Simona Halep vs. Elena Rybakina, Dubai Final Preview

🇦🇪 Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, Final Preview
🇷🇴 (1) Simona Halep vs. 🇰🇿 Elena Rybakina

The final of the 2020 Dubai Duty Free Tennis championships promises to be an exciting one when the top seeded Simona Halep takes on a red-hot Elena Rybakina. Halep will enter this match as the favourite but is unlikely to have things all her own way against a player that has already won 19 matches in 2020. Will Halep win her first tile since capturing her second major at Wimbledon last year?

Simona Halep made a shaky start to her 2020 Dubai campaign but has improved her level in every single match. The reigning Wimbledon champion made an especially slow start in her opening round match against Ons Jabeur but rallied to save match point on route to a 1-6 6-2 7-6 win. The top seed was again forced to come from behind in the quarter-finals where she avenged her loss to Aryna Sabalenka in Adelaide with a 3-6 6-2 6-2 win. Halep produced her most commanding performance at the semi-final stage with a dominant 6-2 6-0 win over an in-form Jennifer Brady.

Elena Rybakina is through to her fourth final of 2020, more than anyone else on tour. This is the second time Rybakina has reached back-to-back finals in 2020, the first time she was able to win the title in her second final, can she do it again in Dubai? Rybakina has been in fine form this week, the Kazakh started the week with a 3 set win over the 5th seeded Sofia Kenin before cruising past Katerina Siniakova in straight sets. Rybakina made another big move in the quarter-finals where she upset the second seeded Karolina Pliskova 7-6 6-3 before booking her spot in the championship match with a hard-fought 7-6 7-6 win over Petra Martic, Rybakina fought from a break down in each set in her win over Martic.

I’m going to side with Halep here. Rybakina is yet to consistently prove herself against top level counter-punchers. This is arguably Rybakina’s biggest test of the year thus far, I think it will to be a troublesome match-up for the 20-year-old. Halep is getting stronger and stronger and seemingly enters this final in perfect shape. Rybakina has played a heap of tennis over the last few weeks which is a concern coming up against one of the most physical opponents on tour. The relentless pressure from Halep thanks to her consistency and stamina will be too much for Rybakina to handle.

Prediction: Simona Halep to defeat Elena Rybakina in 2 sets
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Simona Halep vs. Jennifer Brady, Dubai SF Preview

🇦🇪 Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, SF Preview
🇷🇴 (1) Simon Halep vs. 🇺🇸 (Q) Jennifer Brady

Simona Halep continues her quest for a second Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships title when she comes up against Jennifer Brady in Friday’s second semi-final. Halep and Brady have both come through some extremely tight matches to get through to the final 4 in Dubai, both have been forced to fight from a set down in their two previous matches. Halep defeated Brady earlier this year in Melbourne, can the Romanian repeat that result in Dubai?

Simona Halep is building into some top form in Dubai. Halep came through a big scare in her opening round match where she saved a match point in a dramatic final set tiebreak to defeat Ons Jabeur 1-6 6-2 7-6. Halep was again overpowered in the early exchanges of her quarter-final clash with Aryna Sabalenka but raised her level to claim an important 3-6 6-2 6-2 victory. Halep was striking the ball fantastically in the final set against Sabalenka, if she can continue that form she will win the title this week.

Jennifer Brady is into her first semi-final at a premier level event. Brady has done it the hard way having come through qualifying. Brady eased through the qualifying draw without dropping a set with wins over Kristyna Pliskova, Gabriela Dabrowski and Su-Wei Hsieh, before starting her main draw campaign with a 6-2 6-1 thrashing of the third seeded Elina Svitolina. Brady made a great escape in her second round match, coming from a set and 1-4 down to defeat Marketa Vondrousova. The American continued to ride her luck in the quarter-finals, where she against fought from behind to defeat Garbine Muguruza 6-7 6-3 6-4.

Halep has won both of her previous matches against Brady. Halep needed 3 tight sets to get past the American when they first squared off last year at the Rogers Cup, a 4-6 7-5 7-6 win for Halep on that occasion. More recently Halep claimed a 7-6 6-1 victory over Brady at the opening round stage of the Australian Open last month.

I’m going to confidently side with Halep here. Halep was able to beat Brady in straight sets at the Australian Open despite most factors favouring Brady heading into that match. On that occasion it was Brady who was in better form and had a better rhythm coming into the match. Halep still overcame a slow start in Melbourne to win that match. On this occasion, Halep has her rhythm having coming through some tough battles over the last few days. Conversely, Brady is surely going to be fatigued having already played 6 matches this week. Halep loves playing in Dubai where the courts suit her and the crowd loves her. Halep will make this a physical battle where she will be too strong.

Prediction: Simona Halep to defeat Jennifer Brady in 2 sets
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Simona Halep vs. Aryna Sabalenka, Dubai QF Preview

🇦🇪 Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, QF Preview
🇷🇴 (1) Simona Halep vs. 🇧🇾 (7) Aryna Sabalenka

A blockbuster quarter-final clash at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Thursday evening is set, the top seeded Simona Halep will come up against the always-dangerous Aryna Sabalenka. This is a big test for Halep, the Romanian only just scrapped through her opening round match in Dubai against Ons Jabeur and was beaten by Sabalenka in straight sets in Adelaide earlier this year. Can Halep get revenge in Dubai?

Simona Halep made a slow start to her 2020 Dubai campaign but came through with a typically gutsy win. The 2015 champion received a bye through the opening round before facing an in-form Ons Jabeur. Halep was dominated in the early exchanges by Jabeur but rallied to claim a 1-6 6-2 7-6 victory, saving a match point in a dramatic final set tiebreak. Halep is still aiming for her first title since Wimbledon last year, perhaps this is the week she will end her run without a title.

Aryna Sabalenka is having a good week in Dubai. Sabalenka arrived in Dubai in desperate need of some victories after a first round exit in Melbourne, that’s exactly what she has got. The 7th seed started her campaign with a hard-fought 6-2 4-6 6-1 win over Maria Sakkari. The Belarussian booked her spot in the final 8 with a commanding 6-4 6-3 win over Elise Mertens. Sabalenka will look to keep the momentum going with another big win over Halep.

Halep holds a 2-1 head-to-head record over Sabalenka. It was Halep who won the first couple of meetings between the pair, both in 2018, both in straight sets and both on a hard court. Most recently, it was Sabalenka who claimed a dominant 6-4 6-2 victory over Halep at the quarter-final stage of the Adelaide International in January.

I’m going to side with Halep here. Usually this is a match-up that favours Halep and expect that to be the case here. Halep is always better positioned at a tournament when she is able to come through a tough opening round match, that is exactly what happened at this event after her epic win over Jabeur. The consistency, anticipation and defensive skills of Halep make life tough for Sabalenka. A motivated Halep will have revenge on her mind heading into this one after what happened in Adelaide earlier this year, the top seed will get that revenge.

Prediction: Simona Halep to defeat Aryna Sabalenka in 2 sets
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Simona Halep vs. Ons Jabeur, Dubai R2 Preview

🇦🇪 Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, R2 Preview
🇷🇴 (1) Simona Halep vs. 🇹🇳 (wc) Ons Jabeur

The top seeded Simona Halep begins her 2020 Dubai campaign on Wednesday against Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur. Halep won the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships in 2015 and will be hoping to replicate that result 5 years later. The Romanian received a bye through the opening round whilst Jabeur came through a tough test against Alison Riske in 3 sets. Will Halep make a positive start to her 2020 Dubai campaign?

Simona Halep made a great start to the season in Australian. The reigning Wimbledon champion reached the semi-finals at the Australian Open and will look to build on that momentum during the Middle Eastern swing. Halep usually performs well at this time of the year having captured the title in both Dubai and Doha, the conditions certainly favour the Romanian.

Ons Jabeur has also made a very bright start to the season. Jabeur made her first Grand Slam quarter-final at the Australian Open and is arguably playing the best tennis of her career at the moment. Jabeur advanced to the second round in Dubai thanks to a hard-fought 7-6 1-6 6-3 win over Alison Riske, another encouraging with for the Tunisian.

I’m going to give Halep the benefit of the doubt here. Halep hasn’t played a singles match for a couple of weeks and was comfortably defeated in the opening round of the doubles event in Dubai, it is understandable if the Romanian is rusty here. Jabeur is confident and has nothing to lose, the Tunisian isn’t easy to play against and will probably trouble Halep at times. Nevertheless, the consistency and stamina of Halep should eventually prove too much for Jabeur to handle, especially in the critical moments.

Prediction: Simona Halep to defeat Ons Jabeur in 3 sets
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Simona Halep vs. Garbine Muguruza, Australian Open SF Preview

🇦🇺 Australian Open, SF #2 preview + prediction:
🇷🇴 (4) Simona Halep vs. 🇪🇸 Garbine Muguruza

A blockbuster semi-final clash sees a pair of 2-time Grand Slam champions do battle when Simona Halep comes up against Garbine Muguruza. This is a heavyweight battle between two players in superb form that know how to go all the way in major events, expect a hot contest!

Simona Halep is the only semi-finalist that hasn’t dropped a set all tournament. Halep safely moved through the first week with straight set wins over Jennifer Brady, Katie Boulter and Yulia Putintseva. The reigning Wimbledon champion has stepped up her level in the last few matches to defeat Elise Mertens 6/4 6/4 and crush Anett Kontaveit 6/1 6/1 to reach the final 4 in Melbourne for the second time.

Garbine Muguruza made a nervy start to the event, the Spaniard required 3 sets to defeat Shelby Rogers and Ajla Tomljanovic in her first couple of matches but has really stepped up her level thereafter. Muguruza claimed back-to-back top 10 victories in the third and fourth rounds with a 6/1 6/2 win over Elina Svitolina before defeating Kiki Bertens 6/3 6/3. Muguruza booked her spot in the final 4 at Melbourne Park for the first time with a 7/5 6/3 win over Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.

It is Garbine Muguruza who heads into this clash with the head-to-head advantage. Muguruza holds a 3-2 H2H record over the Romanian, more importantly the Spaniard has won all 3 of the previous matches between the pair on a hard court. It was Halep who won the most recent match between the pair, a dominant 6-1 6-4 win at the semi-final stage of Roland Garros in 2018 on route to winning the title.

I’m going to side with Halep here. Halep is simply the far more consistent and reliable of the two. Whilst Muguruza has been playing great tennis in her last few matches, this will be a step up in opposition. Halep has the game to absorb and redirect the power of Muguruza. Halep played one of her best matches in recent times in the semi-finals, a similar effort here will see her reach a second Australian Open final.

Prediction: Simona Halep to defeat Garbine Muguruza in 2 sets
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Simona Halep vs. Anett Kontaveit, Australian Open QF Preview

🇦🇺 Australian Open, QF preview + prediction:
🇷🇴 (4) Simona Halep vs. 🇪🇪 (28) Anett Kontaveit

Simona Halep and Anett Kontaveit will renew hostilities with a place in the final 4 at Melbourne Park up for grabs. It is Halep who heads into this clash as a strong favourite, the Romanian has dominated in this match-up in the past and is in ominous form having reached the quarter-final stage without dropping a set. Kontaveit is faced with a massive task playing in her first Grand Slam quarter-final.

Halep made a slow start to the season but is seemingly peaking at the right time. The fourth seed battled through her first couple of matches in Melbourne, starting with a 7/6 6/1 win over Jennifer Brady before beating Harriet Dart 6/2 6/4. The Romanian certainly raised her level in third and fourth rounds where she smashed Yulia Putintseva 6/1 6/4 and blitzed Elise Mertens 6/4 6/4. The fairly slow hard courts at Melbourne Park this year are working in the favour of the rock-solid Halep.

Kontaveit has surprisingly had the best tournament of her career. The Estonian is through to the final 8 of a major for the first time thanks to some contrasting performances. Kontaveit breezed through the opening round with a 6/0 6/2 win over Astra Sharma before scrapping past Sara Sorribes Tormo 6/2 4/6 6/1. The 28th seed produced her best performance of the tournament thus far in third round where she claimed a commanding 6/0 6/1 win over the 6th seeded Belinda Bencic. Kontaveit battled from behind to clinch a spot in the final 8, fighting from a set and a break down to defeat Iga Swiatek 6/7 7/5 7/5.

Simona Halep holds a perfect 2-0 head-to-head record over Anett Kontaveit. Halep easily defeated Kontaveit on both occasions, both in 2017, a 6/3 6/0 victory in Miami followed by a 6/2 6/4 victory in Rome. It will take a special effort on Wednesday from Kontaveit to avoid a similarly one-sided result.

I have to side with Halep here. All signs point to a Halep victory. Firstly, this Is a good match-up for Halep. The Romanian easily won the only previous matches between the pair, the consistency and defensive skills of Halep are too much for Kontaveit to deal with. Secondly, the slow court favours Halep. Kontaveit doesn’t have the consistency or stamina to outlast Halep in rallies over and over again so the Estonian will need to play an aggressive game and hit through the Romanian to win, that is not going to happen on a slow hard court with Halep playing so well at the moment. Expect Halep to be too solid.

Prediction: Simona Halep to defeat Anett Kontaveit in 2 sets
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Simona Halep vs. Elise Mertens, Australian Open R4 Preview

🇦🇺 Australian Open, R4 preview + prediction:
🇷🇴 (4) Simona Halep vs. 🇧🇪 (16) Elise Mertens

Simona Halep and Elise Mertens renew hostilities when they do battle at the fourth round stage at Melbourne Park on Monday. Halep is one of the favourites heading into the second week of the tournament but will be wary of her Belgian opponent given it was Mertens who emerged victorious in their most recent meeting.

Simona Halep moved through the first week in Melbourne without dropping a set. Halep’s first few matches had their complications, a 7/6 6/1 win over Jennifer Brady followed by a 6/2 6/4 win over Harriet Dart. Halep produced her most convincing performance in the third round where she smashed Yulia Putintseva 6/1 6/4. The reigning Wimbledon champion is seemingly in a good place right now and will be tough to beat from here.

Elise Mertens cruised through her first couple of matches at Melbourne Park. The 16th seed dropped just a combined 5 games through a 6/2 6/0 win over Danka Kovinic and a 6/3 6/0 win over Heather Watson. Mertens faced her biggest test in the third round where she required a roller-coaster 3 set match to get the better of Catherine Bellis, a 6/1 6/7 6/0 victory.

Halep holds a 2-1 head-to-head record over Mertens. It was Halep that won the first couple of matches between the pair, both straight set victories where the Romanian dropped just 3 games in each match. Mertens flipped the script in their most recent match, a 3/6 6/4 6/3 victory in the Doha final last year.

I’m going to side with Halep here. I think this is generally a good match-up for Halep. Halep crushed Mertens in their first few matches; it took an inspired performance by Mertens to defeat Halep in Doha. Mertens needs to play at her very best, over a long period of the match to have success in this match-up. Halep isn’t going to give the match away, Mertens needs to be able to hit through Halep, that will not be easy on a fairly slow hard court. Halep has more margin to her shots which gives her the edge in a match-up that will feature a lot of extended rallies given the movement and defensive abilities of both.

Prediction: Simona Halep to defeat Elise Mertens in 2 sets
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Simona Halep vs. Yulia Putintseva, Australian Open R3 Preview

🇦🇺 Australian Open, R3 preview + prediction:
🇷🇴 (4) Simona Halep vs. 🇰🇿 Yulia Putintseva

Simona Halep and Yulia Putintseva will go head-to-head for the first time when they meet at the third round stage of the Australian Open on Saturday. This promises to be an entertaining match-up between two great competitors and two of the quickest players on tour, expect a lot of long rallies in this one!

Simona Halep has done well to navigate her way through the first couple of rounds without dropping a set. Halep started her Melbourne Park campaign with a hard-fought 7/6 6/1 victory over an in-form Jennifer Brady before defeating Harriet Dart 6/2 6/4. Both of Halep’s matches have had their complications, the fourth seed twice fought from a break down in the opening set against Brady and almost blew a 5-1 lead in the second set against Dart. In general, Halep has looked good, now that the reigning Wimbledon champion has her teeth stuck into the tournament she will be hard to stop from here.

Yulia Putintseva has equaled her best result at Melbourne Park by reaching the third round, matching her run from 2016. The Kazakh has overcome a very tough draw to get to the round of 32. Putintseva started the event with a commanding 6/1 6/3 win over Su-Wei Hsieh before battling past an in-form Danielle Collins 6/4 2/6 7/5 in what was an epic contest. Putintseva did extremely well to withstand the barrage of shots fired at her from Collins, one of the better wins in Putintseva’s career on a hard court.

I’ll side with Halep in this one. It will be interesting to see how Putintseva matches up against Halep in their first career meeting but I expect this to be a good match-up for the Romanian. Putintseva’s greatest strengths are her movement and her versatility, unfortunately for Putintseva those strengths wont be as effective against Halep. Halep has the movement and stamina to match Putintseva from the back of the court and won’t be too troubled by slice, higher balls or drop shots. Importantly Halep has the superior firepower from the baseline, both off the forehand and backhand side, Halep also has a superior serve and more damaging return of serve. It won’t be easy for Halep, it never is against Putintseva but she should get the job done.

Prediction: Simona Halep to defeat Yulia Putintseva in 2 sets
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Simona Halep vs. Jennifer Brady, Australian Open R1 Preview

AO R1: (4) Simona Halep vs. Jennifer Brady

Simona Halep begins her 2020 Australian Open campaign on day 2 against in-form American Jennifer Brady. It is Brady who brings the greater momentum into this opening round clash, Halep is certainly on upset alert. However, the Romanian is still one of the major contenders heading into this event and will be keen to make a statement in this first round encounter.

Simona Halep of Romania in action during the second round at the 2020 Adelaide International WTA Premier tennis tournament

Halep arrives at Melbourne Park with a big question mark surrounding her current form. Halep holds a mediocre 8-8 win/loss record ever since winning her second Grand Slam title at Wimbledon last year. The world number 4 is short on match practise having competed in just 1 event prior to the first major of the year. Halep was in Adelaide last week where she defeated Ajla Tomljanovic in straight sets before being smashed by Aryna Sabalenka in straight sets at the quarter-final stage. Halep has had mixed fortunes in Melbourne in the past, in recent times she has played her way into the tournament nicely with a runner-up finish in 2018 and a fourth round appearance last year where she lost to Serena Williams in an epic.

Jennifer Brady tends to play her best tennis in Australia. Brady stormed through qualifying draw to reach the fourth round at Melbourne Park in 2017 and arrives in Melbourne on the back of a similar run to start her 2020 season. Brady came through 3 qualifying matches before upsetting Maria Sharapova and Ash Barty to reach the quarter-finals at the Brisbane International where she was ultimately defeated by Petra Kvitova in straight sets. That run in Brisbane a few weeks ago will surely give Brady confidence coming up against one of the best players in the world, especially her win over the world number 1, as will her previous match with Halep where she almost got the win.  

Halep was pushed to her limits in the only previous clash between the pair, a 4-6 7-5 7-6 victory for the Romanian at the Rogers Cup last year.

I’m going to give Halep the benefit of the doubt here. Halep has by her own admission had a fantastic off-season and is heading into the first major of the year fresh and without too much pressure on her shoulders. Despite the close meeting between the pair in their previous match I think this is generally a good match-up for Halep. Halep was playing in her first match since the Wimbledon final when she laboured past Brady last year, if she can do it in those circumstances, she can do it here. Halep has the clear edge when the pair get into a neutral baseline exchange, Halep has stronger, more consistent groundstrokes off both sides. The courts in Melbourne are fairly gritty which will further aid Halep as she will be able to get into more rallies. If Halep can serve well, get a decent read on the Brady serve then she will win this match and win it well.

Prediction: Simona Halep to defeat Jennifer Brady in 2 sets

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Karolina Pliskova vs. Simona Halep, Shenzhen RR Preview

🇨🇳👑🐲 WTA Finals – Shenzhen RR preview
🇨🇿 (2) Karolina Pliskova vs. 🇷🇴 (5) Simona Halep

The fourth and final semi-final spot will be up for grabs at the WTA Finals Shenzhen on Friday evening as Karolina Pliskova takes on Simona Halep in the final match from the red group. The scenario is simple, the winner will finish second in the group and reach the final 4, the loser is out. It is Halep who heads into this match as the favourite given this has generally been a favourable match-up for the reigning Wimbledon champion who holds a 7-3 record over Pliskova.

Embed from Getty Images

Karolina Pliskova hasn’t been too impressive thus far in Shenzhen but thanks to some good fortune she can still turn things around. Pliskova was beaten by Elina Svitolina in straight sets in her opening match before defeating Bianca Andreescu via retirement to keep her hopes of reaching the semi-finals alive.

Simona Halep has played decent tennis this week in Shenzhen, especially given her fairly limited preparation. Halep started the event with an epic 3-6 7-6 6-3 win over Bianca Andreescu from set point down in the second set. Halep couldn’t get the job done in her second match where she fell to Elina Svitolina in a tight straight set match. Despite losing to Svitolina, Halep wasn’t disgraced, Svitolina is simply the best player in the field at the moment.

Halep may hold a dominant 7-3 record over Pliskova but it is Pliskova who has won 2 of their last 3 meetings. The most recent match between the pair took place in Miami earlier this year, it was Pliskova who won 7-5 6-1. This will surprisingly be the first meeting between the pair at the WTA Finals despite both regularly featuring in the event over the last 6 years.

I’m going to side with Halep here. Halep has such a favourable record over Pliskova for a reason. This is a bad match-up for Pliskova, Halep is able to read and neutralize the Pliskova serve better than anyone, once Halep gets into a baseline battle with Pliskova she is a huge favourite. The slow, lifeless court in Shenzhen will significantly favour Halep in this match-up as she will be able to get into more baseline rallies where she can expose the weaknesses in the Pliskova game.

Prediction: Simona Halep to defeat Karolina Pliskova in 2 sets