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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