Italy’s Palermo Open would not usually attract significant attention, but the WTA tournament carries extra weight in 2020.
Not only does the event mark the return of tour-level tennis after a five-month hiatus, but it has also attracted a strong pool of players.
Two-time Grand Slam champion Simona Halep would have been the headline act had she not withdrawn from the tournament, along with the likes of Britain’s Johanna Konta and Jelena Ostapenko, but punters can look forward to an impressive line-up nonetheless.
Martic Among Plethora of Top 30
All eight top seeds in this year’s Palermo Open are ranked within the world’s top 30 women’s players with Croatian Petra Martic the highest ranked in 15th.
But the headline act following the withdrawals may be exciting Czech youngster Marketa Vondrousova, who advanced all the way to the final of the 2019 French Open, where she lost to Australian Ashleigh Barty, despite having been unseeded.
The progress she was making last year has taken somewhat of a hit by a wrist injury, coupled with the lengthy break in the season, but she is one to keep an eye on given her strength on clay.
Yamstrenska Could go Far
Another rising star looking to make her mark in the Sicilian capital of Palermo is Ukrainian youngster Dayana Yamstrenska. The 20-year-old has already claimed three WTA titles – the Hong Kong Tennis Open, the Hua Hin Championships and the Internationaux de Strasbourg – and could be worth a look.
But with little form to go off, punters will want to strike a balance between backing an experienced, safe player and getting a good price and Greek Maria Sakkari therefore makes the most appeal.
She has been a consistent player on tour and loves the surface, having won on clay in the Morocco Open in Rabat last season, beating Belgian pair Elise Mertens and Van Uytvanck, who are both also involved in the Palermo Open, in the process.
Sakkari also managed to reach the semi-finals of the Premier-5 Italian Open, another clay-surface event, in Roma last year, claiming the scalps of Petra Kvitova and Kristina Mladenovic on the way.
This year was shaping up to be a promising one for the Greek when she achieved her best-ever Grand Slam finish to make the fourth round of the Australian Open, consequently rising to a career-high 20th in the world rankings in February.
She starts her Palermo Open bid with a relatively soft first-round draw against unseeded Czech Kristyna Pliskova, who lost in qualifiers for the Dubai Tennis Championships and Qatar Open earlier this year, as well as failing to make it past the first round of the Australian Open.
*All odds correct at time of writing