Simona Halep vs Katerina Siniakova, Shenzhen Final Preview

Shenzhen Open, Final Preview
(1) 🇷🇴 Simona Halep vs (6) 🇨🇿 Katerina Siniakova

Saturday’s final at the Shenzhen open sees world number 1: Simona Halep take on defending champion: Katerina Siniakova. This will be a battle of two former champions at the event, Halep won the title in 2015. The only previous match between the pair took place in Shenzhen last year where Siniakova claimed a huge upset, beating Halep in 3 sets in the 2nd round on route to the first title of her career. 12 months later, Halep is in a much stronger position and will be a far greater challenge for Siniakova. Can Halep reverse last year’s result and win her first title of 2018 or will Siniakova successfully defend her title?

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There was a lot of pressure on Simona Halep heading into this event. After ending 2017 as the world number 1, many are waiting for Halep to falter. There have been little signs of that in Shenzhen this week as Halep has advanced to the final dropping just 1 set. Halep started the week with a commanding straight set win over Nicole Gibbs before suffering an early scare as she was forced to come from a set down to beat Ying-Ying Duan. Since then Halep’s level has improved dramatically, the world number 1 beat Aryna Sabalenka 6-2 6-2 and Irina-Camelia Begu 6-1 6-4 to book a spot in Saturday’s final.

Katerina Siniakova ended 2017 in terrible form, heading into this year’s Shenzhen Open many would have expected the Czech to struggle to get close to defending her title. However, Siniakova has come to play. The 21-year-olf did not drop a set in her opening 3 matches of the week, beating Ons Jabeur Yafan Wang and Kristyna Pliskova fairly easily. Siniakova’s biggest win came at the semi-final stage where she beat her childhood idol Maria Sharapova 6-2 3-6 6-3. Siniakova served extremely well throughout the match, effectively coming forward to end points at the net. After arguably the biggest win of her career, things will only get harder for Siniakova as she comes up against the world number 1 in the final a day later.

Katerina Siniakova took advantage of a rusty Simona Halep in their only previous meeting which was in Shenzhen last year. Siniakova claimed a hard fought 6-3 4-6 7-5 win. It later became clear that Halep was injured during January so one would suggest Halep will be a much tougher challenge for Siniakova this time around. This should an exciting final.

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Katerina Siniakova vs Maria Sharapova, Shenzhen SF Preview

Shenzhen Open, Semi-Final Preview
(6) 🇨🇿 Katerina Siniakova vs 🇷🇺 Maria Sharapova

A blockbuster semi-final clash at the Shenzhen open sees defending champion Katerina Siniakova take on Maria Sharapova. Siniakova has been very impressive this week in Shenzhen, advancing to the final 4 without dropping a set. Siniakova will face by far her greatest challenge of the week when she comes up against Maria Sharapova for the first time on Friday. Siniakova has mentioned that she is keen to play Sharapova, the Russian was Siniakova’s idol growing up. Can Siniakova keep her title defense alive or will Sharapova prove too strong?

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Katerina Siniakova ended 2017 in poor form, however a return to Shenzhen has seen the 2017 champion start her year in style once again. Siniakova cruised through her first match against Ons Jabeur, winning 6-1 6-1 before getting past a tough challenge from Yafan Wang with a 7-3 6-3 win. Siniakova’s most impressive performance of the week came at the quarter-final stage where she completely outplayed Kristyna Pliskova to win 6-2 6-2. Siniakova did not face a break point all match and continually troubled the Pliskova serve.

Maria Sharapova advanced to the semi-finals in Shenzhen with her most complete performance of the week. Sharapova defeated an in-form Zarina Diyas 6-3 6-3. Sharapova was able to produce a far more consistent level of tennis in her quarter-final match especially compared to her second round win over Alison Riske where she started very slowly and was forced to fight back from a set and a break down. As champion do, Sharapova is getting better as the tournament progresses in Shenzhen.

This will be the first career meeting between Siniakova and Sharapova. It will be interesting to see how the game of Siniakova stacks up to the might of Sharapova. Siniakova possesses a good mix of power, speed and touch, pretty complete game for a 21-year-old. If Siniakova executes her game she could be a threat to Sharapova.

Simona Halep vs Aryna Sabalenka, Shenzhen QF Preview

Shenzhen Open, Quarter-Final Preview
(1) 🇷🇴 Simona Halep vs 🇧🇾 Aryna Sabalenka

A fascinating quarter-final clash at the Shenzhen Open sees the current world number 1, Simona Halep come up against Belarussian rising-star Aryna Sabalenka. Halep fought from a set down to defeat Ying-Ying Duan and advance to the final 8 in Shenzhen, the victory also confirmed that Halep will keep her number 1 ranking and head into the Australian Open as the top seed. Halep will face a strong test on Thursday against Sabalenka, the fearless 19-year-old has powered through the draw and has the weapons to trouble the Romanian.

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Simona Halep started her 2018 season in convincing fashion, beating Nicole Gibbs 6-4 6-1. Halep faced a much tougher test in the second round where she faced Ying-Ying Duan. Halep was on the back foot as the powerful Chinese player took the opening set by a single break of serve. Halep rallied to claim a 3-6 6-1 6-2 win, showing why she is number 1 in the world. Halep will face another dangerous, powerful opponent in the next round when she comes up against Aryna Sabalenka.

Aryna Sabalenka is now on a 7 match winning streak. Sabalenka ended the 2017 season on a high by winning the Mumbai 125K tournament. Sabalenka has picked up where she left off in 2017, Sabalenka opened her season with a commanding 6-4 6-4 win over Monica Niculescu, a good effort in her first meeting with Romanian. Sabalenka backed-up that win with a commanding 6-1 6-0 demolition of Danka Kovinic. Sabalenka is full of confidence at the moment, her fearless attitude means she is a danger to anyone, even the world number 1.

This will be the first career meeting between Halep and Sabalenka. Clearly Halep is the far more established player, the world number 1 will head into this match as a strong favourite. However, Sabalenka is not to be dismissed. The Belarussian has a powerful game and she will look to ambush Halep in Shenzhen.

Maria Sharapova vs Zarina Diyas, Shenzhen Open QF Preview

Shenzhen Open, Quarter-Final Preview
🇷🇺 Maria Sharapova vs 🇰🇿 Zarina Diyas

Maria Sharapova continues her Shenzhen Open campaign on Thursday where she takes on Kazakhstan’s Zarina Diyas. Sharapova and Diyas both advanced to the final 8 in Shenzhen with hard-fought 3 set victories on Tuesday. Sharapova will be confident heading into this match having comfortably beaten Diyas in their 2 previous meeting. However, Diyas will feel she has a better chance this time around given her good form on hard courts.

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Maria Sharapova is enjoying her first trip to Shenzhen. The crowd support for Sharapova in her first two matches has been wild, an environment the Russian certainly thrives in. Sharapova started her 2018 season with a 6-3 6-0 victory against Mihaela Buzarnescu before fighting from a set down to defeat Alison Riske 4-6 6-3 6-2. Sharapova has been quite erratic in her first couple of matches in Shenzhen but her fighting qualities have ensure she has gotten out of some sticky situations unscathed. Sharapova will be hoping to keep improving as the tournament reaches the business end.

Zarina Diyas caused one of the biggest upsets of the tournament thus far when she eliminated the 3rd seeded Shuai Zhang to advance to the quarter-finals in Shenzhen. Diyas had a chance to close out her second round match with Zhang in straight sets but was pushed to a decider where she regrouped and come out on top in a high quality contest, a 6-3 6-7 6-4 victor. Prior to that win, Diyas started her season with a 6-3 6-4 win over Pauline Parmentier.

Sharapova has a perfect 2-0 record over Diyas. Both of their previous matches were in 2015, both ended in straight set victories for Sharapova. 6-1 6-1 at the Australian Open and 6-4 6-4 at Wimbledon. I believe Diyas will enter this match with a better chance of claiming victory than their prior meetings, can the in-form Kazakh cause a big upset in Shenzhen?

Ana Bogdan vs Kristyna Pliskova, Shenzhen R2 Preview

Shenzhen Open, R2 Preview
🇷🇴 Ana Bogdan vs 🇨🇿 Kristyna Pliskova

Kristyna Pliskova caused the biggest upset of the tournament thus far in the opening round on Tuesday. Pliskova eliminated the 2nd seeded Jelena Ostapenko with a straight set win. Pliskova will be back in action on Wednesday night where she takes on Romania’s Ana Bogdan. It will be interesting to see if Pliskova can back-up one of the biggest wins of her career and clinch a quarter-final birth in Shenzhen.

Ana Bogdan secured her spot in the second round at the Shenzhen Open with a fairly easy 6-4 6-2 win over a wayward Camila Giorgi. Like Pliskova, Bogdan largely benefited from a struggling opponent to proceed to the next round in Shenzhen. Bogdan is on the cusp of cracking into the top 100, every win at this level is vital for the Romanian.

Kristyna Pliskova started her 2018 season in perfect fashion. Pliskova made the most of a wayward Jelena Ostapenko to claim a 6-1 6-4 victory. Pliskova’s first serve was her biggest weapon, as usual. Pliskova served 11 aces including 9 in the first set where she was particularly devastating. Pliskova squandered a break lead twice in the second set and did well to hold her nerves and serve out the match with some solid play.

Kristyna Pliskova has won both of the previous matches between the pair. The most recent match was a 6-4 5-7 6-0 win in Linz in 2016. Can Pliskova make it 3 wins in a row over Bogdan or will the Romanian cause an upset?

Simona Halep vs Ying-Ying Duan, Shenzhen R2 Preview

Shenzhen Open, R2 Preview
(1) 🇷🇴 Simona Halep vs 🇨🇳 Ying-Ying Duan

Simona Halep continues her Shenzhen Open campaign on Tuesday evening against Chinese local, Ying-Ying Duan. Halep made a positive start to the season by defeating Nicole Gibbs in straight sets, the world number 1 needs a decent result this week to ensure she remains the world number 1 heading into the first Grand Slam of the year. The winner of this match will play in-form Belarussian Aryna Sabalenka in the quarter-finals.

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Simona Halep, a former champion in Shenzhen, made a good start to her 2018 campaign by easily beating Nicole Gibbs 6-4 6-1. Halep’s level increased as the match wore on as she started to find her range. Halep will look to build on her opening round victory as looks to gain momentum before heading to Australian where she has really struggled in recent years.

Ying-Ying Duan set up a second round clash with the world number 1 by beating Evgeniya Rodina 6-2 7-5. Duan is a powerful player that can be dangerous on her day, the Chinese woman will need to bring her a-game if she is to stand any chance against Simona Halep.

The only previous match between the pair ended in a 3-6 6-3 6-2 win for Halep on grass in Eastbourne last year. That result will give Duan encouragement that she can compete with Halep but it will also mean Halep will be focused heading into this match.

Alison Riske vs Maria Sharapova, Shenzhen R2 Preview

Shenzhen Open, R2 Preview
🇺🇸 Alison Riske vs 🇷🇺 Maria Sharapova

Maria Sharapova continues her Shenzhen Open campaign on Tuesday with a second round clash against 2017 runner-up Alison Riske. Sharapova has enjoyed her time in China over the last few months. The Russian won her first title since her doping suspension in Tianjin late last year and is again receiving huge support at her first appearance in Shenzhen. Riske looms as good test for Sharapova, Riske also enjoys the conditions in China, a runner-up in Shenzhen in 2017. Riske will be desperate to emulate that run and reverse her poor 2017 season ending form.

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Maria Sharapova got off to a good start in Shenzhen, Sharapova claimed a comfortable 6-3 6-0 win over Mihaela Buzarnescu. Sharapova was able to navigate her way through a tricky opening set, the 5-time former Grand Slam champion was down a break early but eventually found her rhythm and found her range and was clearly too powerful for the unorthodox Romanian. Sharapova will face a different test against Alison Riske, the American will look to take time away from Sharapova where possible and is likely to be a much tougher task.

Alison Riske ended 2017 in terrible form, losing 9 of her last 10 matches. The American had a great run to the finals in Shenzhen last year where she upset Agnieszka Radwanska on route to the final, Riske will be hoping a return to Shenzhen will spark a new year form reversal. The signs were good in Riske’s first match of the event. Riske claimed a 7-5 6-0 upset win over the 5th seeded Qiang Wang. It was a big win for Riske, a confidence boosting win, especially the way she won the last 8 games in the match.

Sharapova has a perfect 2-0 record over Riske. Firstly, Sharapova beat Riske in 3 sets on grass in Birmingham way back 2010. More recently, also on grass, Sharapova won 6-3 6-0 at Wimbledon in 2014. I expect this to be closer than their previous match, both enter this match with confidence. Sharapova ended her match with 9 straight games won whilst Riske won 8 games in a row.

Radwanska claims title number 18 in Shenzhen. Contender in Melbourne?

Agnieszka Radwanska has made the perfect start to season 2016, claiming her 18th WTA singles title at the Shenzhen Open courtesy of a 6-3 6-2 victory over Alison Riske in Saturday’s final. It has been a wonderful week for the Pole who cruised through the draw and has shown signs of improvement which could be very valuable moving forward as she continues to fight for a maiden Grand Slam title.

Aga saved her best performance of the week for the final, totally outclassing her American opponents with a perfect mix of aggressive and defensive tennis. The first set was close, one service break was all that separated the pair. It was in the second set that Aga really stepped up her game and comfortably ran way with the match. Aga served 9 aces and was not broken throughout the whole match, a great serving performance.

 

Radwanska was barely challenged in Shenzhen, claiming victory in straight sets in all 5 of her matches. The Pole has now won 3 titles in her last 3 events, having claimed back-to-back titles in Tianjin and Singapore to end 2016. It means Radwanska is one of the form players heading into the Australian Open, perhaps a maiden Grand Slam title is just around the corner?

Radwanska has clearly worked on a number of aspects of her game during the off-season but one key area that seems to have improved is her serve. Aga was broken on just 3 occasions throughout her 5 matches in Shenzhen. Aga’s first serve statistics were particularly encouraging, maintaining an average first serve percentage of 68% throughout the week and winning 80% of points behind her first serve. Of course, Aga’s second serve statistics weren’t great, but they weren’t bad either. Aga will never have a wonderful second serve but if she maintains a high first serve percentage and is able to win a good amount of those points then she will be well positioned, which was proven this week.

 

It seems like Radwanska is now in the best position she has ever been in to win a Grand Slam title. Aga seems to have finally found the right balance between aggressive and defensive tennis, something that has always held her back. Winning the WTA Finals at the end of 2015 should give Aga a new-found confidence, knowing that she can win back-to-back matches against the best players in the world at such a big event. With so many high profile players withdrawing from week 1 events due to injury concerns, Aga has to like her chances of achieving great results at the Australian Open, perhaps this is Aga’s time to shine!

Can Radwanska win a Grand Slam in 2016? let me know what you think in the comments sections 🙂 

Agnieszka Radwanska vs Alison Riske, Shenzhen Final Preview

Shenzhen Final: (1) Agnieszka Radwanska vs Alison Riske

Agnieszka Radwanska is just 1 win away from making the perfect start her to the 2016 season. The Pole will come up against Alison Riske in the final of the Shenzhen Open on Saturday where she looks to claim her 18th WTA title. Aga won the only previous meeting between the pair quite convincingly, it will be interesting to see if the American can put up more of a fight on this occasion.

Courtesy of reaching the final in Shenzhen, Aga will move up to number 4 in the world on Monday and will therefore be the 4th seed at the upcoming Australian Open. Aga cannot face Serena Williams until the semi-final stage in Melbourne. Radwanska has cruised through to the final in Shenzhen without dropping a set, collecting convincing victories over Aleksandra Krunic, Shuai Zhang, Qiang Wang and Anna-Lena Friedsam. Aga’s service numbers have been encouraging this week, maintaining a very high first serve percentage and she has not been broken on more than 2 occasions in any of her matches.

 

Alison Riske has had forgettable couple seasons of late, however the American has made a really promising start to the season by reaching the final in Shenzhen. Riske’s progression through to the final has been far less cruisy than Aga’s. Riske’s first three matches went the distance, twice coming for a set down. Notably, Alison came from 3-6 0-4 down to defeat Su-Wei Hsieh in the second round. Riske confirmed her place in Saturday’s final with an impressive 6-2 6-4 victory over Timea Babos.

In the only previous encounter between the pair, Radwanska recorded a comfortable 6-3 6-1 victory at Indian Wells last year. This is a really tough match-up for Riske, the American doesn’t really have the power or the variety to really challenge Radwanska. Furthermore, Aga is far more experienced in finals and will likely handle this occasion much better than her inexperienced opponent. I expect Aga to win this pretty easily.

Prediction: Agnieszka Radwanska to defeat Alison Riske in 2 sets

Eugenie Bouchard vs Nicole Gibbs, Shenzhen R2 Preview

Shenzhen R2: (6) Eugenie Bouchard vs (Q) Nicole Gibbs

The pick of the second round clashes at the Shenzhen Open on Wednesday sees the sixth seeded Eugenie Bouchard come up against in form American Nicole Gibbs. Bouchard just edged past Donna Vekic in her opening match of the season and will need to raise her level on Wednesday if she is to get past Nicole Gibbs who stormed through the qualifying draw and her first round match.

 

Eugenie Bouchard held her nerve to claim a crucial 6-4 1-6 7-5 victory over Donna Vekic in her first completed match since the U.S Open. After claiming the first set Bouchard’s level dropped and she found herself trailing 2-4 in the deciding set. Bouchard did well to maintain her composure and raise her level towards the end of the set to fight her way into the next round. Bouchard will need to be much more consistent on Wednesday afternoon, otherwise she is likely to struggle against an opponent who has been in great form.

Nicole Gibbs ended 2015 in style and seems to have carried that form into season 2016. The American easily came through the qualifying draw, dropping just 7 games in her 2 matches. Nicole continued to dominate in her opening round match in the main draw, thumping Tereza Smitkova 6-0 6-2 to set up a clash with Eugenie Bouchard.

This will be the first clash between the pair, it should be an entertaining one. Nicole Gibbs has been in great form however Bouchard will be a big step up in terms of quality of opponent. Bouchard will be relieved to have navigated her way through a tough opening round match and should feel a lot freer in this match. Gibbs will not be given as much time to dictate in this match-up and could struggle to adjust. I suspect Bouchard will raise her level in this match and claim an important victory.

Prediction: Eugenie Bouchard to defeat Nicole Gibbs in 3 sets