Sunday, 11 August 2013

WTA Cincinnati: Preview and Predictions

Preparations for the US Open, which begins in just two weeks (TWO WEEKS!) are well underway and a stellar womens field will be in Cincinnati including the return of Maria Sharapova and Wimbledon finalist, Sabine Lisicki.  Let's take a look at the draw...

FIRST QUARTER - S.Williams (1) v M.Bartoli (8)
Serena Williams
Serena Williams heads into Cincinnati as the overwhelming favourite following a series of dominant performances in Canada, which saw her win an 8th title of 2013.  I still question though whether she will give her all next week in Cincy.  Her first match will be against a qualifier, either Monica Puig or Eugenie Bouchard, who meet in an intriguing opener.  Serena's first seed is likely to be Maria Kirilenko, who has never threatened much in previous matches with just two sets to her name from seven matches.  The section which is likely to throw up Serena's quarter-final opponent (of course assuming she gets there) is likely to be a competitive one featuring both Marion Bartoli and Sam Stosur.

Stosur opens up against Svetlana Kuznetsova; admittedly the Russian player is not in great form having twice lost to Lauren Davis in Canada, but she will always will remain a dangerous opponent and played some of her best tennis at Roland Garros before she was sidelined by an abdominal injury.  The winner of that match will then take on Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova or Jamie Hampton, who meet in another sure-to-be-compelling first rounder.  Hampton fell first round in Canada, but I would expect her to win this one.  Bartoli, who stuttered in Canada with injury issues, will play either Simona Halep or Hsieh Su-Wei in Cincy.  Halep has been in stunning form since May although she has not played since retiring in her second round match in Bastad just under a month ago.

1st Round Predictions: Puig to beat Bouchard in 3 sets, Barthel to beat Safarova in 2 sets, Stosur to beat Kuznetsova in 2 tight sets, Hampton to beat Pavlyuchenkova in 3 sets and Halep to beat Hsieh in 2 sets

Moo's Quarter-Final Prediction - S.Williams v Stosur

SECOND QUARTER - A.Radwanska (4) v L.Na (5)
Li Na
The second quarter of the draw features the two losing semi-finalists in Toronto, Agnieszka Radwanska and Li Na.  This will be Radwanska's fourth consecutive tournament in four weeks, but she has a very reasonable draw that should see her reach at least the quarter-finals.  First up will be Flavia Pennetta or Varvara Lepchenko.  It is strange how draws are conjured up because Kirsten Flipkens and Venus Williams could meet each other again in the second round.  Flipkens beats Venus in an odd three setter in Toronto, 0-6 6-4 6-2, but both will have to win a match here and I think Flipkens will have her hands full with Elena Vesnina in round one.  Both were rusty last week, but with a 2-1 head-to-head lead, I would give Vesnina the edge.

Li Na will start her title defence with a potentially tricky match against Klara Zakopalova in the second round, who she barely scraped past in a nailbiting 3rd rounder at Wimbledon, which she won 8-6 in the third.  Li's potential third round opponent could see a rematch of last year's final with Angelique Kerber, who has really started to struggle of late.  Kerber has been losing a lot of close three set matches and I think she really needs to step up her game and become more aggressive if she is going to maintain her current ranking.  She takes on Karin Knapp in the first round and will then play another qualifier, Sofia Arvidsson or Alisa Kleybanova in the second round.  Kleybanova lost her first match in 2013 to Eugenie Bouchard, 6-1 6-3 and I really hope she can start to make improvements week-on-week.

1st Round Predictions: Lepchenko to beat Pennetta in 3 sets, V.Williams to beat Cepelova in 2 tight sets, Vesnina to beat Flipkens in 2 tight sets, Kerber to beat Knapp in 2 sets (1 tight, 1 easy), Arvidsson to beat Kleybanova in 3 sets and Zakopalova to beat Davis in 2 tight sets

Moo's Quarter-Final Prediction - A.Radwanska v L.Na

THIRD QUARTER - S.Errani (6) v M.Sharapova (3)
Maria Sharapova
I thought Sara Errani was really struggling in Toronto, kitted out with heavy thigh strapping and rolling both her first and second serves into court, but she is nothing but a fighter as she reached the quarter-finals.  I think she could be heading for an early exit this week with Dominika Cibulkova a potential second round opponent.  Cibulkova has a good record against Errani and is the kind of player that will take a chance on Errani's serve and hit plenty of winners.  Roberta Vinci is also in this section of the draw, but I like the chances of the qualifier, Andrea Petkovic.

Maria Sharapova returns to action for the first time since Wimbledon after a hip injury picked up following a fall in her defeat to Michelle Larcher de Brito.  Personally, I saw that as one of those random losses so I would expect her to reach at least the quarter-finals into this draw.  She is located in a tough section though, which will see her open up against Petra Martic or Sloane Stephens.  Granted, Sloane has never won a set off Sharapova in three previous encounters, but having not played for well over a month, it will be a test for a bound-to-be-rusty Maria.  

The Wimbledon finalist, Sabine Lisicki also makes her comeback in what should be a humdinger of a first round match with Jelena Jankovic.  JJ has not played well at all in the last two weeks and although Sabine is somewhat of a mystery in how she will respond in her first match back, I fancy her to take this one.  A potential third round with Sharapova for either Jankovic or Lisicki would be fascinating on all levels.

1st Round Predictions: Petkovic to beat Hantuchova in 2 very tight sets, Makarova to beat Beck in 3 sets, Lisicki to beat Jankovic in 3 sets and Stephens to beat Martic in 3 sets

Moo's Quarter-Final Prediction - Cibulkova v Sharapova

FOURTH QUARTER - P.Kvitova (7) v V.Azarenka (2)
Petra Kvitova
It seems every week that Petra Kvitova and Victoria Azarenka are drawn into the same quarter of the draw, but we have still yet to see them play each other since the 2011 Year-Ending-Championships final in Istanbul.  This section features Toronto bloomer, Sorana Cirstea, who will get a shot at repeating her upsets because she is projected to meet Caroline Wozniacki in the second round and Kvitova in the third round.  Cirstea, who plays Yanina Wickmayer in the first round, looked emotionally drained after the Toronto final so I do not expect much from her in Cincy.  Wozniacki will be looking for her first win of this summer hard court season against Peng Shuai in the first round.

Victoria Azarenka pulled out of Toronto following her finals loss to Sam Stosur in Carlsbad and I think she will be raring to go in Cincy.  She is set for a potential Carlsbad rematch with Ana Ivanovic in the third round.  On that occasion, Vika edged Ivanovic in three sets, but there was some hope for the Serb, who ran another top five player close last week in Li Na, just falling at the crucial stage of the third set tiebreak.  Ivanovic faces the steadily improving, Alize Cornet in the first round, meanwhile Azarenka's first match will be against Kristina Mladenovic or a qualifier.

1st Round Predictions: Cirstea to beat Wickmayer in 2 tight sets, Wozniacki to beat Peng in 2 very tight sets, Ivanovic to beat Cornet in 2 sets (1 tight, 1 easy) and Rybarikova to beat Goerges in 3 sets

Moo's Quarter-Final Prediction - Kvitova v Azarenka (perhaps?)

Moo's Final Prediction - Azarenka d. S.Williams
Back-to-back tournaments always add another edge to making predictions before a tournament because you never know how much the semi-finalists of the previous event have left in the tank.  I know that Serena did manage to the double in Madrid and Rome earlier this year, but I would be surprised to see her do it again this week.  Therefore I see Vika either beating Serena in the final (as my prediction goes) or taking advantage of an early Serena exit / withdrawal. 

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