Fixture: Coco Gauff vs (7) Elise Mertens
Date: 22 June 2021
Tournament: Viking International Eastbourne 2021
Round: First round (Round of 32)
Venue: Eastbourne, Great Britain
Category: WTA 500
Prize money: $565,530
Live telecast: USA - Tennis Channel | UK - Amazon Prime Video
Coco Gauff vs Elise Mertens preview
Coco Gauff will return to action for the first time since her successful Roland Garros campaign when she faces Elise Mertens at the 2021 Viking International in Eastbourne.
This will be Gauff's first match on grass since 2019 Wimbledon, where she made it as far as the fourth round after successfully navigating the qualifying stages.
2021 has proven to be a stellar year for the American teenager, who was one of the top performers during the clay swing. The 17-year-old went on a nine-match winning streak that included the title at the Emilia-Romagna Open.
At Roland Garros, Gauff defeated the likes of Jennifer Brady and Ons Jabeur en route to the quarterfinals, where she fell to eventual winner Barbora Krejcikova.
Elise Mertens, meanwhile, had a good start to the year, winning the Gippsland Trophy in Melbourne. But the Belgian's form has been on the wane in recent months.
After early exits at the Italian Open and Roland Garros, Mertens began her grasscourt campaign on the wrong note as she lost a tightly-contested first-round match to Ajla Tomljanovic in Birmingham.
Coco Gauff vs Elise Mertens head-to-head
Coco Gauff and Elise Mertens have never faced each other on tour before, so their head-to-head stands at 0-0.
Coco Gauff vs Elise Mertens prediction
Coco Gauff is riding a wave of confidence after a spectacular few months, which saw the teenager make the last eight at a Slam for the first time in her career.
Gauff has a very nuanced game and maturity beyond her years, which will come in handy against a player like Mertens. The American's return game will also be crucial against the Belgian, who was extremely inconsistent on serve in her loss to Tomljanovic in Birmingham.
Even though the Belgian racked up 14 aces, she committed 12 double faults, which ultimately proved to be costly. Gauff has also often struggled with her second serve in the past and must look to keep double faults to a minimum as this match could be defined by the smallest of margins.
Both players defend well, but Gauff is definitely the quicker of the two and will have the edge in baseline rallies. But the teenager must be wary of the Belgian's forehand slice, which can stay low on grass and take her out of her comfort zone.
Even though she might take some time to get used to the surface and conditions, Coco Gauff should be able to come through.
Prediction: Coco Gauff to win in three sets.