It has been a tough road back for Flavia Pennetta after the wrist surgery that kept her out for over six months. With just one semi-final appearance at a weak tournament in Strasbourg, there has been little sign of the form that took her back inside the top 20 last year. However, a good run to the second week of Wimbledon has restored some confidence and she returns to Bastad where she has reached the semi-final twice in three prior appearances. The stamina seemed to be lacking in a disappointing defeat last week against Klara Zakopalova, but she battled hard in the first round here against Mariana Duque Marino to come through 6-1, 4-6, 6-4.
Simona Halep simply cannot stop winning right now. Since the French Open, she has lifted three titles and Na Li is the only player to have beaten her during that run. In the three tournaments that she has won – Nurnberg, ‘s-Hertogenbosch and Budapest – she has dropped a grand total of just three sets and her ranking has shot up from number 58 to the verge of the top 20. Fatigue must surely be an issue, but she is planning on taking a break after this tournament, so everything will be focused her. The young Swedish wildcard, Rebecca Peterson, gave a good account of herself in the first round against the Romanian, but once Halep found her range, she was simply able to outclass her in the rallies.
Their only previous meeting was three years ago on the clay in Marbella. Flavia Pennetta, at the time ranked 150 places above her opponent, won in two close sets, although the statistics seem to suggest that Halep was the better player. The real difference was Pennetta winning 66% of the break points she created, as opposed to Halep’s 37%.
What They Said
“It was a bit difficult to play today because I’m a little bit tired, but I’m feeling good physically and with my game, so I’m just trying to enjoy every match.” – Simona Halep after her 6-4, 6-0 victory over Rebecca Peterson
Simona Halep is simply steamrollering everyone that she faces at the moment and it is tough to see the Italian really troubling her. Twelve months ago, Pennetta would have been the strong favourite, but she is still on the comeback trail after the wrist surgery and she would surely see winning a set as a good result here. Halep will be looking for a quick victory to preserve energy as she moves closer to an eagerly anticipated final with Serena Williams. However, if Pennetta can battle hard and take this match into a third set, fatigue could start to tell.
The Rest of the Matches
In Bastad, the woman that everyone wants to see is Serena Williams. The French Open champion is on a 24-match unbeaten run on the clay and, although she was under-par during her first round win over Sesil Karatantcheva, she should progress past Anna Tatishvili without too many problems. Elsewhere, Richel Hogenkamp has an unlikely opportunity to reach a WTA quarter-final for the first time as Lesia Tsurenko was nowhere close to 100% fit in her first round match and really should have lost to Anastasia Grymalska. The final match sees Venezuelan, Andrea Gamiz, look to back up her first WTA main draw victory against Mathilde Johansson, although the French player should have too much for her.
Patricia Mayr-Achleitner and Yvonne Meusburger spearhead the home challenge as they face Petra Martic and Irina Begu respectively. With the elimination of Andrea Petkovic yesterday and the retirement of Mona Barthel today, the draw has really opened up for an unlikely victor. With Lisa-Maria Moser and Andrea Hlavackova already in the quarter-final, Chanelle Scheepers might be eyeing a victory over Elina Svitolina that would surely put her as the favourite to reach a second WTA semi-final. Elsewhere, Arantxa Rus will have been very relieved to have avoided setting a new WTA record for consecutive losses and she will be hoping for a change in fortunes as she takes on Estrella Cabeza Candela, while the promising young German, Annika Beck, should see off the challenge of Mandy Minella without too many problems.