Simona Halep vs. Karolina Pliskova, Madrid QF Preview

Mutua Madrid Open, QF Preview
🇷🇴 (1) Simona Halep vs. 🇨🇿 (6) Karolina Pliskova

Simona Halep and Karolina Pliskova will renew hostilities when they meet at the quarter-final stage of the Mutua Madrid Open. This has historically been a very successful match-up for Halep, the Romanian holds a dominant 6-1 H2H record over Pliskova. There have been no signs that Halep’s incredible winning streak in Madrid is coming to an end any time soon, the 2-time defending champion will however face her greatest test of the tournament thus far against Pliskova who is in great form herself, can Pliskova cause a big upset?

Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic in action at the 2018 Mutua Madrid Open

Halep has cruised into the quarter-finals in Madrid without dropping a set. The world number 1 has now won 15 matches in a row in Madrid and is 3 wins away from becoming the first player to win the title in Madrid on 3 separate occasions, it would also be the first time Halep has won the same tournament on 3 occasions. Halep has claimed straight set wins over Ekaterina Makarova, Elise Mertens and Kristyna Pliskova, the Romanian never really looked troubled in any of those matches and looms as the strong favourite to win the title from here.

Karolina Pliskova is currently on a surprising 8-match winning streak on clay, the surface that has widely been considered her weakest. Pliskova has proven over the last 12 months that her game can work on clay, the 2018 Roland Garros semi-finalist and recently crowned Stuttgart champion has certainly improved her movement and defensive capabilities on clay. Pliskova has come through a tough draw to reach the quarter-final stage in Madrid for the first time, the 6th seed started the week with a straight set win over Elena Vesnina before battling past Victoria Azarenka in 3 sets in what was a significant win for the Czech. Pliskova confirmed her spot in the final 8 with a clinical 6-2 6-3 thrashing of Sloane Stephens.

As mentioned above it is Halep who holds a dominant 6-1 head-to-head record over Pliskova. The previous matches between these two have shown that Halep is able to read the Pliskova serve better than anyone else on tour. Halep comfortably defeated Pliskova in their most recent match at the Australian Open earlier this year, an easy 6-3 6-2 victory. Halep has won the last 3 matches between the pair and 5 of her 6 wins over Pliskova were in straight sets. The signs are ominous for Pliskova.

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Simona Halep vs. Elise Mertens, Madrid R2 Preview

Mutua Madrid Open, R2 Preview
🇷🇴 (1) Simona Halep vs. 🇧🇪 Elise Mertens

A blockbuster second round clash in Madrid sees the two-time defending champion take on one of the form players on tour right now as Simona Halep comes up against Elise Mertens. Halep has won her last 13 matches in Madrid whilst Mertens is on an 11-match winning streak having arrived in Madrid fresh off winning back-to-back title in Lugano and Rabat. All is set for an exciting encounter in what will be the first career meeting between the pair. Can the in-form Mertens stop Halep’s magical run in Madrid?

Elise Mertens of Belgium in action at the 2018 Mutua Madrid Open

Simona Halep made the perfect start to her title defense in Madrid. The world number 1 crushed Ekaterina Makarova 6-1 6-0 in just 51 minutes in what was a near-flawless performance by Halep. Halep is clearly the player to beat this week, the Romanian is extremely comfortable in Madrid, the quick clay courts suit her game perfectly. Halep is bidding to become the first player to win the Mutua Madrid Open on three occasions, the early signs are good for the top seed but Mertens will provide her first real test on Tuesday.

Elise Mertens is arguably the form player on tour right now. Mertens arrived in Madrid fresh off winning back-to-back title on clay, wins in Lugano and Rabat saw her reach an equal tour level high off 3 titles to her name in 2018 and rise to a career high ranking of 16 in the world. Mertens had little time to prepare for Madrid having arrived from Rabat a day before her first round match. Nevertheless, Mertens was solid enough to claim a 6-4 6-4 win over compatriot Alison Van Uytvanck, Mertens was too strong at the critical stage of each set.

It will be interesting to see how this match-up pans out in what will be the first career meeting between the two. Expect a high quality match between two in-form and confident opponents.

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Simona Halep vs. Ekaterina Makarova, Madrid R1 Preview

Mutua Madrid Open R1 Preview
🇷🇴 (1) Simona Halep vs. 🇷🇺 Ekaterina Makarova

Two-time defending champion Simona Halep will begin her 2018 Madrid campaign with a potentially tricky first round clash against Ekaterina Makarova. Madrid has proven to be Halep’s best tournament over the last few years, the reasonably quick clay court conditions are perfect for the Romanian’s game. Makarova has beaten Halep a couple of times before, can the Russian cause a huge opening round upset?

Simona Halep of Romania practices at the 2018 Mutua Madrid Open

Halep arrives in Madrid on the back of a couple of disappointing results. Halep started the year in style but her results of late have not been up to the standards of a world number 1. Halep started her clay court season in Stuttgart where she suffered a shocking straight set exit at the hands of CoCo Vandeweghe at the quarter-final stage. Halep has lost 3 of her last 5 matches at the tour level. The good news for Halep is that she has a remarkable record in Madrid, Halep is the two-time defending champion and also reached the final in 2014.

Makarova has been one of the tour’s biggest disappointments in 2018, the Russian is having one of her worst seasons in recent times. Amazingly Makarova is yet to win back-to-back matches in 2018, very surprising given how consistent Makarova usually is. Makarova arrives in Madrid on the back of a disappointing opening round loss in Rabat last week where she suffered a 3 set loss to Aleksandra Krunic.

Halep holds a 4-2 H2H record over Makarova. Halep won their most recent match 6-3 6-0 in Doha earlier this year. This will be their first career meeting on a clay court.

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Simona Halep vs. CoCo Vandeweghe, Stuttgart QF Preview

Porsche Tennis GP, Stuttgart QF Preview
🇷🇴 (1) Simona Halep vs. 🇺🇸 (wc) CoCo Vandeweghe

World number 1 Simona Halep will take on big-serving American CoCo Vandeweghe in the first quarter-final of the day from the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix on Friday. Halep will enter this clash as the strong favourite, the Romanian is widely seen as the tour’s best on a clay court whilst Vandeweghe herself admits that clay is not a good surface for her. Halep easily accounted for Vandeweghe is their only previous meeting last year but Vandeweghe’s form across her first few matches in Stuttgart suggest that she can make this a more competitive match.

Simona Halep of Romania in action at the 2018 Porsche Tennis Grand Prix

Simona Halep came through a stern test in the second round after receiving a bye through the opening round. Halep fought from a set and a break down to claim a 4-6 6-2 6-3 win over Magdalena Rybarikova. It was another gutsy win for Halep in 2018, often it has been the case that she has managed to fight back from dangerous situations, something she has not been able to do in the past. Halep is now 1 win away from equally her 2017 run to the semi-finals in Stuttgart but will be hoping to go a couple of steps better in 2018.

CoCo Vandeweghe is having a surprisingly good week. The American started her Stuttgart campaign with a crushing 6-1 6-0 demolition of Sloane Stephens before producing a solid performance to eliminate last year’s champion Laura Siegemund with a 6-4 4-6 6-3 victory. Vandeweghe’s serve has been working particularly well across her first couple of matches, Vandeweghe is always a threat when her big weapon is firing.

The only previous match between the pair took place in Madrid last year. It was Halep who claimed a comfortable 6-1 6-1 victory. Vandeweghe will be hoping to cause a lot more issue for the Romanian here.

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Simona Halep vs. Magdalena Rybarikova, Stuttgart R2 Preview

Porsche Tennis GP, Stuttgart R2 Preview
🇷🇴 (1) Simona Halep vs. 🇸🇰 Magdalena Rybarikova

Simona Halep will begin her 2018 Porsche Tennis Grand Prix campaign with a second round clash against Slovakia’s Magdalena Rybarikova. The top seeded Halep received a bye through the opening round whilst Rybarikova caused the first big upset of the tournament by defeating Daria Kasatkina in straight sets. Interestingly this has historically been a tough match-up for Simona, Rybarikova has beaten the world number 1 on multiple occasions and will fancy her chances of an upset here.

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Simona Halep arrives in Stuttgart on a high after guiding Romania into the Fed Cup world Group at the weekend with victory over Switzerland. Halep won both of her singles matches as Romania secured a 3-0 victory. Halep defeated Golubic in 3 sets and claimed a 6-2 6-1 win over Patty Schnyder to end the tie. This is the time of the year where Halep is at her most dangerous, Halep is undoubtedly the number 1 player on clay on the WTA tour and will have her sights set on a number of big titles over the coming months, starting by potentially winning her first Stuttgart title.

Magdalena Rybarikova was extremely impressive in her opening round match in Stuttgart, The Slovakian claimed a comprehensive 6-2 6-2 victory over Daria Kasatkina, Rybarikova served extremely well throughout the match and successfully moved up the court frequently. Whilst clay is typically Rybarikova’s least preferred surface, the quicker indoor clay court conditions in Stuttgart actually play nicely for Rybarikova game.

Halep holds a 3-2 H2H record over Rybarikova, however on closer inspection it is Rybarikova who has the slight advantage having won 2 of their 3 completed matches. It was Halep who won their most recent completed match, a 6-3 6-4 win at the Rogers Cup last year.

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Simona Halep vs Naomi Osaka, Indian Wells SF Preview

BNP Paribas Open, 🇺🇸🌴 Indian Wells SF Preview
🇷🇴 (1) Simona Halep vs. 🇯🇵 Naomi Osaka

A blockbuster semi-final from the BNP Paribas Open sees 2015 champion and current world number 1: Simona Halep come up against an in-form rising-star: Naomi Osaka. This match-up features and interesting contrast in styles, the outstanding movement and consistency of Halep against the explosive power of Osaka. Halep has had the better of this matchup in the past, the Romanian holds a 3-0 H2H record over Osaka. However, Osaka is playing the best tennis of her career right now and will fancy her chances of causing a big upset.

Naomi Osaka of Japan in action at the 2018 BNP Paribas Open WTA Premier Mandatory tennis tournament

Simona Halep has now reached the semi-final stage at all 4 tournaments she has competed in this year. Halep has amassed an extremely impressive 18-1 win/loss record in 2018, a record that reflects her world number 1 ranking. Halep has had some tough matches on route to the semi-finals. The 2015 Champion started the event with a 6-4 6-4 win over Kristyna Pliskova before surviving a real scare to get past Caroline Dolehide 1-6 7-6 6-2. Halep started the second week with a 7-5 6-1 win over Qiang Wang before fighting from 1-3 down in the deciding set to beat Petra Martic 6-4 6-7 6-3 in a match that was played in tough conditions. When Halep dropped the second set and fell behind early in the third she looked frustrated and destined to lose, the Romanian displayed her improved mental toughness to regroup and win 5 straight games to close the match and move into the final 4.

Naomi Osaka is having the best tournament of her career, the 20-year-old is into her second and biggest semi-final of her career. Osaka has had the toughest draw of any player remaining in the draw. Osaka started the event with excellent straight set wins over Maria Sharapova, Agnieszka Radwanska and Sachia Vickery. Osaka was pushed to a third set in the fourth round, overcoming a stern challenge to beat Maria Sakkari 6-1 5-7 6-1. Osaka’s most impressive performance came at the quarter-final stage where she thrashed Karolina Pliskova 6-2 6-3. Osaka completely outplayed Pliskova from start to finish, Osaka was calm and calculated and executed the perfect game. Osaka has displayed consistency that we have not really previously seen from her over the last week and a half in Indian Wells.

Simona Halep has won all 3 of the previous matches between the pair. The pair last met earlier this at the Australian Open, Halep won 6-3 6-2 at the fourth round stage. Osaka made a promising start in that match but ultimately did not have the consistency to compete with Halep. Their other two matches went to a third set, a 6-4 2-6 6-3 win for Halep in Miami last year and a 4-6 6-2 6-3 win at Roland Garros in 2016.

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Simona Halep vs Petra Martic, Indian Wells QF Preview

BNP Paribas Open, 🇺🇸🌴 Indian Wells QF Preview
🇷🇴 (1) Simona Halep vs 🇭🇷 Petra Martic

An interesting quarter-final clash in the Californian desert sees Simona Halep come up against Petra Martic. Halep and Martic have been two of the most consistent players in 2018. Halep has a 17/1 win/loss record in 2018 whilst Martic has amassed an 11/3 win/loss record thus far in 2018. Martic has already taken down some big names in Indian Wells but will need to raise her level even further if she is to upset the world number 1.

Simona Halep of Romania in action at the 2018 BNP Paribas Open WTA Premier Mandatory tennis tournament

Simona Halep is one of just two former champions left in the draw at the BNP Paribas Open. The Romanian has not been at her best throughout the opening week of the tournament but has displayed her new mental strength in order to progress to the quarter-finals despite not playing great tennis. Halep started the event with an opening round bye before beating Kristyna Pliskova 6-4 6-4. The 2015 champion survived a huge scare in the third round where she overcame a slow start to beat Caroline Dolehide 1-6 7-6 6-2. Halep secured her spot in the quarter-finals with a 7-5 6-1 win over Qiang Wang in what was a scrappy match. Halep will hope to pick up her level as she moves into the business end of the tournament.

Petra Martic has become a big tournament specialist. Martic has reached the round 16 at Roland Garros, Wimbledon and the Australian Open in the last 12 months. Martic is now into the quarter-finals at a premier mandatory event for the first time. Martic has impressively moved into the final 8 at the BNP Paribas Open without a dropping a set. The 27-year-old started the week with a comfortable win over Tatjana Maria before eliminating the 25th seeded Barbora Strycova with a 7-5 6-4 win. Martic then claimed a big upset as she beat the 6th seeded Jelena Ostapenko 6-3 6-3 before securing her spot in the quarter-finals with a 6-3 7-6 win over Marketa Vondrousova. Martic did well to close out her fourth round in straight sets after she failed to serve out the match late in the second set.

The head-to-head record between the pair is split at 1 win apiece. Their most recent match took place in Guangzhou in 2015, Halep won that match 6-4 6-2. Martic’s victory over the Romanian came way back in 2011 in Copenhagen where the Croatian won 6-3 5-7 7-5. Clearly Halep is the more accomplished player but Martic has proven to be a dangerous opponent for many top players this year, can the Croatian cause a big upset?

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Simona Halep vs Qiang Wang, Indian Wells R4 Preview

BNP Paribas Open, 🇺🇸🌴 Indian Wells R4 Preview
🇷🇴 (1) Simona Halep vs. 🇨🇳 Qiang Wang

Simona Halep continues her 2018 BNP Paribas Open campaign on Tuesday with a round of 16 clash against China’s Qiang Wang. The world number 1 and 2015 Indian Wells champion will head into this fourth round clash as a strong favourite in what will be the first career meeting between the pair. Halep will be determined to have a much more straightforward victory compared to her scare in the previous round.

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Halep survived a real scare in her third round clash at the BNP Paribas Open. The Romanian came from a set down to defeat American wild card Caroline Dolehide 1-6 7-6 6-2. Halep was outplayed for the first set and a half before eventually waring down her young opponent to avoid a big upset. Prior to that, Halep received a bye through the opening round before claiming a 6-4 6-4 win over Kristyna Pliskova. Halep has been very consistent in 2018 and has come through some tough situations, winning matches that she would have lost in the past, such as her match against Dolehide on Sunday.

Qiang Wang is having her best tournament of the season thus far. Wang started the event with a couple of 3 set victories over Timea Bacsinszky and Elise Mertens. Wang confirmed her spot in the fourth round of the first premier mandatory event of the season with a 6-1 6-2 victory over the 14th seeded Kristina Mladenovic. Wang was yet to really get going in 2018 before arriving in Indian Wells. Her run to the round of 16 is just the spark she needs to ignite her season.

This will be the first time Halep and Wang have gone H2H, who will emerge victorious?

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Simona Halep vs Caroline Wozniacki, Australian Open Final Preview

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.

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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.

Simona Halep vs Angelique Kerber, Australian Open SF Preview

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.

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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.