🇦🇪 Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, R2 Preview 🇩🇪 (6) Angelique Kerber vs 🇮🇹 (Q) Sara Errani
Angelique Kerber and Sara Errani will renew hostilities when they meet at the second round stage of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Wednesday. This will be an interesting battle between two of the toughest competitors on tour. On paper this looks like huge mismatch as Kerber ranked over 100 places above Errani. However, Errani is a former champion in Dubai, has already won 4 matches this week having come through the qualifying draw and holds a 2-1 head-to-head record over the German.
Angelique Kerber rolled through her opening round match in Dubai, beating Barbora Strycova 6-2 6-1 in a little under an hour. Kerber has been extremely consistent in 2018, amassing an impressive 17/2 win/loss record across all competitions, the best start to a season Kerber has ever made in terms of win/loss records up until this stage of the year. Kerber is certainly the player to beat this week in Dubai, the German looks extremely motivated right now and her form speaks for itself.
Sara Errani is having another good week in Dubai. The 2016 champion made her way through the qualifying draw, winning 3 matches to secure her spot in the main draw. Errani notably came from 1-4 down in the deciding set against Aryna Sabalenka to secure her spot in the main draw. Errani confirmed her place in the second with a 6-4 6-3 over fellow qualifier Lesia Tsurenko, a good win for the Italian.
It is Sara Errani who holds a 2-1 head-to-head record over Kerber. The pair have not met since 2012 when they were both in the top 10, Errani upset Kerber at the U.S Open 7-6 6-3 and also beat the German earlier in the year in straight sets at Roland Garros. Much has changed since then, Kerber has improved dramatically whilst Errani now find herself out of the top 100. Will this shift show in their Dubai encounter?
🇦🇪 Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, R2 Preview 🇱🇻 (4) Jelena Ostapenko vs 🇷🇺 Elena Vesnina
Jelena Ostapenko will kickstart her 2018 Dubai Duty Free Tennis championships campaign on Wednesday with a second round clash against Russia’s Elena Vesnina. As the 4th seed in Dubai Ostapenko received a bye into the second round whilst Vesnina earned her spot in the second round with a straight set win over Shuai Peng. Ostapenko has failed to fire in 2018, the world number 7 will be keen to avoid another early round exit in 2018 and will be wary of Vesnina who won the only previous match between the pair.
Ostapenko has won back-to-back matches in 2018 on just 1 occasion and has an overall 3/5 win/loss record at tour level events this year. Clearly it has not been the start to the season Ostapenko was hoping for but perhaps it was to be expected as Ostapenko did have a long 2017 season and an interrupted off-season. Ostapenko was thrashed in her opening round match in Doha last week, beaten by Mihaela Buzarnescu 1-6 3-6, a very bad loss for the Latvian star. There was some positives for Ostapenko last week in Doha as she did win the doubles title alongside Gabriela Dabrowski.
Elena Vesnina has also generally made a poor start to the season. Vesnina arrived in Dubai with just 2 wins to her name and a mountain of points to defend in a few weeks’ time in Indian Wells where she is the defending champion. Vesnina made a decent start to her Dubai campaign on Monday as she beat Shuai Peng 6-4 7-5. It certainly wasn’t the highest quality match but Vesnina always seemed to have the slight edge and was good enough to get the job done in a couple of tight sets.
Vesnina defeated Ostapenko 7-5 6-0 on clay in Madrid in 2016 in what is their only previous clash. Clearly a lot has changed since then, but given Ostapenko’s recent troubles, Vesnina will fancy her chances to maintain a perfect record against the Latvian.
🇦🇪 Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, R2 Preview 🇬🇧 (7/wc) Johanna Konta vs 🇷🇺 Daria Kasatkina
Johanna Konta became the first British woman to win a main draw match at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Monday evening as she beat Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in straight sets. Konta is competing in Dubai for the first time in her career, the 7th seed will be back in action on Wednesday where she will come up against Russia’s Daria Kasatkina in the second round.
Johanna Konta will be aiming to build on her decent recent form this week at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships. Konta is yet to consistently show her best tennis in 2018 but she is certainly playing better than she did at the later stages of 2017. Konta arrived in Dubai fresh off a decent week in Doha where she won a couple of straight set matches against Bernarda Pera and Carla Suarez Navarro before succumbing to Angelique Kerber in a quality 3 set encounter. Konta started her Dubai campaign on Monday with a 7-6 6-2 win over Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. After saving a few crucial break points at 4-4 in the opening set, Konta went on to win 24 of her last 27 service points in what was a fairly clinical performance by the Brit.
Daria Kasatkina also claimed her first ever victory in Dubai on Monday where she secured a 7-5 6-4 victory over former champion Agnieszka Radwanska. The signs were good for Kasatkina, most importantly she looked fit and healthy after having to retire injured in her opening round match in Doha last week. Kasatkina will face a very different test in the form of Konta in the next round, probably a much tougher challenge for the Russian.
It was Johanna Konta who the only previous match between the pair, a 6-3 7-5 victory in Sydney last year.
🇦🇪 Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, R1 Preview 🇮🇹 (Q) Sara Errani vs 🇺🇦 (Q) Lesia Tsurenko
2016 Dubai champion Sara Errani will be back in action on Tuesday where she comes up against the Ukraine’s Lesia Tsurenko in the opening round of the main draw. Errani and Tsurenko both navigated their way through a tough qualifying draw in Dubai to reach the main draw. Both bring good momentum into this match and both will see this as a very winnable opening round match-up. It will be interesting to see who steps up and makes the most of this opportunity.
Sara Errani has a surprisingly great record in Dubai. Errani won the tournament in 2016 and reached the final of the event in 2013. The Italian’s ranking is still well outside the top 100 right now so she knows that every match is important as she looks to build her ranking back up into the top 100. Errani cruised past Shuko Aoyama and Bernarda Pera in the first few rounds of the qualifying draw before fighting form 1-4 down in the deciding set to defeat Aryna Sabalenka, a huge win for Errani against a very strong opponent.
Lesia Tsurenko’s progressions through the qualifying draw in Dubai was a bit of a roller-coaster rise. Tsurenko looked down and out against Ying-Ying Duan in the opening round when she trailed by a set and a double break, the Ukrainian fought back, saving match points to win in 3 sets. Tsurenko then cruised past Ons Jabeur and Zarina Diyas to secure her spot in the main draw.
The head-to-head record between the par is split at 1 win apiece. Errani beat Tsurenko in straight sets at the Rogers Cup in 2015 whilst more recently Tsurenko beat Errani 6-4 6-3 in Indian Wells in 2016.
🇦🇪 Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, R1 Preview 🇪🇪 Annett Kontaveit vs 🇨🇿 Petra Kvitova
Petra Kvitova enters the 2018 Dubai Duty Free Championships as the form player in the draw. Kvitova will begin her Dubai campaign on Tuesday with an opening round clash against Estonia’s Anett Kontaveit. Kvitova is on a 13-match winning streak having won back-to-back titles in St. Petersburg and Doha. Kvitova has beaten 5 top 10 players in the last couple of weeks. It will be interesting to see if Kvitova can carry that from into Dubai or will she run out of steam?
Annett Kontaveit arrives in Dubai in totally contrasting form to Kvitova. Kontaveit was thrashed by Alize Cornet in the opening round in Doha last week, beaten 2-6 1-6. Prior to that Kontaveit was involved in Estonia’s unsuccessful bid to reach the Fed Cup world group 2 playoffs. A disappointing few weeks for Kontaveit after a positive round of 16 result at the Australian Open last month.
Petra Kvitova is back to her best. The former Dubai champion is on a 13-match winning streak after displaying blistering tennis to win the Qatar Total Open last week. Kvitova came through an extremely tough draw to win her 22nd career title. Kvitova’s route to the title included wins over Radwanska, Svitolina, Goerges, Wozniacki and Muguruza. Petra came from a set down on 3 occasions, against Radwanska in the second round where she was down a set and a break and the same scenario against Wozniacki in the semi-final. Kvitova clinched the title with a hard-fought 3-6 6-3 6-4 win over Garbine Muguruza.
It was Kvitova who won the only previous match between the pair, a 1-6 7-6 6-3 victory
Qatar Total Open, Doha Final Preview (4) 🇪🇸 Garbine Muguruza vs (16) 🇨🇿 Petra Kvitova
The 2018 Qatar Total Open will come to an exciting end on Sunday with a blockbuster final set to take place between a pair of two-time Grand Slam champions, Garbine Muguruza and Petra Kvitova. Muguruza and Kvitova have both shown a high level of tennis this week in Doha, especially Petra Kvitova who enters Sunday’s final fresh off an epic upset victory over world number 1 Caroline Wozniacki. A win for Petra Kvitova will see her move back into the top 10 for the first time since 2016. Kvitova is on a 12 match winning streak and holds a 3-1 head-to-head record over Muguruza, but the determined Spaniard will be no pushover.
Garbine Muguruza’s run to the final in Doha is exactly what the Spaniard needed to ignite her 2018 season. Muguruza had not won back-to-back matches in 2018 before arriving in Doha. Muguruza started the event with fairly comprehensive victories over Ying-Ying Duan and Sorana Cirstea before coming from a set down to defeat Caroline Garcia. Muguruza’s 3-6 6-1 6-4 win over Garcia was the biggest win of the year for Muguruza, her first top 10 victory since Singapore last year. Muguruza was fortunate to receive a walkover into the final as Simona Halep pulled out of their scheduled semi-final because of a foot injury.
Petra Kvitova is the form player in the world right now. Kvitova heads into Sunday’s final in Doha on a 12-match winning streak, a run that includes a title in St. Petersburg a few weeks ago and a few wins in a Fed Cup tie last weekend. Kvitova’s path to the final in Doha has been extremely tough. Petra started the week with an easy win over Cagla Buyukakcay before coming from a set and a break down to beat Agnieszka Radwanska. Kvitova then claimed a pair of straight set wins over Elina Svitolina and Julia Goerges to set up a semi-final showdown with Caroline Wozniacki. For the second time this week, Kvitova managed to win from a set and a break down, overcoming a wayward start to beat the world number 1 3-6 7-6 7-5. Kvitova blasted 50 winners past the Dane in what was an inspired performance. Petra was very clutch in all the key moments, especially in the crucial second set tiebreak.
Petra Kvitova holds a 3-1 head-to-head record over Muguruza. Kvitova has won the last 3 matches between the pair including a 7-6 6-3 win at the U.S Open last year in their most recent match. Petra also beat Muguruza twice in 2016, a 3 set win on clay in Stuttgart and a straight set win in Beijing. Clearly this has been a favourable match-up for Kvitova.
Fed Cup WG 2: Australia vs Ukraine, Rubber 2 🇦🇺 Daria Gavrilova vs 🇺🇦 Marta Kostyuk
Saturday’s second rubber in the Fed Cup world group 2 tie between Australia and Ukraine promises to be the most important rubber of the entire tie. Ash Barty is expected to comfortably get past Lyudmyla in the opening rubber to give Australia a 1-0 lead in Canberra. Marta Kostyuk is clearly Ukraine’s most dangerous player in their squad, Kostyuk has had a great Australian summer and can make this tie interesting with an upset win over Gavrilova.
Daria Gavrilova had a reasonable Australian summer. The 23-year-old reached the semi-finals at the Sydney International before falling at the second round stage at Melbourne Park to eventual semi-finalist Elise Mertens. Gavrilova has shown commitment to the Australian Fed Cup team over the last few years but has not had the best results in this format, a 2/3 win/loss record in singles Fed Cup matches.
Marta Kostyuk will be making her Fed Cup debut. As the highest ranked player for Ukraine in Canberra, there is a lot of pressure on the 15-year-old to give a good account of herself. Kostyuk is on a high right now. Kostyuk is at a career high ranking of 185 after winning the ITF Burnie 60K title last week which followed her impressive run to the third round at the Australian Open in January. Kostyuk is the youngest player ranked inside the top 200 in almost 10 years.
This will be the first career meeting between Gavrilova and Kostyuk.
Australian Open, 🇦🇺🏆 Final Preview
🇷🇴 (1) Simona Halep vs 🇩🇰 (2) Caroline Wozniacki
A blockbuster championship battle will take place on Saturday night as world number 1 Simona Halep takes on world number 2 Caroline Wozniacki in the Australian Open final. This is huge! Both ladies are playing to win an eagerly awaited maiden Grand Slam title, the winner will also secure the world number 1 ranking. Halep and Wozniacki have both come through great adversity to reach their first Australian Open finals, both have saved multiple match points on route to this stage. Halep and Wozniacki are the two greatest players in the game to have never won a Grand Slam title, both will be competing in their third Grand Slam final, for one of them it will be third time lucky.
Simona Halep is having a career defining couple of weeks at Melbourne Park. Halep has had to overcome so much pain to get through to her first Australian Open final. The world number 1 severely rolled her ankle in her opening round victory before surviving an almost 4 hour epic that went to 15-13 in the final set against Lauren Davis. Since that troublesome match with Davis, Halep has been in imperious form. Halep crushed Naomi Osaka and Karolina Pliskova in straight sets to set up an epic semi-final with Angelique Kerber.
Halep outlasted Kerber 6-3 4-6 9-7 in what was the greatest match of the tournament thus far. Halep ended the match with a whopping 50 winners, an outstanding number against the best defender on tour. Halep failed to convert at couple of match points at 4-5 in the third set before saving a pair of match points at 5-6. The final set featured several scintillating rallies as both players gave their absolute all on court. In the end, it was Halep who outlasted Kerber, perhaps the best win of Halep’s career.
Caroline Wozniacki has also had to overcome her fair share of adversity on route to her first Australian Open final. Wozniacki came from 1-5 15-40 down in the final set of her second round match with Jana Fett, a second chance in the tournament for Wozniacki. The Dane has made the most of her second life, claiming a couple of straight set wins over Kiki Bertens and Magdalena Rybarikova before beating Carla Suarez Navarro in 3 sets to set up a semi-final with Elise Mertens. Apart from a shaky ending to the match, Wozniacki easily accounted for Elise Mertens, winning 6-3 7-6.
It is Wozniacki who has generally had the better of Halep in this match-up, Wozniacki holds a 4-2 record over the Romanian and has won the last 3 meetings between the pair. The most recent match between the two took place in Singapore last year, Wozniacki easily accounted for Halep, winning 6-0 6-2.
Australian Open, 🇦🇺 Semi-Final Preview
🇷🇴 (1) Simona Halep vs 🇩🇪 (21) Angelique Kerber
A blockbuster semi-final clash sees world number 1 Simona Halep take on 2016 Australian Open champion Angelique Kerber. It can be argued that Halep and Kerber are the two best players in the world right now. Both have made outstanding starts to the seasons, both are unbeaten in 2018. Halep and Kerber were both extremely impressive in their respective quarter-final victories, Halep stormed past Karolina Pliskova whilst Kerber thrashed Madison Keys. Both will bring a heap of confidence into this match as they do battle for a spot in Saturday’s final at Melbourne Park.
Simona Halep seems to be peaking at the right time of the tournament. It has been a dramatic week for Halep but the world number 1 seems to be in a good space heading into the semi-finals. Halep came through a couple of scares in the first week, in the opening round she rolled her ankle against Destanee Aiava whilst in the third round she defeated Lauren Davis 4-6 6-4 15-13 in an epic. Halep has gained a heap of momentum and confidence in her last couple of matches where she has beaten Naomi Osaka and Karolina Pliskova in straight sets, both ended in 6-3 6-2 score lines. Halep’s demolition of Pliskova was particularly impressive, after quickly going down 0-3, Halep won 12 of the last 14 games in a dazzling display. Halep’s return of serve was the standout shot as was the Romanian’s ability to hit winner after winner down the line off both sides. Halep will face a very different opponent in the form of Kerber on Thursday.
Angelique Kerber enters the semi-final stage as the favourite to win the title. Kerber is the only one of the 4 remaining contenders to who have won a Grand Slam title. The German is in outstanding form, the type of form that saw her win multiple Grand Slam titles in 2016. Kerber has incredibly won 14 matches in a row to start the new year. In Melbourne Kerber waltzed through the opening week with straight set wins over Anna-Lena Friedsam, Donna Vekic and Maria Sharapova. Kerber faced her toughest test in the fourth round where she came from a set down to beat a red-hot Su-Wei Hsieh. Kerber confirmed her spot in the semi-finals with a 6-1 6-2 demolition of Madison Keys. Kerber controlled the match from start to finish but will face a different task against a determined Simona Halep on Thursday.
The head-to-head record between the pair is split at 4 wins apiece. The German has won 4 of the last 5 matches between the pair, most recently a 6-3 6-4 win in Cincinnati in 2016 and a 6-4 6-2 at the WTA Finals Singapore a few months later.
Australian Open, 🇦🇺 Semi-Final Preview
🇩🇰 (2) Caroline Wozniacki vs 🇧🇪 Elise Mertens
Caroline Wozniacki and Elise Mertens will meet in the first semi-final of the day on Thursday at Melbourne Park. Wozniacki is now one step away from reaching her first Australian Open final, her third Grand Slam final overall and is two steps away from finally claiming a maiden Grand Slam title. In Wozniacki’s way is an in form Elise Mertens who will be competing in her first Grand Slam semi-final in what is her first ever appearance in the main draw at Melbourne Park. Whilst on paper this may look like an easy match-up for Wozniacki, Mertens is playing the best tennis of her life at the moment, if the Belgian can carry her quarter-final form into this match she will be a huge threat to the Dane.
Caroline Wozniacki has never had a greater opportunity to win her first Grand Slam title. The Dane has improved her game in all area’s and may finally be ready to step up and make the most of this opportunity. Wozniacki received a second life in the tournament in the second round where she saved match point and came from 1-5 down in the deciding set to beat Jana Fett. Since that match, Wozniacki has been much improved. The world number 2 defeated Kiki Bertens and Magdalena Rybarikova in straight sets before confirming her spot in the semi-finals with a 6-0 6-7 6-2 win over Carla Suarez Navarro.
Elise Mertens is riding a huge way of momentum, the Belgian has now won 10 matches in a row having arrived in Melbourne fresh off a title run in Hobart. Mertens has stormed into her first Grand Slam semi-final without dropping a set at Melbourne Park. Mertens strolled through to the second week of a Grand Slam for the first time with straight set wins over Viktoria Kuzmova, Daria Gavrilova and Alize Cornet. In the fourth round Mertens came through a nervy clash against Petra Martic before producing her best performance of the tournament thus far to thrash Elina Svitolina 6-4 6-0 in what was the best match the Belgian has played in her career. Mertens executed an ultra-aggressive game against Svitolina, playing a huge percentage of point inside the baseline, consistently punishing Svitolina with her powerful, dynamic game.
It was Wozniacki who won the only previous match between the pair, a hard-fought 7-5 4-6 6-2 victory on clay in Bastad last year. That match showed that Mertens does have the game to really challenge Wozniacki, if Mertens can bring her best tennis to Thursday’s semi-final match in Melbourne she may well cause another big upset.