Riske not so risky in Nottingham
Nottingham is the first UK warm up event prior to the start of Wimbledon and has been swerved by most of the tour’s top players, except from Britain’s top 10 WTA player Johanna Konta.
The Brit has justified her ranking with some great results earlier in the season on the hard courts of Melbourne and Miami, which gave Konta her biggest career title to date.
Konta is a player likely to be determined this week, but for me she is inferior on grass compared to hard courts – until proven otherwise – and is worth challenging as a tournament favourite.
Top player Karolina Pliskova scooped the title in 2016 but her sights are now firmly placed higher than International tournaments.
The player I would choose from the first quarter to oppose Konta with is Ash Barty. The Australian knows her way around a grass court and made the quarter final 12 months ago from qualifying.
Now with her ranking re-established comfortably within the top 100, having returned from her well documented career break from professional tennis, it is time to consider Barty as a credible champion of tournaments and Nottingham fits the bill.
Her performance stats far outperform those of Konta on this surface and should they meet in the quarters, Barty will be good value to see off the top 10 player.
Alison Riske is another player that is special on the grass courts. The American has made a semifinal and a final in the past two years in Nottingham.
Her first round opponent Heather Watson made a final last week in Surbiton but came up short at the hands of Magdalena Rybarikova, who has now won 16 of her last 17 matches. Of the two players it is Rybarikova that causes me more concerns than the flaky Watson.
Riske is a better ranked player than Rybarikova who is very much on an impressive comeback trail. I watched Rybarikova in her defeat to Marina Duque Marino, and she is not quite back to her best.
Quarters 3 and 4
I struggle to find a player to get excited about in the bottom half of the draw. This half is full of out of form players, seeds uncomfortable on the surface and uninspiring lower ranked options.
Of the four seeded players Sevastova is the one that deserves most respect having made a grass court final last season. However, she does her better work under the radar and there is something unfashionable about supporting the Latvian.
Lucie Safarova is a high profile talent but her first round exit in Paris highlights her demise given she main evented that tournament only a few years ago.
Tsvetana Pironkova is the bookies second favourite outright, but it has been a while since she did something of note on the grass, and even then it was on the big stage of Wimbledon rather than in a warm up event.
Chancing Riske and Barty from the top half. The winner of that prospective match up holds my fortune.
Riske 12/1 Ladbrokes
Barty 10/1 Ladbrokes