Eugenie Bouchard vs Kurumi Nara, Malaysian Open R2 Preview

Malaysian Open R2: (6) Eugenie Bouchard vs Kurumi Nara

Eugenie Bouchard’s BMW Malaysian Open campaign will continue on Wednesday when she comes up against Kurumi Nara in the second round of the event. The Canadian got off to a solid start with a convincing opening round victory over Ling Zhang but is likely to face a tougher challenge against the Japanese number 1 on Wednesday. 

 

Eugenie Bouchard is already playing her third International-level event of the year as she looks to build her ranking which has dropped to outside the top 50. Bouchard claimed a comfortable 6-3 6-1 win over Ling Zhang in her first round match on Monday evening and is a good chance to go deep in the draw this week.

Kurumi Nara’s progression into the second round was far less straightforward. Nara battled past Daniela Hantuchova to record a 6-4 6-7 7-6 victory in 3 hours and 12 minutes of play, the longest match of the WTA season thus far. Nara saved 3 match points in her first round win to continue Hantuchova’s winless season (in main draw matches).

The only previous meeting between the pair took place at the semi-final stage in Osaka back in 2013, Bouchard won that match comfortably 6-2 6-2. I expect a pretty similar scoreline on this occasion, this is a good match-up for Bouchard who can totally dictate play from the baseline and overpower her opponent. Genie should be too strong here. 

Prediction: Eugenie Bouchard to defeat Kurumi Nara in 2 sets


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Kurumi Nara vs Karolina Pliskova, Tokyo R2 Preview

Tokyo R2: Kurumi Nara vs (4) Karolina Pliskova

Karolina Pliskova will open her 2015 Toray Pan Pacific Open campaign with a second round clash against Kurumi Nara. Pliskova suffered a humiliating first round exit in New York and will be looking to rebound during the Asian swing as she attempts to reach the WTA Finals for the first time in her career.

Kurumi Nara advanced to the second round in Tokyo courtesy of a 7-6 6-1 victory over compatriot Misaki Doi. The Japanese number 1 has struggled in recent months, Nara hasn’t won back-to-back matches since Nuremburg and has won back-to-back matches on just three occasions in 2015. Nara is the only remaining Japanese player in the draw and will have the home crowd on her side for the rest of the week. 

 

Karolina Pliskova’s North American summer started perfectly when she reached the final in Stanford, however it ultimately ended in disastrous fashion when she suffered a shock first round loss to Anna Tatishvili. Nevertheless, this has been the best season of Karolina’s career and she will be hoping to top it off with her first ever appearance at the WTA Finals. Karolina is currently ranked 9th on the Road to Singapore so she will need to perform well over the next couple of weeks if she is to qualify for Singapore.

The head-to-head record between Nara and Pliskova is level at one win apiece. It was Pliskova who emerged victorious in their most recent encounter, a 6-4 7-5 victory in Beijing in 2013. Pliskova should once again have the edge on Thursday, Pliskova’s big game has the ability to overwhelm Nara. The difference in height and power between these two is extreme, Pliskova will need to have a very bad day to lose this.

Prediction: Karolina Pliskova to defeat Kurumi Nara in 2 sets

Alize Cornet vs Kurumi Nara, U.S Open R1 Preview

U.S Open R1: (27) Alize Cornet vs Kurumi Nara

Alize Cornet’s season has been disappointing, failing to replicate the extraordinary highs of season 2014 where she famously defeated Serena Williams on three occasions. Alize will kick-start her U.S Open campaign on Tuesday with a very winnable first round match against Kurumi Nara.

Alize Cornet’s form during the U.S Open series was lacklustre, Alize hasn’t been playing with the immense energy we know she can bring to the court. Alize failed to progress past the third round at all four U.S Open series events she entered. Cornet suffered a couple of worrying defeats, including losses to Chirico and Begu. Alize’s run to the third round in Toronto was a highlight, picking up impressive victories over Carla Suarez Navarro and Dominika Cibulkova before succumbing to Agnieszka Radwanska in a tight one.

 

Kurumi Nara is also struggling at the moment, as a result her ranking has dropped significantly in the last couple of months. Nara was defeated by Yulia Putintseva in the first round in Washington and was forced to retire against the same opponent in the final round of qualifying in Cincinnati.

This will be the first career meeting between Cornet and Nara. Alize should see this as a big opportunity to gain some much needed momentum as she looks to reach the second week at Flushing Meadows for the very first time. This is a bad match-up for Nara, the two are similar in a lot of ways but Alize does everything better and should be too crafty for Nara.

Prediction: Alize Cornet to defeat Kurumi Nara in 2 sets

Petra Kvitova vs Kurumi Nara, Wimbledon R2 Preview

(2) Petra Kvitova vs Kurumi Nara

Petra Kvitova will continue her quest for a third Wimbledon title on Thursday when she comes up against Kurumi Nara for a place in the third round.

Petra Kvitova made a perfect start to her title defence at SW19, thumping Kiki Bertens 6-1 6-0 in just 35 minutes. Kvitova served extremely well, dropping just 1 point behind her serve, a double fault. Petra’s serve is an almighty weapon on the slick grass courts in London, if she serves well over the next fortnight she is going to be almost impossible to beat.

 

Petra seems much more comfortable defending her Wimbledon title this time around. The Czech admitted that she didn’t deal with the attention well after 2011 Wimbledon triumph, especially in her title defence where she was upset by Kirsten Flipkens in the quarter-finals. Petra seems much more relaxed this time and very comfortable with the situation.

Kurumi Nara advanced to the second round at Wimbledon for the third time in her career courtesy of Magda Linette retiring injured halfway through the deciding set in their first round encounter.

Nara is a quiet achiever, yet to really make any headlines. She has an opportunity to make a name for herself on Thursday when she comes up against Kvitova.

 

This will be the first career meeting between Petra and Kurumi. On paper, this is a big mismatch.

Nara will really struggle to deal with the Kvitova serve and Kvitova will be all over Nara’s very attackable serve. A one sided scoreline is to be expected.

Prediction: Petra Kvitova to defeat Kurumi Nara in 2 sets

Agnieszka Radwanska vs Kurumi Nara, Australian Open R1 Preview

(6) Agnieszka Radwanska vs Kurumi Nara

Sixth seed Agnieszka Radwanska will open her 2015 Australian Open campaign against Japanese number 1 Kurumi Nara. Aga has made it very clear that she is focusing on claiming an elusive Grand Slam title in 2015, it will be interesting to see how the Pole fares in Melbourne in her first Grand Slam under the guidance of Martina Navratilova.

Aga's results during the lead up to the Australian Open were overall quite positive. Aga guided Poland to victory at the Hopman Cup alongside Jerzy Janowicz. It was a historic occasion, the first time Poland have ever won the Hopman Cup. Aga won three of her four singles matches, including her first career victory over Serena Williams in the final.

Aga's only loss at the Hopman Cup was to Alize Cornet however she avenged that loss in Sydney just a couple of days later in her opening round match. The Pole's stay in Sydney was cut short by Garbine Muguruza in the second round.

 

Kurumi Nara has made a solid start to the season. Nara made a second round exit in Auckland, where she was totally outplayed by eventual champion Venus Williams. In Hobart Nara reached the Semi-Finals before falling to Madison Brengle in three sets. This is an extremely tough first round matchup for Nara but a good opportunity to play a top player on a big occasion.

 

Agnieszka Radwanska prevailed in the only previous meeting between the two, a comprehensive 6-2 6-2 in Cincinnati last season.

Kurumi Nara is a great mover and solid from the baseline however this is not a good matchup for her, Aga simply does everything better than her. I suspect Aga will get the job done in two relatively straightforward sets.

It's important that Aga makes light work of these early round matches. One of her biggest weaknesses at Grand Slams has been that she is forced to work much harder than her main competitors during her early round matches.

Prediction: Agnieszka Radwanska to defeat Kurumi Nara in straight sets

Agnieszka Radwanska vs Kurumi Nara Preview & Prediction – W&S Open Second Round

(4) Agnieszka Radwanska vs Kurumi Nara

After claiming her first title of the season last week in Montreal, Agnieszka Radwanska will begin her Western and Southern Open campaign on Wednesday against Japanese number 1 Kurumi Nara.

Disappointing results in lead up to the Rogers Cup in Montreal meant Aga was on the verge of dropping out of the top 5 in the WTA rankings for the first time in well over two years. The Pole bounced back in style, defeating Sabine Lisicki, Victoria Azarenka, Ekaterina Makarova and finally Venus Williams on route to her first title of the season. Aga will be desperate to continue her good form in Cincinnati leading into the U.S Open where she has struggled in the past. The U.S Open is Aga's least successful Grand Slam. The U.S Open is the only Grand Slam that Aga is yet to reach the quarter-finals.

Kurumi Nara continues to rise up the rankings; the Japanese number 1 is on the verge on cracking into the top 30 for the first time. Nara came to close to winning the biggest title of her career two weeks ago in Washington D.C, losing an extremely close three set final to Svetlana Kuznetsova. Nara cruised through her opening round match in Cincinnati, defeating Romina Oprandi 6-0 6-2.

Like Radwanska, Nara is a great mover and is very solid off both wings, however I don't think she will be able to consistently hit past Radwanska. Aga should be able to step in and look to be more aggressive in this match. Aga served exceptionally well in Montréal last week, if she can serve well again on Wednesday she will certainly win this match in straight sets.

Prediction: (4) Agnieszka Radwanska to defeat Kurumi Nara in straight sets

WTA TEB BNP Paribas Istanbul Cup – Day 2 – 1st Round Match Previews/Predictions

(1) Caroline Wozniacki vs. Belinda Bencic

Caroline Wozniacki is the star attraction at the 2014 Istanbul Cup; the Dane faces a tough opening round match on Tuesday night when she comes up against rising star Belinda Bencic.

After a tumultuous clay court season, both on and off the court, Caroline Wozniacki rebounded with a decent grass court season. Wozniacki had a good run in Eastbourne where she reached the semi-finals before reaching the fourth round at Wimbledon. Wozniacki has been in Istanbul practicing for a couple of days and seems to be enjoying herself. The Dane will be determined to claim her first title of the year in Istanbul.

A lot is expected of Belinda Bencic; for the most part she has dealt with these expectations well in 2014. Belinda had some great results on clay this year, most notably her semi-final run in Charleston where she defeated Sara Errani in the process. Her results on hard courts weren’t as promising earlier in the year, she will need to produce one of the biggest performances of her career to defeat the Dane on Tuesday Night.

This will be the first time Wozniacki and Bencic will come up against each other. I suspect a determined Wozniacki will be too solid for Bencic, however this one might well go to three sets.

Prediction: Caroline Wozniacki to defeat Belinda Bencic in three sets

(6) Kurumi Nara vs (Q) Johanna Konta

In my initial draw analysis I predicted Kurumi Nara to reach the final in Istanbul. Nara will have her work cut out in the opening round when she comes up against qualifier Johanna Konta.

Surprisingly, Johanna Konta has defeated Kurumi Nara in all five of their previous encounters over the past two seasons. Moreover, Nara is yet to take a set off the Britt. Their most recent encounter was only a month ago in Birmingham, Konta easily defeated her Japanese opponent 6-3 6-1. Konta’s dominance over Nara really surprises me, Nara is clearly talented, she has solid flat groundstrokes and good movement.

I’m going to stick to my original prediction. It’s time for Nara to finally defeat Konta; the hard courts of Istanbul should provide the perfect stage for Nara to defeat Konta for the first time.

Prediction: Kurumi Nara to defeat Johanna Konta in three sets

WTA TEB BNP Paribas Istanbul Cup Preview

The lead up to the US Open hard court series is underway. The Istanbul cup returns for the first time since 2010 (Istanbul instead hosted the WTA Championships between 2011 and 2013). World number 15, Caroline Wozniacki is the number one seed at this year’s event and is the headline act in what is an otherwise lackluster field. After a disappointing start to the season, Caroline rebounded with a solid grass court campaign, however her Wimbledon campaign would ultimately end in a disappointing manner when she was defeated by Barbora Zahlavova Strycova in straight sets in the round of 16. The former world number 1 will have her eyes firmly set on claiming her first title of the season in Istanbul.

Apart from Wozniacki there isn’t too much to get excited about here. The remaining seeded players are Roberta Vinci, Klara Koukalova, Elina Svitolina, Magdalena Rybarikova, Kurumi Nara, Bojana Jovanovski and Karolina Pliskova. Other notable participants include: Francesca Schiavone, Belinda Bencic and Kristina Mladenovic.

The top quarter of the draw is occupied by Caroline Wozniacki who has drawn Belinda Bencic in the opening round. This is by far the most intriguing of the first the round matches, Bencic has already claimed a couple of big scalps this season (Pavlyuchenkova, Cornet and Errani) and is certainly a chance to cause an upset here. If Wozniacki gets through her tricky opening round match she is likely to face the 8th seeded Karoline Pliskova in the quarter-finals. Pliskova has troubled Wozniacki in their previous two meetings, pushing the Dane to three sets on both occasions.

Quarter-final 1 prediction: (1) Caroline Wozniacki vs. (8) Karolina Pliskova

Klara Koukalova has also drawn a promising youngster in the opening round; she will take on Donna Vekic. Klara has already beaten the Croatian twice this year, both in straight sets and both on hard courts. The winner of this match will likely face Kristina Mladenovic in the second round. The talented Frenchwoman has a good opportunity to come through this section. Bojana Jovanovski is the other seeded player in this section, the Serb claimed the biggest victory of her career a few weeks a go at Wimbledon, defeating two time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka in the second round. Bojana should be able to navigate her way through her opening round matches to put herself in a position to aim for her fourth career title.

Quarter-final 2 prediction: Kristina Mladenovic vs. (7) Bojana Jovanovski

The bottom half of the draw is wide open. Magdalena Rybarikova and Elina Svitolina are the seeded players in the third section. Svitolina faces Kovinic in the opening round; Kovinic is coming off a decent run in Bucharest. In what looks like the second most intriguing first round match, Tsventana Pironkova takes on Stefanie Voegele.

Quarter-final 3 Prediction: Tsventana Pironkova vs (5) Magdalena Rybarikova

The final section features the number 2 seed, Roberta Vinci as well as the 6th seed Kurumi Nara. Remarkably this section also features 4 qualifiers. Vinci is coming straight from the clay courts of Bucharest, it is hard to see her adjusting to the hard courts of Istanbul well enough to make a deep run this week. Nara continues to steadily climb up the rankings; the Japanese number 1 is my pick to come through the relatively weak bottom half of the draw.

Quarter-final 4 Prediction: (2) Roberta Vinci vs. (6) Kurumi Nara

After all the tough times Caroline has gone through in the past few months, both on and off the court it would be great to see the Dane claim her first title of the year. I think she will do it, she usually comes through these types of events victorious.

Final Prediction: (1) Caroline Wozniacki def. (6) Kurumi Nara

Leave a comment below, who do you think will win the title? 🙂

Venus Williams overcomes Nara Challenge

Venus Williams has overcome a spirited first set challenge from Japan's Kurumi Nara to progress to the third round at SW19.

It was the Japanese underdog who started the match strong, taking a 3-0 lead including a love service break. Venus Williams looked very lethargic early in the match, moving very slowly around the court and hitting a number of uncharacteristic unforced errors. Venus Williams finally got on the board in the fourth game, four big first serves resulted in a love service hold for the 30th seed. A backhand winner down the line would see Venus Williams break straight back as she finally started to find some rhythm. The American would win 5 straight games and would serve for the set at 5-4. Venus seemed to tighten up, Nara would break to level the set at 5-5. Nara would hold, meaning Venus would need to serve to stay in the set. Venus held her nerve in a tight game, a couple of big first serves getting her out of trouble. Nara raced away to a 4-1 lead in the tiebreak, seemingly on her way to stunning upset. However the Japanese number 1 hit multiple unforced errors in a row to invite Venus back into the set, Venus pounced to take the opening set 7-6.

After the first set, Kurumi Nara received a medical timeout and came on to court with her left thigh heavily strapped. Nara would break in the opening game but that was the only resistance she showed in the second set. Venus Williams would go on to win 6 straight games to take the second set 6-1. The former champion cantering into the third round after an early scare