem sees a blockbuster match-up between Yanina Wickmayer and former top 10 player Ekaterina Makarova, with this being just their fourth meeting in their careers. Here in Rabat, Makarova faces tough luck once again as she was drawn the worst opponents possible as the former world number 12, Wickmayer awaits in the first round before a potential meeting with top seed and compatriot Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the second round. This came after Makarova was drawn to face world number eight Agnieszka Radwanska last week in Stuttgart before falling to the resurgent Maria Sharapova in straight sets despite playing some excellent tennis.

Makarova has some of the toughest luck of all the players on tour as injury problems derailed the peak of her career when she was ranked number eight in the rankings in 2015 and caused her to fall outside of the Top 40 recently as she was unable to return to playing her best tennis. Her tough luck continued when she came back from the injuries as she was often given very tough draws, facing a Top 50 opponent in the first two rounds in five different tournaments this year alone.

Ekaterina Makarova in action at the Stuttgart Open | Photo: Jimmie48 Tennis Photography
Ekaterina Makarova in action at the Stuttgart Open | Photo: Jimmie48 Tennis Photography

In her only clay tournament of this year thus far, Makarova earned her third Top 10 victory of the year over Agnieszka Radwanska but fell to compatriot Maria Sharapova in the second round, crashing out of the tournament in the early stages once again. Falling to opponents lower-ranked than her for a massive six times this year, Makarova has big issues with consistency which has caused her many problems since injury started to hinder her.

Wickmayer had a poor season thus far, owning a 5-6 win-loss record on the professional circuit this year. Starting the year at the No.58 spot, she is now currently lingering outside the Top 70 due to some poor results which caused her to also be ranked 148th on the Porsche Race to Singapore leaderboard. One of her most dramatic losses was against Lucie Safarova in the first round of the Australian Open, where she missed a grand total of nine match points only to lose the match in three epic sets. The Belgian has only reached one single quarterfinal in Biel-Bienne, where she lost to Julia Goerges in straight sets.

Yanina Wickmayer serves at the French Open last year | Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images Europe
Yanina Wickmayer serves at the French Open last year | Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images Europe

Who wins?

Yanina Wickmayer would have to be on her best form to have a chance to defeat the Russian and has to rely on her groundstrokes to do so. The Belgian has to have a good day tomorrow or else her groundstrokes will produce unforced errors one after another and get overpowered by Makarova.

Nevertheless, the power of her groundstrokes would be a lethal weapon for the former Top 20 player. A high first serve percentage will be needed for Wickmayer as its accuracy and power on it will cause Makarova to have some troubles returning serve.

Ekaterina Makarova celebrates a point won in Stuttgart | Photo: Jimmie48 Tennis Photography
Ekaterina Makarova celebrates a point won in Stuttgart | Photo: Jimmie48 Tennis Photography

Ekaterina Makarova will have to make sure she plays the same way as how she played in Stuttgart and everything would be smooth sailing for her if she does so. Aggressive groundstrokes and the lethal lefty serve would be the main factors in deciding the outcome of the match, but the inconsistency of the Russian could matter as well.

The former world number eight has to make sure that she will not be affected by her emotions on the court and continue trying to play her normal game whenever she meets with some trouble or a break in momentum.

Prediction: Ekaterina Makarova d. Yanina Wickmayer in three sets