Venus Williams vs Belinda Bencic, Australian Open R1 Preview

Australian Open 🇦🇺 R1 Preview
(5) 🇺🇸 Venus Williams vs 🇨🇭 Belinda Bencic

The pick of the opening round matches at the 2018 Australian Open sees Venus William come up against Belinda Bencic. The 2017 runner-up has certainly been dealt the toughest opening round match-up, Belinda Bencic is the most dangerous unseeded floater in the draw. Bencic is in outstanding form heading into the opening Grand Slam of the year. This looms as an intriguing battle between experience and youth. Venus has won the 4 previous matches between the pair but will have her work cut out to maintain her unbeaten record over the Swiss rising-star.

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Venus Williams enjoyed a marvellous 2017 season, unfortunately the 37-year-old just missed out on achieving her ultimate goal of winning another Grand Slam title. A passion to win another Grand Slam will be the drive for Venus in 2018. Venus played just one event in the lead up to the first Grand Slam of the year where she was beaten in her opening match by eventual champion Angelique Kerber 7-5 6-3 6-1 at the Sydney International. Venus showed glimpses of her 2017 form throughout the match but was understandably rusty and her level fell away towards the end of the match. Venus will be better off for the hit and usually does not played many matches before a Grand Slam event.

Belinda Bencic had a hybrid off-season. Bencic’s 2017 season ended late, Bencic won back-to-back WTA 125K titles in Hua Hin and Taipei before winning the 100K ITF title in Dubai. A few weeks later Bencic competed at the Hopman Cup where she helped guide Switzerland to the title alongside Roger Federer. Bencic won 3 of her 4 singles matches, her only defeat came in the final against Kerber. Bencic also competed in Kooyong just last week where she won the women’s championship, coming from a set down to beat Andrea Petkovic in the final. I think Bencic’s scheduling heading into Melbourne has been perfect.

Venus Williams has won all 4 of their previous matches between the pair, all in straight sets. Most recently Venus beat Bencic 6-3 6-4 at the U.S Open in 2015. Can an in-form Bencic claim her first win over Venus Williams or will the evergreen American be too strong?

Anastasia PAvlyuchenkova vs Belinda Bencic, Hopman Cup Preview

Hopman Cup Preview, Russia vs Switzerland
🇷🇺 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova vs 🇨🇭 Belinda Bencic

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova will take on Belinda Bencic on Tuesday evening at the Hopman Cup. Pavlyuchenkova and Bencic had contrasting starts to the season, Pavlyuchenkova was beaten by Vandeweghe in straight sets whilst Bencic defeated Osaka in straight sets. This should be a quality encounters between two fairly evenly matches players.

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Pavlyuchenkova was no match for Vandeweghe in her Hopman Cup debut. Pavlyuchenkova was beaten 3-6 3-6, another straight set loss to the American on a hard court. Pavlyuchenkova is making a trend of struggling against players that can better her power as it exposes her weaknesses: her movement and poor defense.

Belinda Bencic is on a 16-match winning streak at all level. After ending the 2017 season with 3 titles in a row (2 WTA 125K titles and an ITF 100K title), Bencic kept her winning momentum going in Perth. Bencic claimed an impressive 7-5 6-3 win over Naomi Osaka in what was a high quality encounter.

Bencic holds a 2-1 head-to-head record over Pavlyuchenkova. Most recently Bencic won 6-7 6-4 6-2 at the quarter-final stage in St. Petersburg in 2016.

Naomi Osaka vs Belinda Bencic, Hopman Cup Preview

Hopman Cup, Japan vs Switzerland

🇯🇵 Naomi Osaka vs 🇨🇭 Belinda Bencic

Japan will take on Switzerland in the second tie of the opening day of action at the 2018 Hopman Cup. Naomi Osaka will be representing Japan in what will be her first appearance in Perth. Belinda Bencic will be playing for Switzerland, alongside Roger Federer for the second year in a row. This should be an exciting encounter between two of the games most promising young talents.

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Belinda Bencic ended a frustrating 2017 season on a high. Bencic won back-to-back 125K events in Hua-Hin and Taipei to ensure she would end the 2017 season in the top 100. Bencic further boosted her ranking by ending her season with victory at the 100K ITF event in Dubai. At her best, Bencic has proved that she is a solid top 15 player, it will be interesting to see the heights Bencic can reach in 2018 if she stays fit and healthy.

2017 was a big year for Naomi Osaka. It is clear that Osaka has a great amount of potential, Osaka has a big game, capable of beating the best players in the world. Osaka claimed some notable victories in 2017, a first round win over Angelique Kerber at the U.S Open and a victory over Venus Williams in Hong Kong.



Belinda Bencic is the more experienced of the two when it comes to representing their country. Firstly, Bencic has previous experience at the Hopman Cup, whilst Osaka does not. Bencic has been a regular part of the Switzerland Fed Cup team over the last few years, helping her nation reach the semi-final stage of the world group in the last two years. Osaka made her Fed Cup debut in 2017, playing at the lower tiers of the event.

The only previous meeting between the pair took place in 2013 at an ITF event. Osaka won 6-3 6-3 on a clay court in Pelham. Clearly this result is mostly irrelevant heading into this match. It will be interesting to see how these two match up against each other.

Sara Errani vs Belinda Bencic, Miami R1 Preview

Miami Open, 🇺🇸🌴🐬 R1 Match Preview
🇮🇹 Sara Errani vs 🇨🇭 Belinda Bencic

Injuries have plagued the progress of both Sara Errani and Belinda Bencic in recent times, the pair have stumbled to outside the top 100 in the rankings. Clearly, both ladies belong much higher than their current rankings suggest and both will enter this contest extremely desperate for a victory to kick-start their build back up the rankings. Bencic has won the only two previous matches between the pair but both have struggled in recent times having each won just two matches in 2017.

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Mirjana Lucic-Baroni vs Belinda Bencic, Acapulco R1 Preview

Abierto Mexicano TELCEL, 🇲🇽🍐 Acapulco R1 Preview
(1) 🇭🇷 Mirjana Lucic-Baroni vs 🇨🇭 Belinda Bencic

Mirjana Lucic-Baroni will be in unfamiliar territory as she enters the Abierto Mexicano TELCEL as the top seed. Lucic-Baroni will be in action for the first time since her extraordinary run to the semi-finals at the Australian Open in January. The 34-year-old may be the top seed but she will be the underdog heading into her first round match where she faces Belinda Bencic, Bencic is on a 6 match losing streak at WTA tour events and will be desperate to reverse that trend in Acapulco.

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Serena Williams vs Belinda Bencic, Australian Open R1 Preview

Australian Open, 🇦🇺 First Round Match Preview
(2) 🇺🇸 Serena Williams vs 🇨🇭 Belinda Bencic

The standout first round match at the 2017 Australian Open on the women’s side sees 6-time former champion Serena Williams come up against Belinda Bencic. The Swiss 19-year-old is arguably the most dangerous unseeded player in the draw and has been dealt the most brutal first round clash, coming up against the greatest player of all time. Bencic will come into this match with some confidence having won the most recent meeting between the pair but Serena will be desperate for revenge on route to her quest for glory.

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Belinda Bencic vs Tsvetana Pironkova, Wimbledon R1 Preview

Wimbledon 🇬🇧 First Round Match Preview + Prediction
(7) 🇨🇭 Belinda Bencic vs 🇧🇬 Tsvetana Pironkova

Belinda Bencic has drawn one of the toughest unseeded players in the draw, the seventh seed will face Tsvetana Pironkova in the first round at SW19 on Tuesday. This is a brutal draw for both players, both consider grass to be their preferred surface and would have great expectations heading into the third Grand Slam of the season. A first round loss would be a massive disappointment for either lady, therefore the stakes are extremely high heading into this match.

Belinda Bencic’s preparation for Wimbledon has been pretty good. The Swiss number 1 was sidelined for the entire clay court season with a back injury but has returned to play three grass court tournaments prior to Wimbledon. Bencic started her comeback with a solid run to the semi-finals in 's-Hertogenbosch but was alarmingly forced to retire injured in her first round match in Birmingham. Bencic returned to the courts one week later in Eastbourne where she suffered a 6-7 6-7 loss to Elena Vesnina. Although Bencic lost that match there were positive signs as she was seemingly playing without pain and at a reasonably high level, Bencic maintains that she is no longer effected by any ongoing injuries.

 

Tsvetana Pironkova has always been considered a dangerous opponent on a grass court since her semi-final appearance at Wimbledon in 2010, the Bulgarian backed up that performance with a run to the quarter-finals in 2011. Unfortunately for Pironkova she has only reached the second week at Wimbledon on one occasion since those spectacular results. Pironkova’s preparation for this year’s event has been quite good. The former semi-finalist participated in Birmingham as her only warm-up event where she came through the qualifying draw to reach the quarter-final stage.

Belinda Bencic has a perfect 2-0 head-to-head record over Tsvetana Pironkova. Bencic defeated Pironkova at the first round stage of Wimbledon last year, coming from a set down to record a 3-6 6-1 6-3 victory. Their most recent clash was earlier this year at the Sydney International where Bencic won 6-3 6-3. Clearly this is a pretty good match-up for Bencic given she has been able to defeat Pironkova at her two favourite tournaments.

I suspect Bencic will maintain her prefect record over Pironkova (assuming she is fully fit). Bencic is generally the more solid player, both possess world-class backhands but it is Bencic who has a better forehand and also has better movement around the court. Ultimately, Bencic has a few more strings to her bow and should find a way through this tough first round encounter.

Prediction: Belinda Bencic to defeat Tsvetana Pironkova in 3 sets

Qatar Total Open, Tournament Preview

Doha will play host to the first premier 5 level event of the 2016 WTA season. The Qatar Total Open is always one of the most exciting stops on the WTA Tour and has again attracted a stellar line-up despite some high profile withdrawals. 7 of the top 10 players in the world will be in action in Doha, Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka are notable absentees. Main draw action will begin on Sunday; the top 8 seeds will receive a bye into the second round.

Hot: Angelique Kerber, Barbora Strycova, Belinda Bencic, Sara Errani, Caroline Garcia, Roberta Vinci

Cold: Caroline Wozniacki, Timea Bacsinszky, Anna Karolina Schmiedlova, Simona Halep, Petra Kvitova, Garbine Muguruza, Ekaterina Makarova

There are a number of players in the draw this week that will be desperate to reverse recent form slumps. High profile players such as Caroline Wozniacki, Petra Kvitova, Garbine Muguruza and Simona Halep are the most notable players to have made extremely disappointing starts to the season. Conversely the form players heading into the event include Dubai finalists Barbora Strycova and Sara Errani as well as Australian Open champion Angelique Kerber. Belinda Bencic and Roberta Vinci are two other players that bring form and confidence into the event after solid starts to the year. 

 

The draw is loaded this week in Doha, there will therefore be a number of tough first round clashes. The most notable first round matches include Kristina Mladenovic vs Barbora Strycova, Karolina Pliskova vs Margarita Gasparyan, Ekaterina Makarova vs Andrea Petkovic, Sara Errani vs Tsvetana Pironkova and Sabine Lisicki vs Monica Niculescu.

Agnieszka Radwanska will be one of the main contenders this week in Doha. The Pole decided not to compete in Dubai last week due to a lingering leg injury but should be fresh and ready to compete at a high level this week and has been handed a pretty favourable draw. The Pole is in the third quarter of the draw where she is projected to meet Annika Beck or a qualifier in the second round before a potential clash with Jelena Jankovic or Sabine Lisicki in third round. Aga’s projected quarter-final opponent is the seventh seed and defending champion Lucie Safarova. Overall it is a nice section of the draw for Aga who is a clear favourite against anyone in her quarter and also looks the favourite to come through the bottom half of the draw which also features Simona Halep, Carla Suarez Navarro and Caroline Wozniacki.

 

Lucie Safarova will make her much anticipated return to tennis this week in Doha as she attempts to defend her Qatar Total Open title. Safarova was unfortunately forced to sit out of the entire Australian summer because of the ongoing effects of a bacterial infection which interrupted the second half of 2015 for the Roland Garros runner-up. Safarova will receive a bye into the second round where she will face either Lucie Hradecka or Cagla Buyukakcay, a reasonable opening match for Lucie before a tough potential third round clash with Roberta Vinci. It will be interesting to see what kind of level Safarova is at this week, I suspect it will be extremely tough for Safarova to even come close to defending her title this week given it is her first tournament for some time. 

Angelique Kerber will be participating in her first WTA event since claiming her first Grand Slam title at the Australian Open last month, The German will be the top seed this week in Doha. Kerber is in a tough section of the draw, the German will face either Varvara Lepchenko or Saisai Zheng in the second round after receiving a first round bye and is looking set for a third round clash with either Elina Svitolina or Eugenie Bouchard. Petra Kvitova, Barbora Strycova and Svetlana Kuznetsova are all among tough potential quarter-final opponents for the German. It will be interesting to see how Angie handles herself in her first tournament since the Australian Open and in her first major tournament as the top seed, this is certainly a new experience for Angie.

Predicted Quarter-Finals: Kerber vs Strycova, Muguruza vs Bencic, Vinci vs Radwanska & Suarez Navarro vs Garcia

It is really tough to predict a winner this week at this stage of the event. Dubai was a prime example of the unpredictability of these kind of events when some of the biggest stars are not in attendance. However, there are far more consistently high performing players in action this week and I expect players such as Angelique Kerber, Belinda Bencic, Roberta Vinci, Carla Suarez Navarro and Agnieszka Radwanska to all have a good week. Ultimately I think Radwanska will emerge victorious and claim her first Doha title, with Kerber my second favourite to win the title. Aga has been in great form for months now and will fancy her chances against anyone in the draw this week at the Qatar Total Open. 

Predicted Champion: (3) Agnieszka Radwanska
Who do you think will win the title in Doha? Let me know in the comments section 🙂 


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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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Belinda Bencic vs Jelena Jankovic, Dubai R1 Preview

Dubai R1: (5) Belinda Bencic vs Jelena Jankovic

Belinda Bencic will be looking to build on a successful start to the season this week in Dubai. The young Swiss is one of the form players in the draw this week after a run to the final in St. Petersburg. Belinda will begin her Dubai campaign on Tuesday with a first round clash with a desperately out of form Jelena Jankovic.

Belinda Bencic arrives in Dubai fresh off a very busy week of tennis. The Swiss rising start helped guide Switzerland to a memorable Fed Cup victory over Germany where she recorded victories over Andrea Petkovic and Angelique Kerber. Bencic then went on to reach the final in St. Petersburg which saw the 18-year-old reach the top 10 in the rankings for the first time in her career. Bencic picked up victories over Annika Beck, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Daria Kasatkina on route to the final in St. Petersburg but was outplayed by a red-hot Roberta Vinci in the final. Belinda stated after the match that she is not feeling tired despite all the tennis she has recently played and that she expects to have another good week in Dubai.

 

Jelena Jankovic has made an extremely disappointing start to the season and will desperately be wanting to turn her form around as soon as possible. Jankovic has not been able to string together consecutive victories in 2016. Jankovic’s Australian summer misery was highlighted by her shock second round loss to Laura Siegemund, a match that Jelena would have fully expected to win. Jankovic was in Fed Cup action for Serbia a week after Melbourne and didn't enjoy any success there either, suffering straight set losses to Garbine Muguruza and Carla Suarez Navarro.

Belinda Bencic holds a 2-1 head-to-head record over Jankovic. Bencic famously upset Jankovic at the U.S Open in 2014 whilst the pair traded victories in 2015. Jankovic recorded a 6-3 3-6 6-3 victory over Bencic at Indian Wells before Bencic avenged that defeat with a comfortable 6-3 6-3 win on grass in s-Hertogenbosch.

Bencic heads into this match with clearly superior form and levels of confidence, this is probably the biggest difference between two players who are generally quite evenly matched. It might be tough for Bencic to adjust to the conditions after a quick turnaround from reaching the St. Petersburg final but Bencic has shown great resilience in recent times and should be good enough to deal with an out of form Jankovic.

Prediction: Belinda Bencic to defeat Jelena Jankovic in 2 sets


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