2014 WTA Washington @CitiOpen Preview
Stephan Fogleman, Tennis East Coast
It’s a Capital Event. Washington, DC hosts the joint hardcourt Citi Open, a WTA International-level event and an ATP 500.
I will cover the WTA field, while Steen Kirby has a look at the men in a companion post.
The omen’s seeds features 8 of the top 30 players, but only one player in the top 20. The loss of World #7 Genie Bouchard to a knee injury hobbles the power rankings of the DC field. This is a 20’s thing: 7 of the women ranked 20-29 are playing at Citi Open.
Let’s be frank. The top seed has never won this event, and I expect that trend to continue.
Top 8 Seeds (Rankings)
1: Lucie Safarova (17)
2: Ekaterina Makarova (20)
3: Alize Cornet (21)
4: Sloane Stephens (22)
5: Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (24)
6: Svetlana Kuznetsova (26)
7: Madison Keys (27)
8: Sorana Cirstea (29)
July 28-August 3, 2014
First Round Match Ups to Watch:
Magdalena Rybarikova vs. Ekaterina Makarova
The #2 Seed and Wimbledon Quarterfinalist Makarova gets a tough draw in Magda Rybarikova, the two-time defending champion of this event. Rybarikova owns the H2H 2-0, including a destructive 6-2, 6-0 drubbing of E-Kat in last year’s Citi semifinals. Makarova has won more than twice as many matches as she has dropped this year, while Magda has a losing record in 2014. But guess what? This is Magdaville and you’re lucky to live in it. She twice defied the odds in winning this tournament, and that intangible confidence is why I believe Rybarikova will win a grueling three-setter against Makarova.
Sloane Stephens vs. Christina McHale
It’s hard to believe these two have never met in WTA main draw play. Sloane’s ranking superiority over compatriot McHale (#22 vs. #51) is deceiving, since most of her points have been earned in the 3 1/2 slams thus far (Indian Wells=.5). Meanwhile, she’s done very little off of the biggest stages. DC’s no slam, and Christina is hungry to improve her ranking before the US Open. I know she’s been inconsistent and her biggest result in 2014 came in the January Acapulco final, but I’m going with a hunch on this one: McHale in three.
I’m obviously feeling lucky here, since Stephens and Makarova are 2-1 favorites to win this match at Tennis Abstract. As always, don’t actually wager on my musings, but be the first to thank me if I am correct.
In the WTA, I don’t even know why we name the quarters or sections after the top seeds. It’s simply a jinx. Enter Lucie Safarova, the unlikely top seed at Citi. She ascended to the top after Bouchard’s withdrawal. Lucie should cruise past Mladenovic in the first before beating Goerges or a qualifier in Round 2.
Madison Keys is at her best on summer hard, and she should easily advance over Kurumi Nara before a likely second round win vs. Zarina Diyas or a qualifier.
Meanwhile, Alize Cornet should be able to dispatch young American Shelby Rogers before getting past a second round opponent of Marina Erakovic or Kristyna Pliskova.
You don’t know which Sori Cirstea will show up this year, but I’m confident that she’s good for a first round victory over Kiki Bertens. Bojana Jovanoski, or Bojangles, as I like to call her, will be exhausted after the Baku final. She should be good enough to beat a qualifier in Round 1, but I expect Cirstea to feast on her in Round 2.
Makarova is the top seed in the half and opens against Magda. I’ve picked the upset of the tournament here on nothing. Nothing except past performance by Rybarikova, whose exceptional play, mental toughness and odds-defiance on these same courts two years in a row. She’s innocent until proven guilty in DC. This is her special place. 1/2 of the contents of her trophy case originates here. And yes, there are those points to defend. She wins.
Lauren Davis, who is having a good year, opens with Shuai Peng. After that, she should do battle with Rybarikova. Rybarikova beat her in Memphis last year in straights and she eases past Davis.
2012 Finalist Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova begins Citi Open against Virginie Razzano. Pavs has a 2-0 hardcourt edge on the veteran French player. There’s nothing to suggest Razzano will get her first win here. After Razzano, Pavs likely does battle with the ever-improving Alison Riske, who opens with a qualifier. Riske has beaten Pavs twice this year, including a three-set win at Wimbledon and a straight sets blowout on the hardcourts of Sydney.
Keys d. Safarova
Cornet d. Cirstea
Rybarikova d. Riske
McHale d. Kuznetsova
Keys beat Safarova when they last played in Sydney on hard courts over a year and a half ago. Keys has improved markedly during that time.
Cornet had a nice run here last year, as did Sorana Cirstea. Even when Sorana was soaring in 2013, Cornet knocked her down a peg in DC and I expect the same.
McHale has a 2-1 H2H with Kuznetsova, so I expect that one to be close.
Alison Riske and Magda Rybarikova both sport losing singles records in 2014, but both are very motivated to win here. Having never met in WTA tour-level play, it could come down to Magda’s late-round Washington experience.
Keys d. Cornet
Rybarikova d. McHale
Keys won her only meeting against Cornet at Fed Cup in a nail-biter earlier this year. It could be a very close one going to the American.
Look, if Magda makes it this far again, she’ll take out McHale or another opponent she faces in the semis.
Keys d. Rybarikova
I’d say Magda could beat almost anyone in this field if she reaches the final. Except Madison Keys. Keys scoring her maiden WTA title in Eastbourne is key. With a 2-1 H2H, she should hoist that crystal vase on Sunday. That would still leave Magda with good feelings about the tournament and another piece of DC glass in the trophy case.