2015 WTA @CincyTennis Preview and Predictions
Niall Clarke, Tennis Atlantic
The tour hits Cincinnati for the second Premier tournament in as many weeks. After an enthralling Rogers Cup in Toronto, can Belinda Bencic continue that momentum or will the cream of the crop restore order in Ohio?
The Western and Southern open was born in 1899 making it the oldest tournament on the calendar to stay in its original city. Originally an ATP only event, Cincinnati opened its doors for the women to compete back in 2004. I the first 11 years Kim Clijsters, Lindsay Davenport, Jelena Jankovic, Li Na, Maria Sharapova, Victoria Azarenka and Serena Williams have gone on to lift the trophy.
Western and Southern Open
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio
Prize Money: $2,400,490
Date: August 17th- 23rd 2015
Eight seeds who receive a first round Bye (Ranking):
1. Serena Williams (1)
2. Maria Sharapova (2)
3. Simona Halep (3)
4. Petra Kvitova (4)
5. Caroline Wozniacki (5)
6. Ana Ivanovic (6)
7. Lucie Safarova (7)
8. Karolina Pliskova (8)
First round matches to watch:
(10) Carla Suarez Navarro vs Sloane Stephens
Suarez Navarro comes in to the Western and Southern Open on a losing streak after a strong start to the year which saw the Spaniard break the top 10 for the first time. Suarez Navarro has not won a match since clay season, including a straight sets loss to Stephens in Eastbourne–worrying signs for the single hander.
Stephens, on the other hand, is only weeks removed from her first career title in Washington. The American lost early in Toronto but should be well rested to face Suarez Navarro for a second time. If form is anything to go by, the tenth seed will likely be sent packing in the first round yet again. Or it could turn out that the Spaniard gains a much needed confidence booster.
(11) Angelique Kerber vs Belinda Bencic
Wait, what? Yes I had exactly the same reaction as you did. Undoubtedly the pick of the round one matches see’s Stanford champion Kerber face Toronto champion Bencic–ouch for both.
The beauty of these events is that you can often see two-in form players play each other in the opening round. Kerber was in imperious form in Stanford where she won the title. The German carried it over to Toronto, at least for two matches where she would eventually lose to Simona Halep in round three. Kerber thrives in these events, and is looking for title number five of 2015.
Speaking of titles, that’s exactly what Bencic went to claim in Toronto yesterday. Following her maiden victory in Eastbourne, the Swiss sensation has now captured her first premier 5 title, defeating Serena, Ivanovic and Halep en route. The 18-year-old is really coming in to her own and in current form is highly dangerous for anyone.
Fatigue may be a factor for Bencic in this match, but if not we will be in for an amazing contest between two of the tours most in-form players. The Swiss holds the win in their only previous meeting, and will look to repeat that US Open success here in Cincinnati.
(12) Timea Bacsinszky vs Madison Keys
Out of all the unseeded players, Madison Keys is one of the most dangerous. Unfortunately for Timea Bacsinszky, she has drawn the American in round one.
The transition from the grass to hard courts did not go as planned for the 12th seed as she fell in the first round of the Rogers Cup to Alison Riske. Nonetheless, the Swiss is having a tremendous comeback year that could see her finish in the top 15 or higher.
Keys took it upon herself to skip Toronto after losing surprisingly to Ajla Tomljanovic in Stanford a few weeks a go. The big serving American is not in the greatest of form but is still hugely dangerous when on and a nightmare first round opponent as even when she is off Keys will not give you any rhythm.
This is up there with the most intruiging round one matches as it could go either way. Bacsinszky is the favourite, especially when you consider she has won their only previous meeting. Keys can catch fire and spring somewhat of an upset, and with the home crowd backing her the American could have that extra motivation.
(16) Sara Errani vs Daria Gavrilova
Errani shocked everyone, not least Victoria Azarenka, by making the semi-finals of the Rogers Cup last week. The Italian is mainly known for her clay court prowess but impressed last week, as did Gavrilova who defeated Safarova in the first round.
It felt like somewhat of a random run by Errani last week but she is in form now and looking to repeat that success in Cincinnati. The Italian beat some good opponents on her way to the final four, making up for a disappointing loss in the semi-finals of Bad Gastein to Karin Knapp.
Gavrilova’s climb continued north of the border. The 21-year-old shocked French Open finalist Safarova in round one. Can she defeat another former French Open finalist in Cincinnati? She holds the win in their only previous meeting so the Russian knows what it takes. That sole victory came on the grass of Eastbourne in three sets.
Serena Williams will be looking to put a disappointing loss to Bencic aside when she takes to the Cincinnati courts to defend the Western and Southern Open. The world number one will open up her tournament in the second round against Lucie Hradecka or Tsvetana Pironkova in a should win match. Errani is the projected third round opponent, but she has a tough draw if she is to make it to Serena. Gavrilova will provide a big test in round one, with the second round not getting any easier. Bright Croatian prospect Ana Konjuh or Karin Knapp–who defeated Errani in Bad Gastein. Do not be surprised to see the 16th seed drop out early.
Like Serena, Ivanovic suffered from the wrath of Bencic in Toronto but she is here as the sixth seed and will hope for another quarter final run at the minimum. There is a possibility that the Serbian could face both Williams sisters with Venus a potential round two opponent. Round three will provide an interesting proposition with it likely being the winner of the Stephens vs Suarez Navarro opener. Mona Barthel will face Casey Dellacqua in the battle of the qualifiers in the other match of this section.
Petra Kvitova has had a rough couple of months. She failed to defend her Wimbledon title, and lost early in Toronto after being diagnosed with mono. She is not the first, and won’t be the last to suffer from this illness but you wonder how much it will affect her performance. She will face the winner of the potentially great, or potentially messy Caroline Garcia vs Sabine Lisicki encounter. Both are inconsistent, but both are highly dangerous. Elina Svitolina will open up against American wildcard Alison Riske, with an out of sorts Eugenie Bouchard or Kateryna Bondarenko meeting the winner.
Lucie Safarova will be looking to bounce back from her early exit in Toronto last week. The Czech might have had her spirits lifted somewhat after winning the doubles title, so it will be interesting to see how she responds this week. Coco Vandeweghe could provide a tough test in the seventh’s seed opener if she gets past Yulia Putintseva. In form Kerber and Toronto winner Bencic will provide the main attraction in round one. The winner will fancy themselves to make the third round at least, though Bencic’s commitment might be in question after a long week in the Rogers Cup. The winner will face Flavia Pennetta or Dominika Cibulkova in this stacked section of the draw.
Simona Halep arrives in Cincinnati not only as the third seed, but with her participation in doubt. The Romanian suffered from an illness in the final of Toronto that forced her to withdraw in the final set. If she can recover in time, she will play Kristina Mladenovic or wildcard Daniela Hantuchova in round two. Andrea Petkovic will open her campaign thinking she has a good shot at making the quarter finals at least this week when she faces compatriot Julia Goerges. Camila Giorgi or Christina McHale will await the winner in round two.
Wozniacki continues her preparation for a US open that sees her defending final points. The fifth seed receives a BYE in the first round, so will not play until Tuesday at the earliest. There she could face Victoria Azarenka in a blockbuster round two match. Vika will be disappointed in her efforts last week after suffering a shock exit to Errani, and will be gunning for another Cincinnati title. Speaking of disappointments, Garbine Muguruza’s return after the Wimbledon final did not go as planned. The 21 year old lost to a qualifier on that occasion in Lesia Tsurenko, and finds herself in a similar position this week when she faces another dangerous qualifier in Yaroslava Shvedova. The winner will face an in form Roberta Vinci or Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in a difficult round two.
Maria Sharapova- who withdrew from Toronto with injury- is back in action this week in hunt for another Cincinnati triumph. It will be interesting to see how much effect the injury will have on the second seed when she faces the winner of Barbora Strycova vs Vavara Lepchenko in round two. Agnieszka Radwanska will likely await in round three. The Pole opens against qualifier Ana Schmiedlova before facing the winner of the interesting Alize Cornet vs Irina Begu match.
Karolina Pliskova will be looking to repeat her Stanford success this week on a court that suits her game. The big hitting Czech is the eighth seed this week so receives a first round BYE. Sam Stosur will likely await in round two. Jelena Jankovic should meet the winner of the Keys vs Bacsinszky clash, though it is JJ so anything can happen. You would expect either Keys or Bacsinszky to make round three, but both are not in the best form so Jankovic could take advantage. Either way a Pliskova round three will provide interest.
Serena def. Ivanovic
Kerber def. Lisicki
Azarenka def. Petkovic
Sharapova def. Pliskova
Serena def. Kerber
Sharapova def. Azarenka
Serena def. Sharapova
Providing that the injury is now OK, expect Sharapova to make the final but once again lose to Serena.