2015 WTA Rogers Cup Toronto Preview and Predictions
Niall Clarke, Tennis Atlantic
US Open preparations are now in full swing with the Rogers Cup next on the WTA calendar. The event is held in Toronto this year after being held in Montreal last season. The Premier event rotates between the two major Canadian cities, with the ATP event being held on the same week in the alternating city.
A whole host of all-time greats have won the Rogers cup. Chris Evert and Monica Seles lead the way with four titles each, followed by Martina Navratilova and Serena Williams with three. Agnieszka Radwanska in the defending champion.
The Rogers Cup
Location: Toronto, Canada
Prize Money: $2,377,305
Date: August 10th- 16th 2015
Top eight seeds who receive a first round bye (ranking)
1. Serena Williams (1)
2. Simona Halep (3)
3. Petra Kvitova (4)
4. Caroline Wozniacki (5)
5. Ana Ivanovic (6)
6. Agnieszka Radwanska (7)
7. Lucie Safarova (8)
8. Garbine Muguruza (9)
All the top players are here except Maria Sharapova, who withdrew due to a right leg injury.
First round matches to watch:
(14) Venus Williams vs Sabine Lisicki:
A big serving battle between Sabine Lisicki and 14th seed Venus Williams would have undoubtedly caught the eye of tennis fans across the world, and for good reason. This one has potential to be a barn burner if both are playing well, and could be an awesome display of power tennis.
Venus’ stint in Istanbul lasted all of one match as she would be upset by Kateryna Bondarenko in the opening round. Having not played on the American hard courts since the swing started, the world number 15’s form is unknown. The 35 year old has never won this event, but did make the final in Montreal last year.
Lisicki’s US hard court season started out with a disappointing loss to 44 year old Kimiko Date Krumm in Stanford. You never know what you will get from Lisicki, but her record in North America has been good this year with some good runs in Indian Wells and Miami.
The German leads the head to head 2-1 with the last meeting being in Beijing 2013. This match is a definition of a toss-up with the form of either player unknown, but it could turn out to be one of the best matches of the year if they both play to their capabilities.
Eugenie Bouchard vs Belinda Bencic:
Eugenie Bouchard will look to get out of her slump when she faces talented teenager Belinda Bencic the opening round of her home tournament.
Bouchard will undoubtedly have the support of the Toronto crowd, but her form has been nothing short of shocking this year. After lighting the tennis world up with her deep grand slam runs in 2014, the Canadian has slumped in 2015 winning only one of her last ten matches.
Bencic on the other hand continues her rise up the world rankings, and will look to prepare her US Open semi-final defence with a good run in Toronto. The Swiss won her first title in Eastbourne, and followed it up with a fourth round run at Wimbledon. She recently feel early in Washington however.
Bencic leads the head to head 1-0 with hr victory over Bouchard in Eastbourne. The 18 year old is the favourite going by form, but the home crowd could boost Bouchard back in to form. Can the Canadian find herself again, or will the slump continue?
Victoria Azarenka vs Elina Svitolina:
Two of the best unseeded players in the draw have had the misfortune of facing each other in the opening round, as former world number one Victoria Azarenka plays rising youngster Elina Svitolina.
Azarenka saw her 2014 season plagued with injury, and now with that behind her the former world number one is looking to regain her position amongst the elite. The Belarusian was scheduled to play Washington, but pulled out prior to the tournament. Therefore she has not played since losing a tight quarter final to Serena at Wimbledon. Hard courts suit Vika more than any other surface, but she has never won this event.
Svitolina will be riding fairly high after a semi-final run in Stanford. She was routine by Angelique Kerber in the final four, but it was still a good form booster for the 20 year old. The Ukrainian has aspirations of winning all four grand slams (her words), and a good start towards achieving that would be to beat a two time Australian Open champion.
Azarenka was taken to three sets in their only prior meeting in Doha earlier this year. The world number 19 ran out a 6-3, 6-7, 6-1 winner that day, though she will hope this match will be more routine. Svitolina will look to avenge that loss as she continues her ranking ascension. It should be a great battle especially in the backhand rallies which is both players’ biggest weapon. Which one will hold up best?
World number one Serena Williams is returning to action since playing only the single match in Bastad a week after Wimbledon. The top seed is preparing for an historic US Open where she could potentially achieve the calendar year grand slam and win her 22nd Grand Slam title. Williams will receive a first round BYE courtesy of her seeding and will play either Flavia Pennetta or Gabriela Dabrowski in the second round. The other seed in this mini section is Andrea Petkovic who is coming in off a loss to compatriot Mona Barthel in Stanford. The German will look to get the ‘Petko dance’ going against home favourite Francois Abanda in round one and a qualifier in round two before her likely showdown with Serena in the third round.
Seventh seeded Lucie Safarova failed to really build on her run to the French Open final during grass season, but now back on hard courts the Czech can start to re-find that Roland Garros form. Like Serena, Safarova receives an opening round BYE due to her seeding and will begin her campaign in round two against Sam Stosur or Daria Gavrilova. The Aussie showed good form in her title win in Bad Gastein, though a loss to Sloane Stephens in Washington might have dented that confidence. Karolina Pliskova- who is fresh off an excellent week in Stanford is the other seed in this section of the draw. She faces a qualifier in round one with Roberta Vinci or Karin Knapp awaiting the Czech in the second round. It is possible we could see an all Czech encounter in round three with the winner possibly facing Serena in the quarter finals.
Former champion Caroline Wozniacki is one of the bigger beneficiaries of Sharapova’s withdrawal having been granted a fourth seed as a result. Bouchard or Bencic will await the Dane after a first round BYE in one of the more anticipated second round potentials. Venus could be the third round opponent. The American has a tough draw however with Lisicki in round one and the winner of Varvara Lepchenko vs Barbora Strycova in round two.
Ana Ivanovic will be trying her hand at a new coach this week. The first test of their relationship will be against either a qualifier or Irina Begu, who has had a solid year so far. Ekaterina Makarova is the projected third round opponent, though Alison Van Uytvank could pose an interesting challenge in round two. Makarova vs Ivanovic will most certainly be a tight one.
2012 champion Petra Kvitova had a disappointing defence of her Wimbledon crown, but the third seed is back to get her season on track. She could potentially have a blockbuster round two against Azarenka if the Belarusian can survive the tough test of Svitolina in the first round. A potential for a top seed to drop out very early there. Sara Errani will look to take advantage though Kristina Mladenovic could easily spring a surprise in round one. The winner of that should make the third round, but it hard to see them going any further.
All eyes will be on eighth seed Garbine Muguruza who is playing her first tournament since making the Wimbledon final. How will she cope with the added pressure on her shoulders? First indications will be seen in the second round against a qualifier, but the first major test will come in the third round where she is projected to face Timea Bascinszky who is having a great year. Muguruza has won their two meetings this year.
Simona Halep originally planned to skip this event, but due to her bad form in recent months the world number three has taken a wildcard and will be the second seed. She will have a first round BYE, but could have a troubling second round against the winner of Caroline Garcia vs Jelena Jankovic. Angelique Kerber will be the favourite the make it out of this section, but the German could be tired after a long final in Stanford. She should make round three with both her opening two rounds being qualifiers, but fatigue and the bad form of Halep could open the door for Garcia or Jankovic to make a surprise run.
That could also open the door for sixth seed Agnieszka Radwanska to make the semi finals. The Pole has got her season back on track after an impressive grass season which has seen her re-enter the top 10. Zarina Diyas or Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova will await in round two, both of which could be troubling in different ways. Carla Suarez Navarro is the projected third round opponent but the winner of Sloane Stephens vs Dominika Cibulkova could easily upset the Spaniard.
Serena def. Pliskova
Wozniacki def. Ivanovic
Azarenka def. Muguruza
Radwanska def. Kerber
Serena def. Wozniacki
Azarenka def. Radwanska
Serena def. Azarenka
Hard to bet against the world number one, even if she was injured last week. Azarenka will take advantage of the open bottom half and make the final.