Elise Mertens vs Mihaela Buzarnescu, Hobart Final Preview

Hobart International 🇦🇺🌧️ Final Preview
(2) 🇧🇪 Elise Mertens vs 🇷🇴 Mihaela Buzarnescu

Elise Mertens will have the opportunity to defend her Hobart International title on Saturday when she comes up against the unheralded Romanian Mihaela Buzarnescu. The Hobart International is the longest running WTA tournament to have never had a repeat winner. Elise Mertens has a good opportunity to break this record. Mertens won her first and only WTA tournament in Hobart last year where she came all the way through the qualifying draw. The Belgian rising-star will fancy her chances in Saturday’s final against Buzarnescu.

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Elise Mertens has made a very good start to the 2018 season, just as she did in 2017. Mertens had a good week at the Hopman Cup where she won 2 out of 3 matches before heading down to Hobart. In Hobart Mertens cruised through her opening couple of matches against Kurumi Nara and Beatriz Haddad Maia in straight sets. Mertens booked her spot in Saturday final with a 6-4 1-6 6-2 win over Heather Watson. Mertens showed good maturity to rebound strongly after being outplayed in the second set by Watson.

Mihaela Buzarnescu has reached the final in Hobart without dropping a set. This time last year, Buzarnescu was ranked outside the top 500. Now at the age of 29, Buzarnescu will enter the top 50 for the first time and will contest in her first WTA level final on Sunday. Buzarnescu advanced to the final 4 in Hobart with wins over Alize Cornet, Anna-Lena Friedsam and Alison Riske. Buzarnescu’s most comfortable win came at the semi-final stage where she comprehensively outplayed a lacklustre Lesia Tsurenko to win 6-2 6-2.

Elise Mertens has won the two prior meetings between the pair, both in 2015 on clay at the ITF level. A lot has changed this then, both have dramatically risen up the rankings. Saturday’s match is huge for both ladies, who will make the most of this golden opportunity?

Elise Mertens vs Heather Watson, Hobart SF Preview

Hobart International 🇦🇺🌧️ SF #2 Preview
(2) 🇧🇪 Elise Mertens vs (Q) 🇬🇧 Heather Watson

Two former champions will go head-to-head at the semi-final stage in Hobart on Friday when defending champion: Elise Mertens takes on 2015 champion: Heather Watson. The Hobart International is the longest running WTA tournament that has not had multiple time winners, either Mertens or Watson will reach Saturday’s final and have a chance to break this record. This is should be a highly competitive match between two fairly evenly matches opponents.

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Elise Mertens has started 2018 in superb form. Mertens had a good week at the Hopman Cup where she won 2 of her 3 matches, beating Daria Gavrilova and Eugenie Bouchard, in defeat Mertens was gallant as she pushed Angelique Kerber more than any other player in Perth. Mertens claimed her first career title in Hobart last year, doing it the hard way having come through the qualifying draw. The 2nd seed seemingly has a good chance to defend her title this week, Mertens started the event with straight set wins over Kurumi Nara and Beatriz Haddad Maia before securing her spot in the semi-finals courtesy of Monica Niculescu handing the Belgian a walkover.

Like Mertens, Heather Watson always loves playing in Hobart. The 2015 Hobart International champion has already won 5 matches this week having come through the qualifying draw. In the main draw, Watson has claimed 3 impressive wins in straight sets. Watson eliminated the 3rd seeded Sorana Cirstea in the opening round before beating Jaimee Fourlis comfortably 6-2 6-2. Watson booked her spot in the final 4 with a 6-0 6-4 win over Vekic. Watson was generally in full control of the match, dominant until 6-0 5-0. It was a nervy finish but Watson eventually got over the line.

The only previous match between the pair took place in Luxembourg last year, Mertens won that match 6-4 6-4. Will Mertens repeat that result and step closer to defending her title?

Donna Vekic vs Heather Watson, Hobart QF Preview

Hobart International 🇦🇺🌧️ QF Preview
🇭🇷 Donna Vekic vs (Q) 🇬🇧 Heather Watson

2015 Hobart International champion Heather Watson will be back in action on Thursday where she takes on Donna Vekic at the quarter-final stage. Watson has done things the hard week this week, the Brit was forced to battle her way through the qualifying draw, not the position Watson is used to finding herself in at an international level event. Watson will face a tough test against Vekic, the young Croatian has rocketed through to the quarter-finals in Hobart without dropping a set.

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Vekic has made a good start to her first appearance at the Hobart International. Vekic started the week with a commanding 6-4 6-2 win over Tatjana Maria before getting past a wayward Marketa Voundrosova 6-4 6-4. These have been an important couple of wins for Vekic after the a tough 3 set loss to Flipkens in the first round in Auckland last week.

Heather Watson has already won 4 matches this week having come through the qualifying draw. Watson started the event with an easy win over Kimberly Birrell before coming from a set down to beat Nao Hibino and book her spot in the main draw. Watson eliminated the 3rd seeded Sorana Cirstea 7-5 6-3 In the opening round, a big win for the Brit. Watson cruised into the quarter-finals with a 6-2 6-2 win over Jaimee Fourlis.

The only previous match between the pair ended in a 6-3 4-6 7-5 win for Vekic on clay in Charleston in 2015.

Lesia Tsurenko vs Aryna Sabalenka, Hobart QF Preview

Hobart International 🇦🇺🌧️ QF Preview
(5) 🇺🇦 Lesia Tsurenko vs 🇧🇾 Aryna Sabalenka

Lesia Tsurenko and Aryna Sabalenka will go head-to-head for the first time when they meet at the quarter-final stage of the Hobart International. Tsurenko and Sabalenka have both been impressive on route to the final 8 in Hobart, both have advanced to this stage of the tournament without dropping a set. This match-up will feature an interesting contrast in styles, the extreme, raw power of Sabalenka against the consistency and defensive skills of Tsurenko, who will win prevail?

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Lesia Tsurenko will look to emulate her run to the semi-final stage in Hobart last year as she enters this years quarter-finals. Tsurenko has won a couple of good matches over decent opponents in her first two matches this week. Tsurenko started the week with a hard-fought 7-6 6-2 win over Timea Babos before beating Yulia Putintseva quite easily 6-3 6-2. Tsurenko was able to adapt to two very different opponents, against Babos Tsurenko did well to counter-punch and force errors whilst against Putintseva, Tsurenko stepped up the aggression and dictated from the baseline.

Aryna Sabalenka has started 2018 in impressive fashion by reaching back-to-back quarter-finals. After reaching the quarter-finals in Shenzhen last week, Sabalenka has claimed a couple of strong straight set wins over Eugenie Bouchard and Shuai Zhang to reach the final. Sabalenka confirmed her quarter-final spot in Hobart by upsetting the top seeded Shuai Zhang 7-6 6-4. The Belarussian continues to show that she is one of the tours most exciting prospects, her huge game is capable of troubling most opponents.

It will be interesting to see how Tsurenko handles the power of Sabalenka in their first career meeting.

Shuai Zhang vs Aryna Sabalenka, Hobart R2 Preview

Hobart International 🇦🇺🌧️ R2 Preview
(1) 🇨🇳 Shuai Zhang vs 🇧🇾 Aryna Sabalenka

Top seeded Shuai Zhang faces a tough test in the second round of the Hobart International on Wednesday where she comes up against in-form Belarussian Aryna Sabalenka. This should be an exciting match-up between two very aggressive players. Sabalenka is one of the hottest players on tour right now, the fearless teenager continues to rise up the rankings and will relish the opportunity of the playing the top seed in Hobart. Will Sabalenka take another step forward or will the more experienced Zhang be too solid?

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Shuai Zhang has the strange title of being a top seed this week in Hobart, not a position the world number 35 is used to finding herself in. Zhang made a positive start to her Hobart campaign on Tuesday by defeating Poland’s Magda Linette in straight sets, a 7-5 6-3 victory.

Aryna Sabalenka has seemingly rolled into 2018 with the same dangerous form she ended the 2017 season. Sabalenka had a good week in Shenzhen to start the year, reaching the quarter-finals with 2 commanding wins before succumbing to Simona Halep quite handily. Sabalenka advanced to the second round in Hobart courtesy of 6-4 6-3 win over Eugenie Bouchard in what was a fairly messy match. Both players struggled behind their serve but Sabalenka was the more consistent and clinical of the two.

The only previous meeting between the pair ended in a 6-4 6-2 win for Zhang at an ITF event in 2016. Sabalenka has improved significantly since their last meeting, expect the Belarussian to give Zhang a far tougher test on Wednesday in Hobart.

Lesia Tsurenko vs Yulia Putintseva, Hobart R2 Preview

Hobart International 🇦🇺🌧️ R2 Preview
(5) 🇺🇦 Lesia Tsurenko vs 🇰🇿 Yulia Putintseva

An interesting second round clash at the Hobart International sees the 5th seeded Lesia Tsurenko come up against Kazakhstan’s Yulia Putintseva. Tsurenko and Putintseva both advanced to the second round in Hobart courtesy of straight set wins over tough, powerful opponents. Tsurenko got the better of Timea Babos whilst Putintseva was too solid for a wayward Naomi Osaka. Interestingly, it is Putintseva who has won the only two previous matches between the pair.

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Lesia Tsurenko was dealt a tough opening round draw in Hobart, drawn against Timea Babos, arguably the most dangerous unseeded player in the draw. Tsurenko was good enough to navigate her way to a 7-6 6-2 win over Babos. The opening set was very tight, Tsurenko had multiple opportunities to pull ahead but eventually claimed the opening set in a tiebreak. Tsurenko gained control of the match in the second set as the unforced errors from Babos started to rise. It is worth noting that Tsurenko had troubles with her serve during her first round match, a low first serve percentage and a very weak second serve. Tsurenko’s game from the baseline looked very solid.

Yulia Putintseva claimed her first victory of 2018 with an impressive 6-3 6-3 win over Naomi Osaka. Putintseva was easily the more consistent player throughout the match and never really looked like she was going to lose. Putintseva maintained a very high first serve percentage and also won a good percentage of points behind her second serve. Putintseva was broken just once, a good sign for Putintseva as her serve is usually her greatest weakness.

Putintseva won the two previous against Tsurenko. A 6-1 6-0 demolition in New Haven in 2015 and more recently in 2016 Tsurenko retired after Putintseva won the opening set 6-3 in Moscow.

Alize Cornet vs Eugenie Bouchard, Hobart Final Preview

Hobart Final: (7) Alize Cornet vs Eugenie Bouchard

There is one last match before Monday’s first Grand Slam of the year at the Australian Open, a blockbuster final at the Hobart International where Alize Cornet will come up against Eugenie Bouchard. Both ladies will be desperate to win the title on Saturday to complete a perfect week’s preparation for the Australian Open. Eugenie Bouchard will be aiming for just her second career title and her first on a hard court whilst Alize Cornet will be aiming to capture her fifth career title and her first since Katowice back in early 2014. 

 

After a really disappointing season in 2015, it is great to see Alize Cornet playing good tennis again. Alize made a positive start to the season in Brisbane where she defeated Kristina Mladenovic before succumbing to Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in a close match. Alize has taken advantage of a relatively favourable draw in Hobart, recording victories over Denisa Allertova and Veronica Cepede Royg before receiving a walkover into the semi-final’s courtesy of Mona Barthel withdrawing due to an injury. Alize’s most impressive performance came on Friday where she thumped Johanna Larsson 6-1 6-1 to advance to the final. It was Alize’s most consistent performance of the week, a good sign heading into the final.

Eugenie Bouchard continues to improve and become closer and closer to her 2014 season form. The Canadian is the only player to reach 2 quarter-finals in the first 2 weeks of the season and will be very confident she can claim her second career title on Saturday. The Canadian’s draw has been quite tough this week, defeating several quality opponents on route to the final. Bouchard started the week by recording straight set victories over Mattek-Sands, Van Uytvanck and Camila Giorgi before outlasting Dominika Cibulkova to claim an epic 6-1 4-6 6-4 victory. Bouchard’s semi-final performance was also her best of the week, fighting extremely hard to edge past a determined Cibulkova in a tight decider. 

 

Eugenie Bouchard holds a 2-1 head-to-head record over Alize Cornet. The Canadian has won the two most recent clashes between the pair, including a memorable 7-6 7-5 victory at Wimbledon in 2014 and a 6-3 7-5 victory a couple of weeks later. Both matches were quite close, especially the Wimbledon match and show that there is very little to separate these two.

This promises to be a really tough battle between two fierce competitors, these two are quite evenly matched heading into this match. Bouchard certainly has more firepower but Alize has more variety and greater defensive skills, whilst both can struggle behind their serves. In the difficult Hobart conditions, I’m going to give the slight edge to Cornet. There are more margins to Alize’s game and she is better able to adapt and fight in different circumstances. Alize should also be much fresher heading into this clash having played one less match. I think this should be a really entertaining and close match. 

Prediction: Alize Cornet to defeat Eugenie Bouchard in 3 sets

Kiki Bertens vs Dominika Cibulkova, Hobart QF Preview

Hobart QF: (Q) Kiki Bertens vs (3) Dominika Cibulkova

Dominika Cibulkova looms as the most dangerous unseeded player heading into next week’s Australian Open. The Slovakian continues to gain momentum heading into her most successful Grand Slam. Dominika has a wonderful chance to reach the semi-finals at the Hobart International on Thursday when she comes up against Dutch qualifier Kiki Bertens in the first quarter-final of the day.

 

Kiki Bertens is having a great week in Hobart, coming through a relatively tough qualifying draw to make a rare quarter-final appearance. Bertens recorded victories over Smitkova, Sakkari and Cepede Royg to advance to the main draw where she has picked up victories over Madison Brengle and Annika Beck. Kiki’s 6-3 6-1 second round victory over Annika Beck in the second round was particularly impressive. Bertens will face her biggest test of the week when she comes up against the 2014 Australian Open runner-up on Thursday afternoon.

Dominika Cibulkova has played some good tennis in Hobart this week. The Slovakian started the week with a very hard-fought 7-6 7-5 victory over Johanna Konta. Domi came from 1-6 down in the first set tiebreaker, winning 7 straight points to steal the opening set. Dominika also came from behind in the second set, overall it was a typically gutsy victory. The Slovakian’s second round victory was far more straightforward, 6-1 6-0 demolition of Kimberly Birrell in just 49 minutes.

Surprisingly, It was Kiki Bertens who won the only previous meetings between the pair, a 7-5 6-4 victory at the Paris indoors in 2013. I suspect we will see a far different results here, Dominika looks very motivated this week and should match-up well here. Bertens has a big game but lacks variety and is the type of opponent that Dominika usually plays very well against.

Prediction: Dominika Cibulkova to defeat Kiki Bertens in 2 sets

Eugenie Bouchard vs Camila Giorgi, Hobart QF Preview

Hobart QF: Eugenie Bouchard vs (2) Camila Giorgi

A fascinating quarter-final match-up at the Hobart International features Eugenie Bouchard and Camila Giorgi. Eugenie and Camila are both widely regarded as two ladies with great potential but both had relatively disappointing seasons in 2015 and will be looking to make a significant jump in the rankings in 2016. This looms as an important match for both ladies, a victory in a match like this would give either lady a boost of confidence heading into the Australian Open next week.

Eugenie Bouchard has made a reasonable start to the season. The Canadian is into back-to-back quarter-finals to start the year after reaching the final eight in Shenzhen last week. Bouchard’s confidence seems to be growing with each victory. The Canadian started the week in Hobart with a very impressive 6-2 6-1 victory over Bethanie Mattek-Sands, her first victory over the American in three attempts. Bouchard was striking the ball exceptionally well from the baseline in that match. Bouchard’s second round victory wasn't as pretty, recording a hard-fought 6-4 7-5 victory over Alison Van Uytvanck in difficult, windy conditions. A solid victory, showing Genie is determined this week. 

 

Camila Giorgi also seems to be finding some reasonable from in Hobart this week. Giorgi’s first round victory was a typically erratic performance by the Italian, a 6-4 1-6 6-1 victory over Zarina Diyas. Giorgi was much more consistent in her second round match where she recorded a 6-2 6-3 victory over Nao Hibino. Giorgi has struggled with the windy conditions in Hobart in the past, especially with her serve, but her service numbers have been reasonable this week and she has kept her double fault tally relatively low.

Eugenie Bouchard won the only previous encounter between the pair, a comfortable 6-3 6-0 on the clay in Strasbourg back in 2014. It is tough to split the pair heading into their first match on a hard court. I have to give the slight edge to Bouchard, the Canadian has greater margins and is a little more consistent which is particularly helpful in the windy Hobart conditions. Whoever serves better will have a big advantage in this match-up, I suspect that will be Bouchard.

Prediction: Eugenie Bouchard to defeat Camila Giorgi in 3 sets

Dominika Cibulkova vs Johanna Konta, Hobart R1 Preview

Hobart R1: (3) Dominika Cibulkova vs Johanna Konta

Dominika Cibulkova and Johanna Konta will go head-to-head for the very first time on Monday afternoon where they do battle in the first round of the Hobart International. Dominika and Johanna both suffered disappointing early round exits last week and will therefore be desperate to avoid a first round exit in Hobart.

Dominika Cibulkova looms as the most dangerous unseeded floater at the Australian Open next week. It is important for Dominika to be very well prepared for Melbourne given she may face a top player in the first round, she is unlikely to have the luxury of playing herself into form against lower ranked opponents. This is why Hobart is particularly important for Dominika. 

 

The Slovakian captured a typically gutsy three set first round victory over Yanina Wickmayer at the Brisbane International last week, however her tournament would end in the second round where she was thumped to Roberta Vinci 1-6 1-6. One weakness that really stood out in Dominika’s game last week was her serve, the Slovakian hit far too many double faults which put herself under a lot of pressure. Her groundstrokes generally looked good though, even in her loss to Roberta.

After such a positive ending to season 2015, Johanna Konta made a surprisingly poor start to her 2016 campaign last week in Shenzhen. The brit suffered a 3-6 6-3 3-6 loss to Qiang Wang in the first round. Konta will be very keen to pick up a confidence boosting victory in Hobart before heading to Melbourne.

I believe this will be a really good match-up for Dominika. The Slovakian will have Johanna covered from the baseline, the Brit will need to serve extremely well to remain competitive. Dominika has been in Hobart for a good amount of time and seems ready for a deep run at the event.

Prediction: Dominika Cibulkova to defeat Johanna Konta in 2 sets