Coupe Rogers, 1st Round Match Preview + Prediction 🇨🇦🍁
🇷🇴 Monica Niculescu vs 🇱🇻 Jelena Ostapenko
Monica Niculescu and Jelena Ostapenko will go head-to-head for the first time on Tuesday when they collide at the opening round stage of the Rogers Cup in Montreal. This is an interesting match-up between two very different competitors, Niculescu will bring her variety whilst Ostapenko brings the power.
Niculescu and Ostapenko both started their U.S Open series campaigns last week, both suffered disappointing first round exits. Niculescu was defeated by Christina McHale in straight sets whilst Jelena Ostapenko suffered an even more disappointing loss as she was defeated by Catherine Bellis in straight sets in Stanford.
This is an interesting match-up because of the contrast in styles, I suspect Ostapenko will get the better of Niculescu on this occasion. The match will be on Ostapenko’s racquet. Ostapenko has all the firepower to hit Niculescu off the court, however her level of maturity and consistency are still questionable and Niculescu will do everything that she can to disrupt the Latvian’s rhythm. Ultimately Ostapenko should find a way to come through this match if she can maintain her composure.
Prediction: Jelena Ostapenko to defeat Monica Niculescu in 3 sets
Stuttgart R2: (5) Petra Kvitova vs Monica Niculescu
Petra Kvitova made a perfect start to her Stuttgart campaign on Tuesday by recording an emphatic 6-0 6-0 victory over Louisa Chirico. The Czech is likely to face a far tougher challenge in her second round clash when she comes up against Monica Niculescu, an opponent that beat Kvitova earlier this year in Fed Cup. A motivated Kvitova will be keen to avenge that heartbreaking loss to Niculescu and will be keen to avoid an early exit in Stuttgart.
Petra Kvitova decided to skip the Czech Republic’s semi-final tie last weekend because the event was not being played on a clay court, instead Kvitova opted to do some extra training on the clay ahead of the clay court swing. The training seems to be paying off, the Czech was dominant in her first round win in Stuttgart, crushing Louisa Chirico 6-0 6-0. Kvitova will know that she must remain extremely focused in her second round clash with Niculescu, Kvitova has all the weapons to punish Niculescu but she also has the ability to lose her mind and allow Niculescu to strike.
Monica Niculescu also made an impressive start to her Stuttgart campaign, the Romanian comfortably beat Caroline Garcia 6-2 6-2 to set up a second round clash with Kvitova. Niculescu’s first round win over Caroline Garcia was her first ever main draw victory in Stuttgart.
The head-to-head record between Kvitova and Niculescu is split at 1 win apiece. Kvitova comfortably defeated Niculescu on grass back in 2013 but it was Niculescu who won their most recent match in a Fed Cup tie earlier this year. Niculescu shocked a lacklustre Kvitova, recording a 6-3 6-4 win.
I suspect a determined Kvitova will be too strong for Niculescu on this occasion. The quicker clay courts in Stuttgart should favour Petra in this match-up. Kvitova will be fired up for this clash after her embarrassing loss to the Romanian earlier this year and is therefore unlikely to dish up a lacklustre performance. Kvitova looked great in her first round match and is seemingly playing at a high enough level to suggest that she will not slip up here.
Prediction: Petra Kvitova to defeat Monica Niculescu in 2 sets
Stuttgart R1: Caroline Garcia vs Monica Niculescu
Caroline Garcia and Monica Niculescu are part of a large group of players arriving in Stuttgart with a short turnaround after representing their country in Fed Cup action last weekend. Caroline Garcia will be full of confidence after playing a part in guiding France through to the Fed Cup final whilst Monica Niculescu also played some decent tennis on the weekend.
Caroline Garcia’s season has generally been quite disappointing but she will be looking forward to a strong clay court season, clay is arguably Garcia’s most favourable surface. Garcia will arrive in Stuttgart on a high after guiding France to a semi-final victory over the Netherlands in the Fed Cup. Garcia went 1-1 in her singles matches, succumbing to Kiki Bertens before beating Arantxa Rus. Garcia teamed up with Kristina Mladenovic to win the deciding 5th rubber, defeating Kiki Bertens and Richel Hogenkamp in 3 sets to send France into the 2016 Fed Cup final, a huge moment for Garcia and Mladenovic.
Monica Niculescu’s recent form has been decent but she is unlikely to thrive on the clay in Europe. Clay has always been Niculescu’s least preferred surface, simply because it doesn't suit her game. Despite this, Niculescu did play some pretty solid tennis on the weekend in a tight 3 set loss to Andrea Petkovic in Fed Cup action. Niculescu led 6-0 5-4 but couldn't finish off the match.
This will be the first career meeting between Garcia and Niculescu, it promises to be a fascinating encounter between an extreme contrast in styles. It will be interesting to see how Garcia handles Niculescu’s unorthodox game, particularly on a clay court. The slick clay courts in Stuttgart should favour an aggressive Garcia in this match-up, however the Frenchwoman will need to remain focused and patient otherwise Niculescu will find a way to advance.
I suspect Garcia will get the job done here, the Frenchwoman certainly should be too good for Niculescu on a clay court, however it’s never easy against Niculescu and this is certainly a dangerous match for Garcia.
Prediction: Caroline Garcia to defeat Monica Niculescu in 3 sets
Doha R3: (3) Agnieszka Radwanska vs Monica Niculescu
Aga Radwanska will continue her quest for maiden Qatar Total Open title on Wednesday when she comes up against Romanian Monica Niculescu in the third round. Radwanska’s chances to win the title in Doha increased dramatically after day 2 saw another streak of bizarre losses for seeded players at the Qatar Total Open including Angelique Kerber, Simona Halep and Belinda Bencic. Radwanska lost her most recent clash to Niculescu and will be keen to avenge that loss in Doha.
Radwanska made a reasonably positive return to competitive action in first match since a semi-final exit at the Australian Open. The Pole recorded a relatively comfortable 6-4 6-4 victory over Kateryna Bondarenko on Centre Court. It was reasonably clean performance but clearly Aga will need to improve as the week progresses. Radwanska has reached the semi-final stage in Doha in 3 of her least 4 appearances at the event, clearly the world number 3 enjoys the conditions in Doha and will be looking to go a couple of steps better in 2016.
Monica Niculescu has recorded a pair of decent victories to advance to the third round in Doha. The Romanian started her Qatar Total Open campaign with a 6-2 6-2 victory over a wayward Sabine Lisicki before winning a marathon battle against Jelena Jankovic 3-6 6-4 7-5. Niculescu twice failed to serve out the match in a drama filled deciding set but ultimately held her nerve and secured her third consecutive victory over Jankovic.
The head-to-head record between Radwanska and Niculescu is split at 1 win apiece. It was Niculescu won their most recent clash, causing a major upset at the semi-final stage in Nottingham last year by recording a 5-7 6-4 6-0 victory. Radwanska’s form has improved dramatically ever since that match which was actually a turning point in Radwanska’s season. I suspect Radwanska will be too good for Niculescu on this occasion, the Pole does pretty everything better than Niculescu and should be smart enough to win this with relative ease.
Prediction: Aga Radwanska to defeat Monica Niculescu in 2 sets
World Group R1: Romania vs Czech Republic
The Czech Republic team will begin their Fed Cup titles defense with a tricky away tie in Romania. The Czech girls have been dominant in recent years, being crowned champions in four of the last five years and again loom as one of the favourites in 2016. The Czech girls will be wary of a strong Romanian team and will know that they need to play at high level to get through this potentially difficult first round tie.
The Czech Republic’s amazing results over the last few years have been due to the dedication of the nation’s star players. Petra Kvitova has been the spearhead of every campaign and has always prioritised competing for her nation in Fed Cup. whilst Lucie Safarova, Karolina Pliskova and Barbora Strycova have been very handy support acts. The Czech team has great depth, something that most of their rivals could only dream of having.
The Czech team will be without Lucie Safarova for this first round tie with Romania as Lucie continues to recover from a bacterial illness which kept her out of the entire Australian summer. Their team is still strong, with Petra Kvitova, Karolina Pliskova, Barbora Strycova and Denisa Allertova set to take to the courts.
The Romanian team’s progression into the world group was one of the biggest shocks in 2015. The Romanian team defied the odds to win an away tie against Canada without Simona Halep in the world group play-off. The Romanian’s couldn’t have asked for a tougher introduction to the world group, coming up against the two-time defending champions. However, the Romanian team will fancy their chances at home with Simona Halep on board. The Romanian number 1 has indicated that she will undergo surgery on her nose in the coming weeks but has decided to postpone her surgery in order to represent Romania in this crucial tie. Simona Halep will be aided by Monica Niculescu, Andreea Mitu and Raluca Olaru who is late replacement for an injured Irina-Camelia Begu.
Romania’s competitiveness in this tie will depend on the form of Simona Halep. The Romanian number 1 will probably have to win both of her singles matches to give the hosts a chance in this tie. However, that seems unlikely given Simona’s rocky start to the season which saw her struggle with injury in the lead up to the Australian Open before ultimately suffering a shock first round exit in Melbourne. There will be a lot of pressure on Simona in this tie in front of her home crowd, it will be interesting to see how Simona handles the occasion given her tendency to struggle under pressure and her form concerns heading into the weekend. What is in Simona’s favour is that she has never lost to either Petra Kvitova or Karolina Pliksova, her likely opponents this weekend.
I suspect the Czech team will be too strong here and should win this tie before there is any needs for a doubles rubber. Petra Kvitova also thrives in the Fed Cup atmosphere and will see this as a massive opportunity to claim a maiden win over Simona Halep. Both Kvitova and Pliskova should win their matches against Monica Niculescu and therefore they can claim victory with one win over Halep which seems highly likely given Simona’s recent struggles.
Prediction: Czech Republic to defeat Romania 3-1
Moscow R1: Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova vs Monica Niculescu
Defending Champion Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova will begin her title defence at the Kremlin Cup with a first round encounter against Monica Niculescu. Pavlyuchenkova arrives in Moscow full confidence having won her eight title of her career last week in Linz. The Russian should continue her winning ways in Moscow when she comes up against Niculescu, an opponent who she has never lost to.
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova has now won 15 consecutive matches at indoor events, including three titles (Paris, Moscow and Linz). It was no surprise to see Pavlyuchenkova perform so well in Linz last week, given the Russian’s impressive form in Beijing the week before where she defeated Flavia Pennetta and Elina Svitolina on route to the quarter-finals. Pavlyuchenkova was rarely troubled in Linz, dropping just 1 set on her way to the title. The only concern for Pavlyuchenkova heading into Moscow is her tiring body, the Russian has played a lot of tennis in the last couple of weeks and admitted that she was struggling towards the end of the week in Linz.
Monica Niculescu’s form during the Asian swing was unspectacular. The Romanian arrives in Moscow on the back to two consecutive losses, including a crushing straight set loss to Sam Stosur in the first round in Beijing. Niculescu will arrive in Moscow fresh after a couple of weeks off, which could be hugely important.
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova holds a perfect 2-0 head-to-head record over The Romanian, including a 3-6 6-2 6-4 win in Monterrey in their most recent encounter back in 2013. Niculescu is always a tricky customer to play, however Pavlyuchenkova has the game to punish the Romanian’s weak groundstrokes. The Russian should begin her title defence with a convincing victory, unless she succumbs to injury.
Prediction: Pavlyuchenkova to defeat Monica Niculescu in 2 sets
(1) Serena Williams vs Monica Niculescu
Serena Williams will make her much anticipated return to the Californian desert on Friday evening when she takes Monica Niculescu in the second round of the BNP Paribas Open. The world number one and two-time former champion will end a 14 year boycott of the event. Surprisingly, this will be the first career meeting between these two seasoned campaigners.
Serena Williams decision to return to Indian Wells was one of the biggest stories in the tennis world this year. The world number 1 revealing that she discovered ‘the true meaning of forgiveness,’ deciding that she is finally ready to return to the scene of her saddest memory on tour.
Serena Williams has not played a match since a Fed Cup victory in Argentina the week after she claimed her 19th Grand Slam title at the Australian Open.
Monica Niculescu set up a second round clash with the world number 1 by crushing Aleksandra Krunic 6-2 6-1 in her opening round match. The Romanian has made an extremely poor start to the season, winning just 1 match prior to this event.
The world number 1 will undoubtedly be extremely desperate to win the title, she has returned to California to prove a point and will not let anyone get in her way. It would be brave decision to bet against Serena over the next two weeks.
The contrast in styles between these two players couldn’t be greater. It will be intriguing to see how the Romanian’s slice forehand holds up against the almighty Serena Williams. It may take Serena a couple of games to find her rhythm, especially considering this is her first ever meeting with Niculescu. However a part from a potential slow start it’s hard to see Serena being troubled in this match-up.
Prediction: Serena WIlliams to defeat Monica Niculescu in 2 sets