ASB Classic, Auckland Final Preview
(1) 🇩🇰 Caroline Wozniacki vs (2) 🇩🇪 Julia Goerges
Two former finalists will go head-to-head in Sunday’s final at the ASB Classic in Auckland. It will be the ultimate final between the two top seeds: Caroline Wozniacki and Julia Goerges. Wozniacki and Goerges have been regulars in Auckland over the years, both will be desperate to finally lift the title and start the year on the ultimate high. Both enter this match in supreme form, Goerges is on a 13-match winning streak having ended 2017 with successive titles, whilst Wozniacki ended 2017 as the Singapore champion and has for the most part carried that form to Auckland.
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Caroline Wozniacki started her Auckland campaign in supreme form, claiming dominant straight set wins over Madison Brengle and Petra Martic. However, after a few day of rain delays, Wozniacki struggled in her quarter-final match, pushed all the way by world number 108, Sofia Kenin. Wozniacki ultimately defeated the American 4-6 6-2 6-4 before booking her spot in Sunday’s final with a 6-4 6-4 win over Sachia Vickery. Wozniacki was forced to play two matches on Saturday after the multiple rain delays.
Julia Goerges also played two matches on Saturday to reach Sunday’s final. Goerges raced through her two matches, beating Polona Hercog 6-4 6-4 and Su-Wei Hsieh 6-1 6-4. Goerges first match in Auckland has been her toughest of the week to date, a three set win over Monica Puig. Incredibly, Goerges is into her third consecutive final having won back-to-back titles in Moscow and Zhuhai to end 2017, an outstanding turn of events for a player that has been known for her wild inconsistency and unreliability.
These two have built up quite the rivalry over the years. It is Goerges who holds the slight edge in the head-to-head record, a 5-4 record. Wozniacki has often struggled in this match-up, when Goerges is on, her power has usually been too much for Wozniacki to handle. Goerges has won their two most recent matches, including a 1-6 6-3 6-4 win in Auckland last year.
ASB Classic, Auckland R2 Preview
(4) 🇵🇱 Agnieszka Radwanska vs 🇺🇸 Taylor Townsend
Agnieszka Radwanska scraped through her opening match of the season at the ASB Classic in Auckland. The former champion found herself down early in the deciding set but rallied to complete a 6-2 4-6 6-2 victory over Beatriz Maia Haddad. Radwanska will face another tough test when she comes up against America’s Taylor Townsend on Wednesday evening. This will be the first career meeting between the pair.
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Agnieszka Radwanska looked in big trouble in her opening match of the year. Radwanska was down a break to Beatriz Maia Haddad early in the third set after falling away in the second set. Radwanska found her groove and eventually overwhelmed her inexperienced Brazilian opponent, the 4th seed claimed an important 6-2 4-6 6-2 victory. Radwanska will be hoping for a more consistent performance in her second round match with Taylor Townsend, Townsend’s impressive opening round performance suggests this will be another tough match for Radwanska.
Taylor Townsend moved into the second round in Auckland courtesy of an impressive comeback victory over Christina McHale. Townsend looked down and out early in the second set, Townsend trailed McHale 1-6 0-3. However, the 21-year-old really lifted her game and ultimately claimed a hard-fought 1-6 6-4 6-4 victory. Townsend’s serve was extremely effective in the deciding set, Townsend did not face a break point and did not even look like giving McHale a look into her service games.
This will be the first career clash between Radwanska and Townsend. It should be an entertaining clash between two very contrasting styles of tennis. The power of Townsend against the touch and experience of Radwanska. Who will prevail In this exciting clash?
ASB Classic, Auckland Final
(8) 🇭🇷 Ana Konjuh vs 🇺🇸 Lauren Davis
A maiden WTA title is up for grabs on Saturday at the ASB Classic in Auckland when Ana Konjuh comes up against Lauren Davis, Ana Konjuh will be competing for her second WTA title whilst Lauren Davis will be looking to capture her very first WTA title. At 19 years of age Konjuh will be competing in her second WTA final whilst Lauren Davis will be contesting her third WTA final. Both ladies battled through tough three set matches at the semi-final stage and have both played quality tennis this week in Auckland.
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Auckland SF: (3) Caroline Wozniacki vs (5) Sloane Stephens
A blockbuster semi-final clash at the ASB Classic in Auckland sees 2015 finalist Caroline Wozniacki come up against American Sloane Stephens. Wozniacki has dominated Stephens in the past, winning all 5 previous encounters between the pair, Sloane will be desperate to make a mends for those losses on Friday evening by claiming a valuable victory.
Caroline Wozniacki has stormed through the draw to reach the semi-final stage in Auckland, dropping just three games in her last two matches. Wozniacki made a slow start in her opening round match where she found herself down 0-4 to Danka Kovinic, since then the Dane has barely been troubled. Wozniacki recorded a 6-4 6-4 win over Kovinic before crushing Christina McHale 6-0 6-2 in the second round.
Wozniacki found things even easier in her quarter-final clash, producing a very clean performance to record a dominant 6-1 6-0 victory over Alexandra Dulgheru. Wozniacki has seemingly looked to be more aggressive this week, particularly in her quarter-final clash where her forehand was unusually effective. It will be interesting to see if the Dane maintains an aggressive mindset in her semi-final clash with Sloane.
This is an important year for Sloane Stephens, I doubt the American can afford to have another mediocre year. Sloane has made a reasonable start to 2016 in Auckland, claiming reasonably comfortable victories over opponents that she should be beating. Sloane started the week with a 6-3 6-3 victory over Polona Hercog before coming from a set down to defeat Carina Witthoeft 3-6 6-1 6-3. The American advanced to the semi-final stage courtesy of a gutsy 7-6 6-3 victory over an in form Naomi Broady. Sloane faced multiple set points in a tight opening set but managed to keep her cool before running away with the match in the second.
Wozniacki has a wonderful record over the American, winning all 5 meetings between the pair, all in straight sets. The three most recent encounters between the pair have been particularly one-sided. The Dane has dropped just 11 games in their last 3 matches, thumping Stephens 6-0 6-1 in Miami and 6-3 6-3 at Eastbourne in their most recent clashes both in 2014.
On paper this looks like a really tough match-up for Sloane given the head-to-head record, however I believe Sloane is much more capable than the previous record suggests. The two actually have very similar games, both are wonderful movers and very solid form the baseline with decent serves. Clearly Wozniacki is much more consistent, but I believe Sloane is capable of playing tennis that can compete with Wozniacki. Sloane will see this match as a wonderful opportunity to measure how much she has improved, I think she will be much more competitive here and can actually cause an upset, all the pressure will be on Wozniacki.
Prediction: Sloane Stephens to defeat Caroline Wozniacki in 3 sets
Auckland R2: (3) Caroline Wozniacki vs Christina McHale
Caroline Wozniacki will continue her quest for a maiden Auckland title on Wednesday night when she comes up against Christina McHale in the second round. With Venus Williams and Ana Ivanovic both suffering shock first round exits on Tuesday, Caroline is now the clear favourite to win the tournament. The Dane will be wary of avoiding a similar slip-up on Wednesday against an opponent that she has lost to on multiple occasions.
Wozniacki made a slow start to her first round match against Danka Kovinic. The Dane quickly found herself trailing 0-4 and in real danger of dropping the first set. However Wozniacki quickly found her groove and started to draw more and more errors from Kovinic’s racquet to win 6 straight games and claim the first set. The second set was tight but Wozniacki was too good when it mattered most, picking up a reasonably comfortable 6-4 6-4 victory to start her season.
Christina McHale has had a disappointing couple of seasons and will be hoping for much better results in 2016. The American is clearly capable of achieving much greater results than she has been in recent years. McHale made a positive start to the season by picking up a convincing 6-2 6-4 victory over Misaki Doi in her first round match in Auckland and will be confident heading into her clash with Wozniacki given her record against the Dane.
Wozniacki holds a 3-2 head-to-head record over McHale. The American won 2 of the first 3 encounters between the pair but Wozniacki has won their last 2 meetings. Their most recent clash took place in Madrid last year, it was Wozniacki who prevailed 7-5 6-0. McHale clearly matches up well against Wozniacki, she has troubled the Dane in all of their previous meetings but often struggles to maintain a high enough level to get the victory.
I suspect Wozniacki will ultimately be too strong here, with such an open draw Wozniacki will be extra motivated to perform well. The conditions at night should suit Wozniacki in this match-up, McHale has generally performed better against Wozniacki on quicker surfaces.
Prediction: Caroline Wozniacki to defeat Christina McHale in 2 sets
Auckland R1: (1) Venus Williams vs Daria Kasatkina
Venus Williams will commence her title defense at the ASB Classic in Auckland on Tuesday afternoon when she comes up against Russian rising star Daria Kasatkina. Venus will be hoping to carry her late 2015 season form which saw her win the WTA Elite trophy into the Australian summer.
Venus Williams had an unbelievable season in 2015, claiming titles in Auckland, Wuhan and Zhuhai to break into the top 10 for the first time in four years. It will be interesting to see if Venus can take another step forward in 2016 and perhaps claim an elusive eighth Grand Slam title?
Venus has thrived in Auckland over the past couple of years, reaching the final in 2014 and claiming the title in 2015. Venus will want to make another quality start to the year in 2016, there is no reason to suggest that she cannot make a third consecutive final at the event and perhaps defend her title.
According to many Daria Kasatkina is one of the most promising young talents on the WTA tour. The Russian made her first real impact at a big event towards the end of 2015 when she came through the qualifying draw to reach the semi-finals at the Kremlin Cup in Moscow. Kasatkina has a solid all-round game, great movement and a big forehand are two of her greatest weapons on court.
This will be the first meetings between the pair and probably the toughest opponent Kasatkina has ever come up against in her young career. It will be a daunting occasion for Kasatkina, it will be interesting to see how she handles the occasion. I suspect Venus will be far too powerful for the 18-year-old and come through this match rather comfortably.
Prediction: Venus Williams to defeat Daria Kasatkina in 2 sets
Auckland R1: (3) Caroline Wozniacki vs Danka Kovinic
2015 ASB Classic runner-up Caroline Wozniacki will be keen to go one step better in Auckland in 2016. Wozniacki will begin her 2016 Auckland campaign against WTA rising star Danka Kovinic.
Caroline Wozniacki had an extremely disappointing season in 2015, unable to consistently play her best tennis partly due to persistent injury problems. The Dane believes her off-season was a major success and she is fit and ready to compete at a much higher level in 2016. Wozniacki has her eyes set on success at the Grand Slam level as she continues to search for an elusive Grand Slam title. It is important for Wozniacki to go deep in the draw in Auckland given this is the only event she is scheduled to play in prior to the Australian Open.
Danka Kovinic steadily climbed up the rankings in 2016 however the problem for Danka has been her inability to compete with the world’s best. Therefore Danka should see this clash as a perfect opportunity to make an impact to begin the season.
This will be the first career meeting between the pair. I suspect Wozniacki will be quite dominant in this match-up. Danka is solid but I doubt she has the ability to consistently hit through Wozniacki. The Dane should win this one rather comfortably.
Prediction: Caroline Wozniacki to defeat Danka Kovinic in 2 sets
The 2016 ASB Classic features on of the strongest ever fields for the Auckland event. Venus Williams and Caroline Wozniacki will again be among the headline acts with Ana Ivanovic, Sloane Stephens and Barbora Strycova also in action. A number of the world’s most promising young talents are also involved this week, including Daria Kasatkina, Nao Hibino and Jelena Ostapenko. A good mixture of talent, this should be a good week of tennis in Auckland
Defending Champion Venus Williams sits at the top of the draw. The American will be keen to carry her strong end of 2015 season form into Auckland as she aims to defend her title and make a strong start to the season just like she did in 2015. Venus will start her title defense with a potentially difficult encounter against talented youngster Daria Kasatkina. Lurking at the bottom of this quarter is the seventh seeded Barbora Strycova who will open her campaign against a qualifier. Venus and Barbora were involved in a very heated battle in Doha last year, a rematch would highly entertaining.
Fourth seeded Svetlana Kuznetsova headlines the second quarter, the Russian will begin her Auckland campaign with a difficult encounter against the always dangerous Mona Barthel. A bunch of Americans feature at the opposite end of this section, including the sixth seeded CoCo Vandeweghe who will start the tournament against compatriot Irina Falconi, Bethanie Mattek-Sands is a potential second round opponent for the winner. CoCo would be keen for a rematch with Mattek-Sands after her countrywoman embarrassed her at the U.S Open last year.
2015 runner-up Caroline Wozniacki will be keen to go one step better in 2016. Wozniacki was really disappointed with her 2015 results but says she is feeling fit and ready to turn things around in the new year. The Dane faces Danka Kovinic in her opening match of the tournament, a fairly reasonable draw for Wozniacki. The Dane is projected to meet either Christina McHale or Misaki Doi in the second round whilst the eighth seeded Alison Van Uytvanck sits at the opposite end of the third quarter of the draw. The always entertaining Yulia Putintseva also features in this section, the Kazakh will face Marina Erakovic in the first round.
The final section of the draw features the second seeded Ana Ivanovic and the fifth seeded Sloane Stephens who look highly likely to battle it out at the quarter-final stage. Ivanovic and Stephens both had disappointing seasons in 2015 and will be looking for much better results in 2016 starting with a strong showing in Auckland. Sloane will begin her Auckland campaign with a first round clash against Polona Hercog whilst Ivanovic faces a qualifier.
This looks like a really difficult tournament to predict at this stage, Venus Williams, Caroline Wozniacki and Ana Ivanovic certainly stand out as the clear favourites however their progression through to the later stages of the tournament isn’t guaranteed. All three will face some tough opponents at the early stages of the event. I still believe one of these three will certainly emerge victorious at the end of the week.
I’m going to back Ana Ivanovic to start the year off with a bang by claiming the title in Auckland with a victory over Venus Williams