Western & Southern Open Preview

I ran out of time for an ATP preview here but check out once again my preview for it at Stevegtennis.

Cincinnati Premier 5 Draw

Only Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova miss out of the top 10 stars, Azarenka was never scheduled to play this tournament while Sharapova is still carrying the illness that saw her withdraw from Montreal. Due to the late Monday finish in Canada, two “performance BYE’s” for the finalists were designated if they were outside of the top eight seeds, Na Li takes advantage of one with her run to the final.

No. 3 Agnieszka Radwanska becomes No.1 seed in a Premier 5 for the first time ever and will take on either Tamira Paszek or Sofia Arvidsson first. Paszek was fairly impressive in Montreal, making the quarter finals with little trouble before being disposed of by Petra Kvitova. However, Arvidsson lost in the first round to qualifier Jana Cepelova in fairly tame fashion. The pair have met twice and won one match each. The incredibly inconsistent but talented wildcard Sloane Stephens faces a tough first round clash with Tsvetana Pironkova. While Pironkova is known more for her grass court exploits she has been showing improvements on other surfaces and actually has a win over Angelique Kerber this year on a hard court. In a match of two wildly differing styles, Camila Giorgi plays Francesca Schiavone. Giorgi plays an incredibly attacking style that can go incredibly well (see Wimbledon run, defeats of Pennetta, Petrova) or very badly. Meanwhile, Schiavone’s grinding style may not be as pretty to watch at times but it will likely be effective in taking out her younger opponent.

Na Li has a chance to repeat her Montreal win over Radwanska in the quarter finals if she makes it that far, she gets a ticket to the second round due to her exploits this past week. After that, either Yanina Wickmayer or Sorana Cirstea will be up. Both Wickmayer and Cirstea are capable of beating top ten players when on form, but can often be very bad when low on confidence. Cirstea beat Li just recently at Wimbledon and would fancy her chances again. However, Wickmayer owns a 3-0 record over the Romanian on three different surfaces including a straight sets victory at the US Open last year. Qualifiers Johanna Larsson and Casey Dellacqua face off for the chance to play Marion Bartoli. Both earned their spot in the draw in fairly straight forward fashion, having won both matches without dropping a set.

Samantha Stosur has had a fairly consistent year until the grass court season but disappointingly fell to Lucie Safarova last week in two tie-break sets. Simona Halep will play Anabel Medina Garrigues to decide who takes on the Australian, Medina Garrigues defeated Halep in consecutive weeks on the grass so perhaps should have the edge. Halep will mostly likely be dreading the idea of playing Stosur again so soon after choking a 5-1 lead away in the first set in Montreal before a 7-5 4-4 ret. defeat. In a Russian-heavy section, there is a good chance of an all Russian round two affair. Nadia Petrova and Ekaterina Makarova‘s match ensures there will be at least one, Makarova will be slight favourite having taken the last three meetings between the two but constant draws with Angelique Kerber leave Makarova exiting in the early rounds of tournaments. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova could complete the matchup and will be confident of beating Klara Zakapalova, as she has done in their last two hard court meetings.

Sara Errani completes what looks yet another lopsided draw in terms of the top seeds. She has a fairly difficult first match, against either Daniela Hantuchova or Jie Zheng. Zheng is a dangerous player on her day and this showed as she pushed eventual Wimbledon champion Serena Williams far into the third set before being defeated. Strangely though, Hantuchova has a 5-0 record over Zheng, including three times on American hard courts. In one of the ties of the first round Maria Kirilenko takes on wildcard Venus Williams. Both come off winning medals at the Olympic Games and will be full of confidence. The pair have not played in five years but Venus holds a 3-0 record over Kirilenko, all in hard courts. The winner of this match will face either Chanelle Scheepers or Christina Mchale. Both exited at the same stage in Montreal in straight sets and will be both disappointed to have not taken at least one with Mchale holding set points and Scheepers a break lead against Wozniak and Radwanska respectively. Mchale defeated Scheepers earlier in the year in Doha in a fairly simple 6-4 6-3 victory.

Caroline Wozniacki kicks off her tournament with a match against a qualifier, either Sesil Karatantcheva or Kiki Bertens. Karatantcheva has had some bizarre scorelines in recent weeks including a double bagel of Sorana Cirstea and more notably winning both her qualifying matches 3-6 7-5 6-0, against Olga Govortsova and Arantxa Rus. Wozniacki faced Bertens last week and after an early slip-up, won fairly comfortably in straight sets. Julia Goerges and Shahar Peer will be keen to get their poor Montreal results out of their head and one will have the chance to do so as the pair face off in the first round one. Goerges looked to be back to some sort of form after defeating Agnieszka Radwanska at the Olympics but then took just three games against Tamira Paszek last week while Peer lost from one set up against youngster Eugenie Bouchard. While Goerges and Peer disappointed last week, their results were nothing in comparison to the double bagel Ana Ivanovic received from Roberta Vinci last week. While Ivanovic often disappoints against the very top players, she usually does well against the second tier and below so to lose in this fashion was astonishing. Her first round opponent is Carla Suarez Navarro, the Spaniard was 1-6 1-4 down in their Doha clash this year before retiring.

Losing finalist Jelena Jankovic will have a hard time defending her points from last year, especially in the dire form that she is in. Jankovic has won just four matches since the clay season ended and has been defeated by the likes of Coco Vandeweghe, Sofia Arvidsson and Yung-Jan Chan. She does a possess a lopsided head to head record against her first opponent though, winning 6 of 8 encounters against Shuai Peng, but more notably has lost their last two meetings. Youngster Madison Keys qualified with ease for the main draw with a 6-3 6-0 win over Timea Babos. Keys has won just one of the four matches she has played on the main tour this year with win number two unlikely this week. She faces an incredibly tough opponent in Roberta Vinci who will be confident after her performances in Montreal. After bursting onto the scene with two hard fought defeats against Azarenka earlier in the year, Mona Barthel‘s form seems to have let up some what. After taking the first set against Agnieszka Radwanska, it looked possible that she may be back. However, a blown match point and a commanding lead in the tie-break was not enough as she faltered, much like in her battles against Azarenka. If she can make it past Maria-Jose Martinez Sanchez in the first round she can test herself against another of the top players on tour in Petra Kvitova, who appears to be showing she can play on hard courts in North America after all having made the final of Montreal.

In an extraordinary quarter that holds 2 byes, 7 qualifiers and 1 lucky loser, Serena Williams appears to have herself a dream draw to the quarter finals. It is possible that she could play qualifiers in round two and three if all goes to plan. With a 6-16 record on the year Eleni Daniilidou will be a big outsider to qualify for the next round. She faces Vania King who can seal an all-American second round tie with victory. King made the semi final of Washington in her last tournament, being defeated by losing finalist Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. While Urszula Radwanska had to qualify for the tournament, she will be expected to come through her tie with Ksenia Pervak. The younger sister of Agnieszka is improving rapidly and reached her career high of 44 just a few weeks ago after starting the year outside the top 100. On her way to the S’Hertogenbosch final earlier this year, Urszula defeated Pervak in a three set encounter. Much like Radwanska, many feel that Yaroslava Shvedova is only going one way and that is up. Shvedova’s mid-season form has been excellent and the prospect of her meeting Serena again would be one to look forward to. She has an excellent chance against Lucie Safarova, whose mental frailties showed up once more as she dropped a double break lead to Na Li in the semi final of Montreal.

After being rejected a wildcard for the tournament by the directors, Varvara Lepchenko finally made it into the tournament as the last direct acceptance when more withdrawals were announced. Her opponent is one even more fortunate to make the draw, Timea Babos is a lucky loser who was handed the spot after the other “performance bye” was left unused. Monterrey champion Babos has had an up and down year and will be disappointed to have lost so easily in her final qualifying round to Madison Keys. Lepchenko was impressive in Montreal as she defeated Dominika Cibulkova and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in two sets before pushing Caroline Wozniacki all the way in a three setter. Multiple injuries have seen qualifier Bethanie Mattek-Sands plummet in the rankings to outside the top 200 but an impressive comeback win over Yung-Jan Chan saw her progress to the main draw here. She has a winnable match against the Czech Andrea Hlavackova who has had a disappointing year going 5-10 in singles main draws, most recently exiting in the first round at Baku. Having taken the Carlsbad title a few weeks ago Dominika Cibulkova will be fairly confident in her form and really should win against Akgul Amanmuradova. The Uzbek is much more comfortable on clay and even shocked Cibulkova earlier this year, defeating her in Stuttgart.

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WTA Montreal – Rogers Cup Preview

Draw

Tamira Paszek or Julia Goerges drew the short straw with the winner going on to face the No.1 Victoria Azarenka. Azarenka started the season off 26-0 on hard courts and was defeated just once (Marion Bartoli, Miami) after picking up four straight titles including the Australian Open. Despite an embarrassing defeat to Serena Williams in the tennis, she will be full of confidence having earned the bronze medal in Singles to go with her Mixed Doubles title with Max Mirnyi. Azarenka made the semi final last year where she was defeated by Serena Williams and will be happy that the American has skipped the tournament this year. If fully fit, she will be a huge threat for the title here but has the tougher half of the draw. Sabine Lisicki is a potential third round opponent but her inconsistencies have been shown all season, including a shocking defeat to Lourdes Dominguez-Lino on the hard courts of Miami. Her grass court form has improved though, and she should have too much for Carla Suarez Navarro or Maria-Jose Martinez Sanchez. Navarro leads the head to head between the Spaniards 3-1.

Azarenka’s quarter also contains the only player to defeat her on hard courts this year in Marion Bartoli. Bartoli has been fairly inconsistent this year and is yet to take a title this year but in her last outing made the final in Carlsbad where she was defeated in straight sets by Dominika Cibulkova. Her first opponent will be either Shuai Peng or Aravane Rezai, the latter of which has finally shown some sort of form recently. The former No.15 qualified for the tournament after defeating Galina Voskoboeva in three sets and will hope to build on last weeks result at the Citi Open where she made the second round as a qualifier. While Petra Kvitova is notoriously poor on North American courts having not got past the third round on any in the last two years, it gives slight hope to Ksenia Pervak or qualifier Anna Tatishvili.

Maria Sharapova will be hoping for a quick return to form having been annihilated by Serena Williams in her last match in the Olympic Final. Potential round two opponent Arantxa Rus has very little hard court experience and qualified in a long match against Vera Dushevina. More likely though is Christina Mchale, the American has big potential and owns victories over Caroline Wozniacki, Petra Kvitova and Marion Bartoli in North America. In probably her last week as a seed at big tournaments before her Cincinnati points come off, Jelena Jankovic will hope to go far. Jankovic is unbeaten against four encounters against wildcard Aleksandra Wozniak while other potential opponent Daniela Hantuchova showed improvements in London as she took out Na Li in a three set encounter.

The top half of the draw is rounded off with Caroline Wozniacki. The Dane has not took one title this year and dropped out of the top five after starting the season as No.1 in the WTA rankings. Qualifier Kiki Bertens is yet to play a main tour match on hard court this year but does possess one more title than Wozniacki on the year, having taken Fes as a qualifier also. More likely though is that she will face Nadia Petrova. Wozniacki has won their last four encounters but Petrova is in much improved form over the past two months and should really have done better against Dominika Cibulkova in Carlsbad having been in a great position to take the first set of their semi final on a number of occasions. Cibulkova is a potential third round opponent who could cause trouble for Wozniacki, having taken two of their last four matches including Wimbledon 2011. She faces either Varvara Lepchenko or Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. Pavlyuchenkova was a finalist in Washington D.C. last week but took just two games in a lopsided final against Magdalena Rybarikova while Lepchenko exited early in the Olympics and was also took to three sets by an opponent whose only grass court experience was a 2012 Wimbledon qualifier.

On paper,Agnieszka Radwanska again seems to be the recipient of a softer draw, with the other side looks decidedly more stacked than this side. Two of the youngest top 100 players battle it out for the chance to play the Pole. Monterrey champion Timea Babos qualified after getting through two three set matches and has shown glimpses of her talent throughout the year while Mona Barthel has been decidedly shaky after her good start to the year where she twice threatened the unbeaten streak of Victoria Azarenka. Fourteenth seed Flavia Pennetta has lost her last three encounters with Radwanska but should have a chance to try and turn her luck around as Chanelle Scheepers has been fairly disappointing recently while Stephanie Dubois was a recent retiree in the Granby Challenger final so injury questions may hang over the wildcards fitness.

Sara Errani is the surprise eighth seed thanks to her clay court exploits but when it comes hard courts it is somewhat of a false ranking. She has suffered disappointing defeats to the likes of Vania King, Sloane Stephens and Timea Babos earlier in the year in North America. Sofia Arvidsson is already a winner this year having taken the Memphis title and takes on the qualifier Jana Cepelova first. Cepelova is fairly new to the tour but gave a good account of herself at Wimbledon when she made the third round and was defeated 6-3 6-3 by Victoria Azarenka.

Another highly touted youngster follows in Eugenie Bouchard, the young Canadian wildcard has had a great month or so, taking the Wimbledon Girls’ title and also an ITF in Granby. She has an extremely winnable match as she takes on Shahar Pe’er. Pe’er has had a fairly quiet year and failed to get past the third round at any tournament this year. The winner will face Na Li in the second round. Although Li has not took a title this year, most of her defeats have not been surprising having been taken out by Victoria Azarenka, Maria Sharapova and Agnieszka Radwanska amongst others.

Another player glad to get off the grass will be Samantha Stosur. The Aussie yet again had a horror grass season, excelling herself this time by getting defeated by Carla Suarez Navarro in London. Michelle Larcher de Brito takes on Simona Halep for the chance to take on Stosur. Larcher de Brito has been impressive in qualifying for the past three WTA events but fell at the first hurdle in three set encounters both times. Meanwhile, Halep is on a five match losing streak and could be there for the taking. Lucie Safarova has had an up and down season but most recently there has only been negatives as she we nt down in straights to Kiki Bertens and Laura Robson on the Wimbledon grass. She can redeem herself when she takes on either Sorana Cirstea or qualifier Sesil Karatantcheva. Cirstea looked excellent in Stanford before one Serena Williams halted her charge while Karatantcheva did not drop more than three games in any set that she played on her way to qualifying.

Angelique Kerber rounds of the top seeds in the draw and first up is either Ekaterina Makarova or “Lucky Loser” Urszula Radwanska. Kerber has found a whole new consistency in the past year since her shock US Open run and has two titles to show for her efforts. Much like Na Li, a lot of Kerber’s defeats are against the top players and she rarely suffers shocks. Urszula Radwanska made the draw as the highest ranked seed not to qualify directly, after a suspect defeat to Anna Tatishvili. Recently, she was notable for taking the most games off Serena Williams in her amazing Olympic win. Ekaterina Makarova will be hoping for third time lucky if she makes it through to the second round – her last two defeats have been to Angelique Kerber. Ana Ivanovic will be hoping to avoid Roberta Vinci in the second round. The Italian defeated her in the same tournament last year in straight sets but first faces Yanina Wickmayer.

Finals PredictionAgnieszka Radwanska defeats Maria Sharapova in three sets