Ana Ivanovic vs Karolina Pliskova, Indian Wells R3 Preview

Indian Wells R3: (14) Ana Ivanovic vs (18) Karolina Pliksova

Ana Ivanovic and Karolina Pliskova will renew hostilities on Monday when they clash in the third round of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells. Karolina Pliskova has dominated Ivanovic, leading the head-to-head series between the pair 3-0. However, Pliskova’s recent form has generally been quite poor meaning this could be a perfect opportunity for Ivanovic to claim her first career victory over the Czech.

Ana Ivanovic’s results are continuing to improve in season 2016, encouraging signs for the Serb. After receiving a bye into the second round, Ivanovic did well to advance through to the third round in Indian Wells, coming from a set down and saving 2 match points to defeat a red-hot Camila Giorgi 2-6 6-2 7-6. Giorgi threw absolutely everything at Ivanovic and was ahead for most of the match but Ivanovic managed to absorb the pressure and was ultimately the more stable of the pair. Ivanovic will face a similar test in the third round when she comes up against Karolina Pliskova, another thunderous striker of the ball.

 

Karolina Pliskova arrived in Indian Wells on the back of 2 consecutive opening rounding losses. The Czech has rarely played her best tennis in season 2016 but made an encouraging start to her BNP Paribas Open campaign. Pliskova recorded a comfortable 6-2 6-4 win over Shelby Rogers to set up a third round clash with Ana Ivanovic, an opponent Pliskova has played great tennis against in recent times.

Karolina Pliskova has a perfect 3-0 head-to-head record against Ana Ivanovic, winning all 3 matches on a hard court. The most recent clash between the pair was in Sydney earlier this year, Pliskova won that match quite comfortably 6-4 6-2. Ivanovic has really struggled in this match-up and will be keen to make amends for that at a tournament where she is a former champion.

I believe this is a great opportunity for Ivanovic to claim her first victory over Pliskova. The Czech hasn’t been in good form in season 2016 and will really need to step up her game for this match because Ivanovic seems to be finding her range. The conditions in Indian Wells should help Ivanovic in this match-up, the courts are quite slow and Ivanovic has had success at this event in the past. Ivanovic is also likely to feel a little freer having come through such a tough opening match where she saved multiple match points, this could really work in her favour.

Prediction: Ana Ivanovic to defeat Karolina Pliskova in 3 sets


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Ana Ivanovic vs Camila Giorgi, Indian Wells R2 Preview

Indian Wells R2: (14) Ana Ivanovic vs Camila Giorgi

Ana Ivanovic will begin her BNP Paribas Open campaign on Saturday night with a dangerous second clash against Camila Giorgi. Ivanovic made a poor start to the year but has gradually improved and will be hoping for a deep run in the Californian desert to consolidate that improvement. However, Camila Giorgi made a strong start to the tournament in her first round match and will be a tough first-up opponent for Ivanovic.

Ivanovic had a poor Australian summer but showed signs of improvement last month with a semi-final showing in St. Petersburg and a victory over Simona Halep in Dubai on route to the quarter-finals. Ivanovic is a former champion at Indian Wells and will be aiming to continue building positive momentum over the next couple of weeks. Ivanovic will be wary of the threats Giorgi possess and will know she needs to start the tournament at a high level.

 

Camila Giorgi made a really strong start to the tournament on Thursday, recording an emphatic 6-3 6-2 victory over Julia Goerges. It was a refreshingly consistent performance by the Italian, especially behind her serve as she did not face a break point throughout the entire match. Giorgi has had a poor first couple of months of the year but will be encouraged by her positive start to the event and her previous record at the event, Giorgi famously defeated Sharapova at this event a couple of years ago, one of the Italian’s biggest wins to date.

Ana Ivanovic recorded a 7-5 6-2 victory over Camila Giorgi in the only previous encounter between the pair in Tokyo last year. Despite this, I believe this is a dangerous match-up for Ivanovic and wouldn’t be surprised to see Giorgi cause an upset here. Drawing Giorgi in the first match of a tournament is never easy because the Italian will not give an opponent any rhythm. I was encouraged by Giorgi’s first match of the week, especially her serve and feel like she will cause an upset here.

Prediction: Camila Giorgi to defeat Ana Ivanovic in 3 sets


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Ana Ivanovic vs Barbora Strycova, Dubai QF Preview

Dubai QF: Ana Ivanovic vs Barbora Strycova

The Final quarter-final of the day at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships features Ana Ivanovic and Barbora Strycova. Ana Ivanovic is starting to gain some much needed momentum after a poor start to the season and all of a sudden is one of the favourites to win the title in Dubai given no seeded players remain in the draw. However, Ana will face a great challenge when she comes up against the always dangerous Barbora Strycova on Thursday night.

Ana Ivanovic is into her fourth quarter-final in Dubai courtesy of a pair of impressive straight set victories over tough opponents. Ivanovic kick-started her Dubai campaign with a 6-1 6-0 demolition of Daria Gavrilova which took less than hour. Ivanovic backed up that impressive first round performance by ousting the top seed and defending champion Simona Halep with a 7-6 6-2 victory on Wednesday evening. Ivanovic’s level of play in Dubai has clearly been the best tennis she has produced in 2016, encouraging signs for the Serb.

 

Barbora Strycova is into the quarter-finals in Dubai despite looking virtually down and out in her second round clash on Wednesday. Strycova started the week with a relatively comfortable 6-4 6-3 win over Tsvetana Pironkova before coming from a set and 0-3 down to defeat Julia Goerges 2-6 6-3 6-1. Strycova looked to be heading for a second round defeat when she trailed a seemingly untouchable Goerges by a set and a break however Strycova really raised her level as the German’s level dropped which resulted in Strycova winning 12 of the last 13 games of the match to book a quarter-final showdown with Ana Ivanovic.

Ana Ivanovic holds a perfect 3-0 head-to-head record over Barbora Strycova, winning all three matches reasonably easily in straight sets. Ivanovic has never lost more than 3 games in a set against Strycova. The most recent clash between the pair was in the Birmingham final in 2014, Ivanovic claimed a 6-3 6-2 win. Despite the dominant head-to-head record in Ivanovic’s favour, I believe Strycova has a good chance to cause an upset here.

Strycova has generally played pretty good throughout the new year and has consistently shown her ability to defy the odds against more fancied opponents. Strycova does have the game to trouble Ivanovic, especially if the Serb is a little of her game. Ivanovic can struggle against unorthodox players like Strycova which was evident just last week when Ivanovic was outplayed by Roberta Vinci. Given all the upsets this week, why not another one here?

Prediction: Barbora Strycova to defeat Ana Ivanovic in 3 sets


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Dubai DFTC Day 3 Recap

Day 3 at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships was one of the most bizarre days in terms of results we have seen all year on the WTA tour. Almost every single match ended with the underdog emerging victorious. Heading into the quarter-finals there are no seeded players left in the draw, in fact no seeded player won a match this week. The draw is now wide open for any of the remaining 8 players to become an unlikely champion this week in Dubai. After days like this the dedication of the top players has to be questioned as players such as Garbine Muguruza produced a ridiculously poor level of tennis.

 

The day started with 2 strange matches. Both Barbora Strycova and Caroline Garcia came back from a set and a break down to record what seemed like an unlikely victory. Barbora Strycova trailed Julia Goerges by a set and 0-3 before winning 12 of the next 13 games to book her spot in the quarter-finals. Goerges was seemingly cursing to victory playing unbelievably well before suddenly collapsing as Strycova raised her level of play. Strycova was actually in tears after the first set and seemed like she little or no fight left in her which made her stunning end to the match all the more surprising.

Caroline Garcia pulled a similar trick, coming from a set and 4-2 down to advance to the final 8 with a 4-6 6-4 6-3 victory. Suarez Navarro had multiple game points to take a 5-3 lead in the second set but was typically shaky when the pressure was on and committed far too many unforced errors. A rain delay halted proceedings with Garcia serving for the match at 5-3 in the deciding set, Garcia did well to close out the match when play resumed after an awkward wait. It was a good win for Garcia who was not at her best for most of the match but never stopped fighting and was ultimately rewarded for her efforts.

 

When play resumed after a lengthy rain delay the upsets continued. Andrea Petkovic recorded a surprisingly comfortable 6-3 6-2 victory over Jelena Jankovic whilst Sara Errani thumped a hopelessly disappointing Yaroslava Shvedova 6-3 6-0. The Kazakh was a shadow of her best, and a shadow of the player that smashed Errani at Wimbledon in their previous meetings. Shvedova hit far too many reckless unforced errors and pretty much handed Errani a place in the next. Credit to Errani, she was there to take advantage of her opponent’s poor performance.

Sara Errani will face Madison Brengle in the quarter-finals after the American produced yet another upset win by defeating Petra Kvitova 0-6 7-6 6-3. It was a gutsy victory by Brengle considering she was totally outplayed in the opening set. The American also trailed by a break in the deciding set before rallying to win the final 5 games of the match. It was a horrific loss for Kvitova as her season goes from bad to worse. Garbine Muguruza’s season has also gone from bad to worse, the Spaniard hit a whopping 68 unforced errors in straight set loss to Elina Svitolina. Muguruza didn't seem to interested in the match and couldn't have played much worse. Svitolina finished the match with 8 winners and 28 unforced errors but that was good enough to get he win on the night. 

 

Day 3 also saw the defending champion dumped from the event in her opening match of the week. The top seeded Simona Halep was ousted by Ana Ivanovic who recorded a 7-6 6-2 victory over the Romanian. Halep has ahead for almost the entire first set and served for the set at 5-4 where she squandered a set point before eventually being totally outplayed in the tiebreak. Simona offered very little resistance in the second set as Ivanovic ran away with the match and continued her resurgence after a poor start to the year. CoCo Vandeweghe was also victorious on day 3, winning a topsy-turvy three match against Kristina Mladenovic.

With no seeded player left in the day heading into the quarter-finals every player left in the draw should feel as though they have a legitimate chance to win the title. It will be interesting to see who is able to make the most of this rare opportunity.


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Simona Halep vs Ana Ivanovic, Dubai R2 Preview

Dubai R2: (1) Simona Halep vs Ana Ivanovic

The pick of the second round clashes at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Tuesday sees top seed and defending champion Simona Halep begin her title defense against Ana Ivanovic. Both Halep and Ivanovic have made slow starts to the season but both have shown signs of a resurgence in recent times, this is a critical clash for both ladies and promises to be a highly competitive affair.

Simona Halep had a shocking Australian summer highlighted by a first round loss in Melbourne to Chinese qualifier Shuai Zhang. Halep indicated after the tournament that she would need surgery on her nose but decided that she was feeling well enough to postpone the surgery and play in Romania’s Fed Cup tie with the Czech Republic. Simona played decent tennis in that Fed Cup tie, showing signs of improvement when she won a critical rubber against Petra Kvitova. Simona will be reasonably confident heading into this event despite the slow start to the season given her title run at the event last year where she played great. 

 

Ana Ivanovic also had a shocking Australian summer but is showing real signs of improvement over the last couple of weeks. Ivanovic had a decent week in St. Petersburg where she made the semi-finals but it was in her first round match in Dubai where Ivanovic showed that she is back on the right track. Ivanovic produced her best performance of the season thus far to record a comprehensive 6-1 6-0 victory over a wayward Daria Gavrilova in less than an hour of play. That result will give Ivanovic a much needed confidence boost and she will feel good heading into her second round clash with Halep given her positive record over the Romanian.

Ana Ivanovic holds a 3-2 head-to-head record over Simona Halep. The Serb won the most recent clash between the pair, a hard-fought 7-6 3-6 6-3 win at the WTA Final in Singapore back in 2014. Despite the head-to-head record and Ivanovic’s big first round win, I’m going to side with Halep here. Simona is generally a far most solid and consistent player and should be strong enough from the baseline to deal with Ivanovic. It’s also hard to know how good Ivanovic really is playing at the moment given Gavrilova was simply terrible yesterday. This is an important match for both and it is likely to be a really close one.

Prediction: Simona Halep to defeat Ana Ivanovic in 3 sets


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Dubai DFTC Day 2 Recap

Day 2 in Dubai was again headlined by upsets as both of last week’s St. Petersburg finalists were dumped out of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships in the first round. Roberta Vinci was defeated by Yaroslava Shvedova in 3 sets whilst Belinda Bencic also suffered a 3 set loss, succumbing to Jelena Jankovic.

 

Ana Ivanovic made a huge statement in her opening round match in Dubai. The Serb recorded the biggest victory of her season thus far in what was clearly her best performance of the season thus far, defeating Daria Gavrilova 6-1 6-0 in less than an hour of play. Ivanovic was surprisingly solid and made few unforced errors in a very clean match whilst Gavrilova was a huge disappointment, playing her worst match of the season thus far. Ivanovic’s reward is blockbuster second round clash with defending champion and top seed Simona Halep on Wednesday.

Barbora Strycova and Elina Svitolina also made strong starts to their Dubai campaign on Tuesday. Elina Svitolina won her first match with Justine Henin by her side, Svitolina was a class above Jana Cepelova, earning a reasonably comfortable 6-3 6-1 victory to set up a second round clash with Garbine Muguruza. Barbora Strycova produced an impressive display of all-court tennis to comfortably defeat Tsvetana Pironkova 6-4 6-3. Strycova served reasonably well and was very consistent from the baseline, using the drop shot very well against a slow moving Pironkova.

 

Belinda Bencic and Roberta Vinci were the two form players heading into this event after reaching the final in St. Petersburg last week. However, both ladies were unable to advance past the first round in Dubai on Tuesday. Belinda Bencic got herself into a winning position against Jelena Jankovic but lost her cool towards the end of the second set and ultimately suffered a disappointing 6-4 5-7 4-6 loss to the Serb. Roberta Vinci was a shadow of the player that stormed to the title in St. Petersburg, succumbing to Yaroslava Shvedova 0-6 6-4 3-6 in a topsy-turvy encounter. Sara Errani also advanced to the second round, defeating Chinese qualifier Saisai Zheng in straight sets.

Play will heat up on Wednesday in Dubai with a number of blockbuster second round matches including Ivanovic vs Halep, Muguruza vs Svitolina and Garcia vs Suarez Navarro. Every player left in the draw has some kind of a chance to go on to win the title this week, it will be interesting to see who makes the most of this relatively open draw at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships. 


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Daria Gavrilova vs Ana Ivanovic, Dubai R1 Preview

Dubai R1: Daria Gavrilova vs Ana Ivanovic

The pick of the first round matches at the 2016 Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships is a blockbuster encounter between Daria Gavrilova and Ana Ivanovic. The two have made completely contrasting starts to the season, Gavrilova had an outstanding Australian summer whilst Ana Ivanovic was one of the biggest disappointments. Gavrilova won an epic in their only previous encounter in Rome last year and looks like having a good chance of maintaining a perfect record against Ivanovic with a win in Dubai.

Daria Gavrilova made a brilliant start to the season, making a huge impact in her first Australian Open campaign representing Australia. Daria helped guide Australia to Hopman Cup glory before going on a strong run to the fourth round at the Australian Open. The tournament did ultimately end in disappointment when Daria lost her cool and let a large lead slip against Carla Suarez Navarro, overall it was still a great tournament for Gavrilova. The Australian seems to thrive on the big stage and will enjoy another shot at Ana Ivanovic.

 

Ana Ivanovic rebounded well from a poor Australian Open campaign with a decent week in St. Petersburg last week where she reached the semi-final stage. The Serb recorded straight set wins over Margarita Gasparyan and Kateryna Kozlova but was largely outplayed by Roberta Vinci in her straight set semi-final loss to the Italian. Ivanovic will be hoping for another good week in Dubai and will be desperate to avoid a first round exit and another loss to the young Australian.

The only previous encounter between the pair took place on clay in Rome last year, it was Gavrilova who recorded a memorable 5-7 7-6 7-6 victory. This will be a totally different clash on a totally different surface, it will be interesting to see who the quicker courts in Dubai will favour in this match-up.

I think this is a good match-up for Gavrilova and a pretty bad match-up for Ivanovic. Gavrilova is one of the best movers and defenders on the tour and Ivanovic can often struggle against these types of opponents (just look at her record against Agnieszka Radwanska). Gavrilova will enter this match full of confidence after her strong Australian summer campaign and also knowing that she has what it takes to beat Ivanovic after her victory over the Serb last year. I still don’t think Ivanovic is playing at a level high enough to beat a player like Gavrilova. The Serb will have to produce her best performance of the season thus far if she is to win this match.

Prediction: Daria Gavrilova to defeat Ana Ivanovic in 3 sets

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Ana Ivanovic vs Roberta Vinci, St. Petersburg SF Preview

St. Petersburg SF: (4) Ana Ivanovic vs (2) Roberta Vinci

Saturday’s first semi-final in St. Petersburg promises to be a fascinating encounter between Ana Ivanovic and Roberta Vinci. The careers of these two ladies have gone in totally different directions over the last couple of months. Ivanovic would usually head into a match against Vinci as a strong favourite but on this occasion it is Vinci who could rightfully claim favouritism. The contrast in styles between these two will make for a good spectacle.

Ana Ivanovic is now in a good position to reach her first final since Brisbane last year. The Serb has progressed through her opening two matches in St. Petersburg with relative ease, recording straight set victories over Margarita Gasparyan and Kateryna Kozlova. Ivanovic admits that this in an important week for her, recognising that this is a great opportunity to gain some much needed confidence after an extremely poor start to the season in Australia.

 

Roberta Vinci’s form has been solid ever since her shock run to the final in New York last year. The Italian veteran certainly gained a lot of confidence after her victory over Serena and seems to have a renewed sense of hope and belief. Vinci strolled through her opening round match in St. Petersburg, claiming a straight set win over Yanina Wickmayer but was forced to work much harder for her 7-6 4-6 7-6 quarter-final victory over Timea Babos. Vinci trailed by a break for the majority of the deciding set but did well to stick around and wait for Timea’s level to drop. Vinci was more solid when it mattered most in the deciding set tiebreak and she ultimately fought her way to a gutsy win.

Ana Ivanovic has a 6-3 head-to-head record over Roberta Vinci, however the Italian has won 3 of the last 5 encounters between the pair. Their most recent match was back in 2013 in Carlsbad, Ivanovic won that match 6-1 6-7 6-2, prior to that match Vinci thumped Ivanovic 6-0 6-0 at the Rogers Cup in 2012. This seem like a pretty even match-up on paper.

I’m going to give the slight edge to Roberta Vinci heading into this match. Vinci’s form has generally been better than Ana’s and she has a lot more confidence in her game. I think the surface will also help Vinci in this match-up, the relatively quick and low bouncing surface will allow Vinci to disrupt Ivanovic and draw errors. This should be a close one.

Prediction: Roberta Vinci to defeat Ana Ivanovic in 3 sets

Ana Ivanovic vs Margarita Gasparyan, St. Petersburg R2 Preview

St. Petersburg R2: (4) Ana Ivanovic vs Margarita Gasparyan

Wednesday’s most intriguing clash at the St. Petersburg ladies’ trophy sees Ana Ivanovic and Margarita Gasparyan clash in the second round. Ivanovic has made a very poor start to the season and after receiving a bye into the second round will face a very tough opening match in St. Petersburg against an in from Russian. Margarita Gasparyan will be looking to claim her biggest scalp and make a real name for herself in front of her home crowd, this should be a good one.

Ana Ivanovic’s Australian summer didn’t go to plan, suffering first round exits in Auckland and Sydney before ultimately making a third round exit in Melbourne. Ivanovic is yet to defeat an opponent ranked inside the top 100 in 2016. The Serb arrived in St. Petersburg several days before the beginning of the tournament and has therefore had a good amount of time to practise and adjust to the conditions. Ivanovic desperately needs to deep run at a tournament, this week could be a good opportunity for her given the relatively weak field for a premier level event.

 

Margarita Gasparyan’s form heading into this match is in complete contrast to Ivanovic’s. Gasparyan has made a wonderful start to the season, the Russian went on a strong run to the fourth round at the Australian Open before succumbing to Serena Williams. It was by far the Russian’s best result at a Grand Slam and certainly seems to have given the rising start a real boost of confidence. Gasparyan made a strong start to her St. Petersburg campaign on Tuesday with a commanding 6-1 6-2 victory over a struggling Bojana Jovanovski.

This will be the first career meeting between the pair and promises to be a really close match. Both ladies love to dictate play with punishing groundstrokes, it will be interesting to see who is able to dictate play the most in this match-up. This is a tough match to call because both players can be very inconsistent but it is Gasparyan who clearer has the better form heading into this match and therefore probably has the slight edge. If Gasparyan is able to maintain her composure throughout the match, I think she is capable of causing an upset here.

Prediction: Margarita Gasparyan to defeat Ana Ivanovic in 3 sets

January 5: Winners & Losers

Biggest winner: Daria Kasatkina (d. V. Williams 6-7 6-3 6-3)

There was a lot of hype surrounding Daria Kasatkina heading into season 2016 with many expecting the young Russian to climb up the rankings. However I don’t think many would have expected the 18-year-old to make such a massive impact in her first match of the season.

 

The Russian claimed easily the greatest victory of her career by upsetting defending Champion Venus Williams in three sets in the first round at the ASB Classic in Auckland. The manner in which Daria won was particularly impressive, after losing a tight opening set it would have been very easy for the Russian to become disheartened, however to the contrary she actually stepped up her game, it was very refreshing to see. Daria displayed her all-round game, her great movement and flashy forehand stood out. Now the challenge for Daria is to quickly forget about the victory and concentrate on moving further through the draw.

 

Biggest loser: Ana Ivanovic (d. by N. Broady 5-7 4-6)

Ana Ivanovic made a horrific start to her 2016 season, suffering an embarrassing straight sets loss to British qualifier Naomi Broady. After a disappointing 2015 season, Ivanovic would have been hoping to gain some much needed confidence in Auckland however this result will do the exact opposite and has the potential to have a lasting effect.

 

Ivanovic never looked comfortable throughout her first match of the season. Ana unable to read the Naomi’s serve as the Brit fired 14 aces past her racquet. Ivanovic’s own serve was as erratic as ever, committing 8 double faults including a couple towards the end of the match at very crucial stages. Ivanovic clearly has a lot to work on before stepping onto the court in Melbourne.