Women’s Singles Preview: Games of the XXXI Olympiad, Rio 2016
Niall Clarke, Tennis Atlantic
Tier: Olympic Games
Location: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Prize money: $0
Date: August 06-14
Top eight seeds
- Serena Williams
- Angelique Kerber
- Garbine Muguruza
- Agnieszka Radwanska
- Venus Williams
- Roberta Vinci
- Madison Keys
- Svetlana Kuznetsova
Victoria Azarenka and Simona Halep are major absentees.
First round matches to watch
Ana Ivanovic vs Carla Suarez Navarro: Ivanovic (or Schweinsteiger if you will) heads to Rio as one of the biggest unseeded names in the draw. The newly wedded Serb is a tough match that most seeded players would want to avoid in an opener, unfortunately for Suarez Navarro, she has been dealt with that draw.
The former world number one leads their head to head 2-1, but the Spaniard won their most recent meeting. The world number 12 is in the better form this year, but representing your country can often change a players mentality.
Both have appeared in the Olympic games before but neither has managed to set the world alight. It will likely be a nervy affair, but the clash in styles will make it interesting.
(3) Garbine Muguruza vs Jelena Jankovic: The world number three will play her first Olympic tennis event in Rio, but will her singles run be cut very short by former world number one Jelena Jankovic?
The Serbian is not in the best place, but Jankovic is forever unpredictable and can replicate her world number one form. Muguruza has prepared hard for this event and she herself is an enigma. The Spaniard is playing her first Olympic event however, and there will be a question mark on how she handles the pressure.
The good news for Muguruza is that she has holds a 3-1 head to head advantage over Jankovic, including Fed Cup earlier this year. All of her victories have also come on hard courts, the chosen surface for the Olympics.
Serena’s quarter: The world number one arrives in Rio as the clear favourite to defend her title. Gold is very much in Serena’s sights, but first she must kick start her tournament against the feisty Daria Gavrilova of Australia. Sweden’s Joanna Larsson will face Alize Cornet for the right to presumably play the defending champion in round two. Elina Svitolina is the 15th seed in Rio, but her way to a possible round three clash against Serena is a bumpy one. The Ukrainian has struggled in 2016, and Andrea Petkovic will look to take advantage. Heather Watson or Shuai Peng will face the winner. There are some difficult players in this section for Serena, but none that can match her blow for blow. She should make her way through the section without much trouble, and as usual it will in Serena’s hands.
One of the few players that can take the racket out of Serena’s hands is Petra Kvitova. The Czech has had a troubling 2016, but can the Olympics motivate her to play at her best? The Czech faces big serving Timea Babos in round one before a potential round two with former world number one Caroline Wozniacki. Su Wieh Hsieh will provide a tricky round one match for the Dane however. Roberta Vinci is the sixth seed in Rio, but her form suggests that she could be an upset candidate. Anna Schmiedlova’s poor form in 2016 might suggest she won’t be the one to defeat the Italian, but Ekaterina Makarova will likely wait in the wings in round two.
Muguruza’s quarter: The French Open Champion’s tough round one has already been documented, but round two does not get any easier. Irina Begu is in good form after winning in Florianapolis in the lead up to the games. The dangerous Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova has also landed in this section as the 14th seed. The Russian faces Poland’s Magda Linette in round one, then either Monica Puig or Polona Hercog in round two. Should Muguruza make it through this section it will not be an easy ride. Do not be too surprised to see the Spaniard lose early in Rio.
Venus Williams will be looking to add another Gold medal to her collection in Rio. The American won Gold in the singles event at the 2000 Olympics. Can she do it again 16 years later? Kirtsen Flipkens is a difficult opener for the former world number one, but one she will be expected to pass on this surface. Lucie Safarova will then provide a big challenge in the second round, a tough draw for Venus. Timea Bacsinszky will carry the hopes for Switzerland after Roger Federer, Stan Wawrinka and Belinda Bencic pulled out with injury. Shuai Zhang will play Bacsinszky in the opening round, then Laura Siegemund or Tsvetana Pironkova will meet the winner.
Radwanska’s quarter: Radwanska’s search for her first medal continues in Rio where Shuai Zhang will await in the first round. The Pole could then possibly meet the rising youngster Daria Kasatkina in the second round. It is not a bad draw for Radwanska. Barbora Strycova is the other seed in the section and she faces Yania Wickmayer in the first round. The Czech will then meet the winner of Kiki Bertens vs Sara Errani. The Italian in particular has been a thorn in Strycova’s side in recent meetings.
Keys is the third American with a top eight seeding, and the 21 year old will fancy her chances at taking home a medal in her first Olympic games. The big hitter faces fellow youngster Danka Kovinic before meeting the winner of Lesia Tsurenko vs Kristina Mladenovic. There are some difficult matches in this section for the seventh seed as Suarez Navarro and Ivanovic have also landed in this section. The winner of that will play either Ana Konjuh or Annika Beck in the second round.
Kerber’s quarter: Speaking of medal contenders, Kerber will more than fancy her chances at winning Gold in Rio. The German has been on fire in 2016, winning the Australian Open and making the final at Wimbledon. Kerber will face Mariana Duque-Marino in what should be a routine first round. Round two will be a test with either Sloane Stephens or Eugenie Bouchard waiting in the wings. Sam Stosur is the 13th seed and will play the feisty Jelena Ostapenko in round one. Yaroslava Shvedova or Misaki Doi will await the winner in the second round. A Stosur vs Kerber round three will be a great match potentially between two former grand slam champions.
Kuznetsova has also enjoyed a stellar 2016 and will enter Rio as the eighth seed. The Russian will be aiming for a medal, and her opening two rounds look to be very kind to her, with Monica Niculescu being the toughest test. Round three gets interesting, though. The in-form Johanna Konta is Britain’s best hope of a medal in the women’s event, but she could have a tough match against Caroline Garcia in round two. The Frenchwoman has a good record when representing her country, but she will face Teliana Pereira who is playing in her home Olympics.
Serena def. Kvitova
Muguruza def. Venus
Radwanska def. Keys
Kerber def. Garcia
Serena def. Muguruza
Radwanska def. Kerber
Bronze medal match:
Muguruza def. Kerber
Gold medal match:
Serena def. Radwanska
The reigning champion will likely defend her title here. Muguruza looks focused prior to the Olympics and will win Bronze after she finds Serena too difficult to handle. Kerber vs Radwanska could very well be a toss-up, but I am going for the Pole to upset the German.