Roland Garros, R2 Preview 🇸🇰 (19) Magdalena Rybarikova vs. 🇨🇭 Belinda Bencic
The 19th seeded Magdalena Rybarikova will face a tough test when she takes on Belinda Bencic in the second round at the Roland Garros on Thursday. Interestingly, Rybarikova and Bencic will both be playing to reach the third round at Roland Garros for the very first time. This is a huge opportunity for both, who will step up and take it?
Rybarikova cruised through her opening round match in Paris, claiming a comfortable 6-3 6-0 win over Luksika Kumkhum. Rybarikova has made a habit of performing well at the Grand Slam level, the Slovakian reached the semi-finals at Wimbledon last year followed by a third round appearance in New York and a fourth round showing at the Australian Open earlier this year.
In her first match since Indian Wells earlier this year Bencic managed to fight from a set down to claim a gutsy 3-6 7-6 7-5 victory over Italian qualifier Deborah Chiesa. Roland Garros is easily Bencic’s least successful Grand Slam event to date, the only Grand Slam where she has not reached the second week, perhaps that will change in 2018?
The head-to-head record between the pair is squared at 1 win apiece, both matches went to 3 sets. Bencic beat Rybarikova at Wimbledon in 2014 whilst more recently Rybarikova claimed an upset victory at Indian Wells in 2016. Who will sneak ahead with a win in Paris?
To view my analysis / prediction for this match: Click here
BNP Paribas Open, 🇺🇸🌴 Indian Wells R2 Preview 🇱🇻 (6) Jelena Ostapenko vs. 🇨🇭 Belinda Bencic
A blockbuster second round match-up at the second round stage of the BNP Paribas Open sees the 6th seeded Jelena Ostapenko come up against Belinda Bencic. This will be the first career meeting between Ostapenko and Bencic, a battle between two of the tours most talented youngsters. This is likely to be a match-up we will see a lot of in the years to come, it will be interesting to see who draws the first blood.
Jelena Ostapenko is really yet to get going in season 2018. The Latvian has a very modest 3-6 win/loss record in 2018, she has not been able to find her range from the baseline and her second serve has been a real issue of late. Ostapenko has only competed in Indian Wells on 1 previous occasions, a second round exit at last year’s event. The slow, gritty hard courts are not the type of courts that would be considered favourable for Ostapenko. The Latvian progressed to the second round courtesy of an opening round bye.
Belinda Bencic claimed a critical victory to advance to the second round. Bencic saved match point on route to a hard-fought 1-6 6-1 7-6 victory over Timea Babos. The opening two sets were very one-sided as the score line suggests but the third set was very close and very tense. Bencic squandered several chances midway through the set and saved match point at 4-5 which she saved in a lucky rally. Bencic was clearly the better player in the decisive tiebreak, her precision groundstrokes were the difference in the end.
It will be interesting to see how this match unfolds in what will be the first meeting between the pair. These are two of the hungriest and most talented young players on tour, expect a fiery clash.
To view my Analysis / Prediction for this match: Click here
Belinda Bencic will begin her 2018 Abierto Mexicano campaign on Monday with an opening round clash against Paraguay’s Veronica Cepede Royg. This will be the first career meeting between Cepede Royg and Bencic. It is Bencic who heads into this match as a strong favourite but Cepede Royg is rarely a pushover, can the Paraguayan cause an opening round upset in Acapulco?
Belinda Bencic started the season in great form. Bencic didn’t really have an off-season, instead she competed at a number of ITF and WTA 125K events where she won 3 titles in a row. However, the transition to success at the higher level has not been immediate. Bencic suffered a big setback when she was beaten in the second round at the Australian Open by Lesia Kumkhum. More recently, Bencic suffered consecutive straight set losses in Switzerland’s unsuccessful Fed Cup tie with the Czech Republic. Bencic was beaten by Barbora Strycova and Petra Kvitova. It will be interesting to see what level Bencic will bring to Acapulco.
Veronica Cepede Royg was the hero for Paraguay as she guided the Paraguayan Fed Cup team into the world group 2 playoffs with a critical epic 3 set win over Beatriz Haddad Maia. Cepede Royg has improved her tennis on hard courts in recent times, she is certainly a more aggressive player than in the past and is willing to step up into the court more often, something she will need to do against Bencic.
It will be interesting to see how competitive Cepede Royg can be in the first career meeting between the pair.
To view my Analysis / Prediction for this match: Click here
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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