With last year’s champion Ashleigh Barty out for the count, the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix hangs in the balance. Iga Swiatek looks to add a clay-court title to her streak.
The Stuttgart Open is underway, and with many young stars making their clay season debuts as well as some returning finalists, picking a winner is a near-impossible task. Nevertheless, we can predict which players will be the biggest threats based on past results and current performance. Coming off of her recent “Sunshine Double” feat, new world No.1 Iga Swiatek will be the player to beat at the WTA 500 tournament as she makes her debut appearance on her favorite surface.
Iga Swiatek is the clear favorite
The Top 4 seeded players will be receiving a bye to take them straight into the Round of 16. This includes Iga Swiatek, Paula Badosa, Aryna Sabalenka, and Maria Sakkari. Despite never playing at the Stuttgart Open, there is reason to consider Swiatek as the clear favorite for the title. In addition to an impressive clay-court record and a playstyle that is highly suited to the surface, the Pole has shown plenty of form in recent tournaments.
Having won the last three WTA tournaments she entered; Iga Swiatek is putting on a performance fitting of the world number one. Starting with the Qatar Open, the 20-year-old then secured the “Sunshine Double” by claiming the Indian Wells and Miami Open titles back-to-back. Producing such results on a lesser preferred surface can only make one ponder how much damage she could do on clay. Reminiscent of Clay King Rafa Nadal, Swiatek applies a heavy topspin to her forehand, creating enormous advantages on the slower clay surface.
Dark horses: Sabalenka, Kvitova, Pliskova
Last year, Ashleigh Barty took the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix title after defeating Aryna Sabalenka in the finals in a three-set comeback win. Despite some recent shaky form, Sabalenka showed that she could go the distance at Stuttgart last year and fell short at the hands of the now-retired former number one, so she certainly has the game to take the title. While not as effective on clay, a huge first serve hit at the speeds that Sabalenka can produce is enough to be a deadly weapon on any surface. The same can be said for her forehand, which is flat and fast enough to get the job done should the Belarusian find her form.
Other dark horses in the mix include Czechs Petra Kvitova and Karolina Pliskova, both of whom made it to the quarterfinals at last year’s Porsche Tennis Grand Prix. Seeded at the sixth spot for the second year in a row, Karolina Pliskova will look to outdo her performance last year, particularly with the absence of Ashleigh Barty, who ended her run at the tournament in 2021. Meanwhile, Petra Kvitova will be looking to do the same but will need to overcome her countrywoman in the first round for a chance at the title.
The X-factors: Raducanu, Jabeur, Kerber, Gauff, Andreescu
Also included in the Top 8 seeds are British sensation Emma Raducanu who continues to search for that Grand Slam championship form, as well as Ons Jabeur, who has been in great form following her runner-up performance at the Credit One Charleston Open. For Raducanu, this event signals her first Stuttgart Open, and while she has secured a recent clay win at the Billie Jean King Cup, she is also suffering a series of blister-related injuries that have forced some unfavorable outcomes for the teen. Nevertheless, Raducanu has shown she can produce results in the absence of injuries, so it will come down to how well she can manage her physical setbacks on the court.
As far as unseeded players go, some names to look out for include Angelique Kerber, Coco Gauff, and Bianca Andreescu, all of which are capable of shaking up the competition. For the seasoned Kerber, it largely comes down to how well she can maintain herself physically and keep up with the stamina requirements of the event. Coco Gauff is another X-factor who went quite far at the Miami Open before halting to world No.1 Iga Swiatek. Lastly, Bianca Andreescu may not be in hot form at the moment, but she is still capable of producing that world-class form she showed when she won the 2019 US Open by defeating Serena Williams, albeit her progress was greatly hindered due to injury.
Perhaps it’s the fate of the narrative as far as the WTA competition goes, as you can never be sure of who will rise up to claim victory next. The nature of women’s tennis has always invited new champions to step up, and the inconsistency of many top-ranked players makes it difficult to gauge how things will pan out. Using what little data trends we have available to us, Iga Swiatek will surely be the favorite for the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix title. Her past success on clay such as the 2020 Roland Garros title combined with her recent relentless form and a playstyle that is highly suited for the clay surface are all strong arguments for the world No.1 to cease victory once again.