Croatian No. 1 Petra Martic is headlining the resumption of the WTA tour as the top seed at the 2020 Palermo Ladies Open. And she would definitely be looking forward to start where she left off in March.
Petra Martic was going through a green patch stretching back to early 2019, when she won her second WTA title in Istanbul. She followed that up with a Premier final and consecutive second week runs to all Grand Slams, but her run of great form was halted by the suspension of the tour.
Martic plays her first match in Palermo on Tuesday, against Belgium's Alison van Uytvanck. At 26 Van Uytvanck is the younger of the two, but she is a tricky opponent.
On her good days, Van Uytvanck is capable of outmaneuvering even the best on tour. And although grass is her preferred choice of surface, she has had some big results on clay as well. In fact, her best performance at a Major came at the French Open back in 2015.
Van Uytvanck's big serve is key to setting up points for her, but it's her movement and use of the court's geometry that really set her apart from the rest of the crop. The Belgian has one of the most varied arsenals in the women's game, and can put out any shot in the book at any given point in a game.
That's precisely what makes her an extremely difficult player to prepare for. No two Van Uytvanck matches are alike, and it really comes down to how well she's connecting her shots on the given day.
Petra Martic vs Alison van Uytvanck head-to-head
Petra Martic and Alison van Uytvanck have met just once before, at the 2018 Australian Open. Martic won that match 7-6, 6-3, but the first set was quite the battle.
Martic shares some aspects of Van Uytvanck's game, especially how her game is also centred around a strong first serve and smart approaches and quick finishes at the net. Much like her opponent, the Croat is also a smart player and is always thinking two steps ahead, knowing exactly what shot to play next in the rally.
The one area where Petra Martic does have a definitive upper hand is the power in groundstrokes. She can hit a winner even from behind the baseline off of both wings, and it's that sort of overall game that has helped her reach the top in recent months.
Petra Martic vs Alison van Uytvanck match prediction
The odds are in favor of Petra Martic, as she has also won the duo's only previous meeting on tour. But Van Uytvanck enjoys posting a surprise win every now and then; if she can manage to find a way to neutralize Martic's power, there is no reason why this couldn't turn into one of those wins either.
Prediction: Martic to win in three sets