St. Petersburg Final: (1) Belinda Bencic vs (2) Roberta Vinci
Belinda Bencic and Roberta Vinci will go head-to-head for the very first time on Sunday when they meet in the final of the St. Petersburg Ladies Trophy. Bencic and Vinci are both full of confidence heading into this match, an extremely tight final is to be expected.
Belinda Bencic has made a great start to the season, showing no signs of struggling to back-up her stunning 2015 season form. Bencic’s run to the final in St. Petersburg will see her enter the top 10 for the very first time when the new rankings come out next Monday. Bencic hasn’t been at her best this week in St. Petersburg but she has been mature enough to get the job done and take advantage of a favourable draw. Bencic started the week with a straight set victory over Annika Beck before coming from a set down to defeat Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. Bencic advanced to her first final of the season courtesy of 6-4 6-3 win over Daria Kasatkina.
Roberta Vinci continues to show improvement since her stunning run to the final at the U.S Open where she defeated Serena Williams. Vinci is having a great week in St. Petersburg and is now into her first ever premier level final, an amazing achievement at this stage of her career. Vinci got off the mark in St. Petersburg with a straight set victory over Yanina Wickmayer before working extremely hard for a three set victory over Timea Babos. Vinci’s biggest move was in the semi-finals where she defeated Ana Ivanovic 7-5 6-4. Vinci is playing with a lot of confidence at the moment and is probably playing the best tennis of her career.
This is going to be the first career meeting between the pair. On paper this looks like a very close match-up. Bencic and Vinci have been two of the most in form players over the last 6-8 months, this should be a really great final. I’m going to give the slight edge to the Italian. Vinci’s superior variety and competence at the net is going to be important against a player like Bencic who loves to rally from the baseline. I also think Vinci’s serve is a little more reliable at the moment and she will see this as a massive opportunity to win a premier title, she may not get many more.
Prediction: Roberta Vinci to defeat Belinda Bencic in 3 sets
St. Petersburg SF: (1) Belinda Bencic vs Daria Kasatkina
The only teenagers in the top 50 will go head-to-head in the second semi-final of the day in St. Petersburg on Saturday when Belinda Bencic comes up against Dara Kasatkina. This will be the first meeting between the two most promising teenagers and good friends at the tour level. Bencic seems to have a clear edge heading into this match, mostly because she is clearly the fresher of the two but Kasatkina will not go down easily.
After an incredible weekend which saw Bencic guide Switzerland to a memorable Fed Cup victory over Germany, Bencic has not been at her best in St. Petersburg but has managed to find a way to win despite not playing great. The top seed started the week with a hard-fought 7-6 6-3 victory over Annika Beck before coming from behind to defeat Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-7 6-4 6-2. Bencic was actually pretty lucky to get the victory over Anastasia, the Russian had her chances to close the match out in straight sets but was unable to take her chances. Bencic’s ability to win matches when she isn’t necessarily playing well is one of her greatest strengths, she continues to show maturity beyond her years.
Daria Kasatkina continues to climb up the rankings, the Russian is now into her first premier level semi-final courtesy of a strong run in St. Petersburg. Kasatkina started the week with an extremely tough three set battle against Kirsten Flipkens before defeating Laura Siegemund in straight sets. It was at the quarter-final stage where Kasatkina made her biggest move, coming from a set down to defeat Dominika Cibulkova 4-6 7-5 6-3. The problem for Kasatkina is that she played over 4 hours of tennis on Friday as her doubles match finished after 1am on Saturday morning. It will take a big effort from Kasatkina to recover and be competitive on Saturday evening.
These two are similar in many aspects but Bencic is clearly more experienced in bigger matches and will head into this match feeling much fresher than Kasatkina. Bencic is more solid from the baseline and should be too strong for Kasatkina on this occasion. Bencic will make it very hard for Kasatkina just to win points.
Prediction: Belinda Bencic to defeat Daria Kasatkina in 2 sets
St. Petersburg SF: (4) Ana Ivanovic vs (2) Roberta Vinci
Saturday’s first semi-final in St. Petersburg promises to be a fascinating encounter between Ana Ivanovic and Roberta Vinci. The careers of these two ladies have gone in totally different directions over the last couple of months. Ivanovic would usually head into a match against Vinci as a strong favourite but on this occasion it is Vinci who could rightfully claim favouritism. The contrast in styles between these two will make for a good spectacle.
Ana Ivanovic is now in a good position to reach her first final since Brisbane last year. The Serb has progressed through her opening two matches in St. Petersburg with relative ease, recording straight set victories over Margarita Gasparyan and Kateryna Kozlova. Ivanovic admits that this in an important week for her, recognising that this is a great opportunity to gain some much needed confidence after an extremely poor start to the season in Australia.
Roberta Vinci’s form has been solid ever since her shock run to the final in New York last year. The Italian veteran certainly gained a lot of confidence after her victory over Serena and seems to have a renewed sense of hope and belief. Vinci strolled through her opening round match in St. Petersburg, claiming a straight set win over Yanina Wickmayer but was forced to work much harder for her 7-6 4-6 7-6 quarter-final victory over Timea Babos. Vinci trailed by a break for the majority of the deciding set but did well to stick around and wait for Timea’s level to drop. Vinci was more solid when it mattered most in the deciding set tiebreak and she ultimately fought her way to a gutsy win.
Ana Ivanovic has a 6-3 head-to-head record over Roberta Vinci, however the Italian has won 3 of the last 5 encounters between the pair. Their most recent match was back in 2013 in Carlsbad, Ivanovic won that match 6-1 6-7 6-2, prior to that match Vinci thumped Ivanovic 6-0 6-0 at the Rogers Cup in 2012. This seem like a pretty even match-up on paper.
I’m going to give the slight edge to Roberta Vinci heading into this match. Vinci’s form has generally been better than Ana’s and she has a lot more confidence in her game. I think the surface will also help Vinci in this match-up, the relatively quick and low bouncing surface will allow Vinci to disrupt Ivanovic and draw errors. This should be a close one.
Prediction: Roberta Vinci to defeat Ana Ivanovic in 3 sets
St. Petersburg QF: (1) Belinda Bencic vs (5) Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova
The pick of the quarter-finals from St. Petersburg on Friday sees the top seeded Belinda Bencic come up against Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. This match could go a long way to deciding who claims the title this week, Bencic and Pavlyuchenkova look like two of the biggest contenders at this stage of the tournament. This promises to be a high quality encounter between two very evenly matched players.
Belinda Bencic is having a great week. The Swiss rising star arrived in St. Petersburg full of confidence after guiding Switzerland to a memorable Fed Cup victory over Germany in Leipzig. Bencic recorded impressive straight set victories over Angelique Kerber and Andrea Petkovic and made it three consecutive victories over German opponents when she defeated Annika Beck 7-6 6-3 in her first match in St. Petersburg. Although Bencic came through her first match of the tournament in straight sets, her level of play wasn't that convincing. Bencic really struggled to hold serve and will need to improve her level if she is to advance past Pavlyuchenkova on Friday.
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova is through to the quarter-final stage in St. Petersburg courtesy of victories over Klara Koukalova and Carina Witthoeft. Pavlyuchenkova needed 3 sets to get past Koukalova but produced an improved performance to defeat Witthoeft 6-1 7-5 in the second round. Pavlyuchenkova thrives on indoor hard courts and also plays some of her best tennis in Russia. Pavlyuchenkova has won 21 of her last 22 matches on indoor hard courts at WTA events and will fancy her chances against Bencic in front of her home crowd on Friday.
The head-to-head record between the pair is slipt at 1 win apiece. Pavlyuchenkova comfortably won their most recent clash, the Russian recorded a convincing 6-2 6-4 victory over Bencic in Washington last year. I think this is a good match-up for Pavlyuchenkova and believe she has a good chance of causing an upset on Friday evening. These two are evenly matched but I give the edge to Pavlyuchenkova because of her superior firepower and slightly greater variety.
Prediction Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova to defeat Belinda Bencic in 3 sets
St. Petersburg R2: (2) Roberta Vinci vs Yanina Wickmayer
After receiving a bye through the opening round, the second seeded Roberta Vinci will begin her St. Petersburg campaign on Wednesday evening with clash against Yanina Wickmayer. Roberta Vinci has an incredible recent record over Wickmayer having won the last 6 encounters between the pair, the Italian will be confident she can keep her winning streak over the Belgium going with a victory in St. Petersburg.
Roberta Vinci had a decent Australian summer but was ultimately left disappointed after a third round loss in Melbourne to Anna-Lena Friedsam. Vinci’s form since her shock run to the final in New York last year has been pretty consistent and she has therefore been able to maintain her spot in the top 20. The Italian will see this week as a good opportunity to go on a deep a run, a rare occasion where Roberta has been seeded so highly at a premier level event.
Yanina Wickmayer finally recorded her first main draw victory of the year on Tuesday, defeating Jelena Ostapenko 6-4 6-3 in her first round match in St. Petersburg. Wickmayer played some decent tennis and seemed to enjoy the conditions, the Belgium is certainly capable of playing some good tennis indoors. Yanina will need to be at her best on Wednesday if she is to advance any further this week.
Roberta Vinci holds a 6-2 head-to-head record over Yanina Wickmayer and has won the last 6 encounters between the pair. Vinci’s most recent win over Wickmayer was a crushing 6-0 6-2 win on clay in Estoril in 2014. This is clearly a bad match-up for Wickmayer and it is not hard to see why. Vinci is very good at mixing up her play and keeping the ball low through the court which is the type of play that really troubles Wickmayer. Vinci is also able to expose Wickmayer’s poor movement. Wickmayer did play well in her opening match and might be good enough to claim a set here but Vinci should win.
Prediction: Roberta Vinci to defeat Yanina Wickmayer in 3 sets
St. Petersburg R2: (4) Ana Ivanovic vs Margarita Gasparyan
Wednesday’s most intriguing clash at the St. Petersburg ladies’ trophy sees Ana Ivanovic and Margarita Gasparyan clash in the second round. Ivanovic has made a very poor start to the season and after receiving a bye into the second round will face a very tough opening match in St. Petersburg against an in from Russian. Margarita Gasparyan will be looking to claim her biggest scalp and make a real name for herself in front of her home crowd, this should be a good one.
Ana Ivanovic’s Australian summer didn’t go to plan, suffering first round exits in Auckland and Sydney before ultimately making a third round exit in Melbourne. Ivanovic is yet to defeat an opponent ranked inside the top 100 in 2016. The Serb arrived in St. Petersburg several days before the beginning of the tournament and has therefore had a good amount of time to practise and adjust to the conditions. Ivanovic desperately needs to deep run at a tournament, this week could be a good opportunity for her given the relatively weak field for a premier level event.
Margarita Gasparyan’s form heading into this match is in complete contrast to Ivanovic’s. Gasparyan has made a wonderful start to the season, the Russian went on a strong run to the fourth round at the Australian Open before succumbing to Serena Williams. It was by far the Russian’s best result at a Grand Slam and certainly seems to have given the rising start a real boost of confidence. Gasparyan made a strong start to her St. Petersburg campaign on Tuesday with a commanding 6-1 6-2 victory over a struggling Bojana Jovanovski.
This will be the first career meeting between the pair and promises to be a really close match. Both ladies love to dictate play with punishing groundstrokes, it will be interesting to see who is able to dictate play the most in this match-up. This is a tough match to call because both players can be very inconsistent but it is Gasparyan who clearer has the better form heading into this match and therefore probably has the slight edge. If Gasparyan is able to maintain her composure throughout the match, I think she is capable of causing an upset here.
Prediction: Margarita Gasparyan to defeat Ana Ivanovic in 3 sets
St Petersburg R1: Dominika Cibulkova vs Evgeniya Rodina
Dominika Cibulkova will begin her St. Petersburg campaign on Wednesday when she comes up against Evgeniya Rodina in the first round. Dominika made an extremely disappointing first round exit in Melbourne and as a result her ranking has plummeted to number 66 in the world. Dominika will see this event as a prime opportunity to give her ranking a much needed boost, Dominika is more than capable of beating anyone in the draw this week.
Dominika looked set for a deep run at the Australian Open having arrived fresh off a semi-final appearance in Hobart where she lost a very competitive match to Eugenie Bouchard. However, Dominika was handed a reasonably tough draw and was unable to get past Kristina Mladenovic in the first round where she lost in straight sets. A reoccurring theme for Dominika during the entire Australian summer was that she really struggled to hold serve, particularly in important moments.
The next couple of months are important for Dominika, she has little points to defend given she was sidelined by injury for much of the first half in 2015. The Slovakian needs to dramatically improve her current ranking and push towards being seeded for Roland Garros. It is a big jump in the rankings from 66 but it is certainly within reach. A strong run in St Petersburg would be a good start.
Dominika will head into her first round match as the strong favourite against Evgeniya Rodina. However, it was the Russian who emerged victorious in their only previous encounter but that was way back in 2005. It is quite amazing that there will be over 10 years between the first and second time they have played.
Dominika should be far too good here, the Slovakian is a couple of classes above Rodina and will see this as a good opportunity to gain a confidence boosting win. Rodina is in terrible form having lost all three of her matches in 2016 thus far, there is nothing to suggest the Russian can come close to causing an upset here.
Prediction: Dominika Cibulkova to defeat Evgeniya Rodina in 2 sets