Belinda Bencic vs Agnieszka Radwanska, Tokyo Final Preview

Tokyo Final: (8) Belinda Bencic vs (7) Agnieszka Radwanska

Then there were two, we have a blockbuster final to look forward to on Sunday at the Toray Pan Pacific Open when former champion Agnieszka Radwanska comes up against Belinda Bencic for the title in Tokyo. The stakes are extremely high, both ladies are fighting for a spot in the upcoming WTA Finals in Singapore, the winner of this match will be in a good position to capture one of the remaining places in the season finale. A spot in the top 10 is also up for grabs on Sunday, Bencic will be aiming to reach the top 10 for the first time in her career.

 

Belinda Bencic has continued her stunning 2015 form in Tokyo, making a marvellous start to the Asian swing by reaching her third premier level final of the year. Bencic’s route to the final has been tough, but Belinda has been up for the challenge. Bencic started the week with an easy 6-0 6-0 victory over Yi-Fan Xu before just sneaking past Sam Stosur 6-7 6-3 6-4 in a tough second round encounter.

Bencic’s next two performances were the most impressive, a 7-6 6-1 win over Garbine Muguruza and a 6-2 6-4 triumph over Caroline Wozniacki, her fourth consecutive victory over the Dane. Bencic has a wonderful record against top 10 players in 2015, Bencic is 8 wins and 2 losses against the world’s top 10, an outstanding effort. Bencic will be confident heading into the final given she has already beaten Radwanska in a final this year.

 

Agnieszka Radwanska often saves some of her best tennis for the Asian swing, it looks like 2015 will be no different. The Pole has breezed through the draw in Tokyo without dropping a set to reach her third career final at the event. Radwanska will be aiming to win the same title twice for the very first time in her career on Sunday.

Radwanska’s route to the final hasn’t been easy, the Pole has picked up straight set victories over CoCo Vandeweghe, Elina Svitolina, Karolina Pliskova and Dominika Cibulkova, all potentially dangerous opponents. Radwanska’s semi-final victory over Dominika Cibulkova was particularly impressive, Radwanska was at her magical best, moving exceptionally well around the court and coming up with some ridiculous winners.

 

The only previous encounter between Bencic and Radwanska took place earlier this year in the final at Eastbourne, Bencic prevailed 6-4 4-6 6-0 to claim her maiden WTA title. The first two sets were quite even but Radwanska really fell away in the final set and Bencic stormed to the finish line. Radwanska will be desperate to avenge her loss to Bencic and pick up her first title of the year, it has been a while Radwanska went a whole season without winning a title.

This is a very even match-up, these two have very similar games. Radwanska and Bencic are two of the best movers on tour and two of the most consistent hitters from the baseline. Both players are at their best when they are striking the ball early, the winner of this match will be whoever can execute their game in the important moments. I’m going to side with Radwanska, she has been in awesome form this week and looks destined to claim her first title of the year.

Prediction: Agnieszka Radwanska to defeat Belinda Bencic in 2 sets

Agnieszka Radwanska vs Dominika Cibulkova, Tokyo SF Preview

Tokyo SF #2: (7) Agnieszka Radwanska vs Dominika Cibulkova

Saturday’s second semi-final at the Toray Pan Pacific Open sees former champion Agnieszka Radwanska come up against Slovakian Dominika Cibulkova. These two built up quite a rivalry in 2014, Cibulkova stunned Radwanska at the semi-final stage of the Australian Open and backed up that victory in Miami a couple of months later. This will be the first meeting between the pair in 2015 and it promises to be an extremely exciting contest between two ladies desperate for victory, both searching for their first title in 2015.

Agnieszka Radwanska is currently 12th in the live race to Singapore and simply must keep winning if she is to qualify for her fifth straight WTA Finals campaign. The Pole has made the perfect start to her Asian swing, recording three straight set victories on route to the semi-finals. The Pole outclassed CoCo Vandeweghe in the first round before defeating Elina Svitolina 6-4 6-1. Radwanska advanced to the semi-finals courtesy of a 7-5 6-2 triumph over Karolina Pliksova, the Pole’s fourth victory from four matches against the powerful Czech. Radwanska has served particularly well this week, the Pole’s serve has been broken on just four occasions throughout her first three matches in Tokyo.

 

Dominika Cibulkova is into her first semi-final of 2015. The Slovakian is certainly back to her best and will be a dangerous opponent to come up against over the next couple weeks. Cibulkova is also yet to drop a set this week, recording straight set victories over Mirjana Lucic-Baroni, Carla Suarez Navarro and Ana Ivanovic. The Slovakian’s 7-6 6-3 quarter-final victory over Ana Ivanovic was particularly impressive, it was arguably Dominika’s best performance of the year. Dominika played a tactically sound match, dictating play from the baseline to set up a semi-final clash with Radwanska.

Agnieszka Radwanska holds a 5-3 head-to-head record over Cibulkova, however it was the Slovakian who emerged victorious in 3 of their last 4 encounters. Domi famously crushed Radwanska 6-1 6-2 at the semi-final stage of last year’s Australian Open. In their most recent match, Cibulkova won an epic 3-6 7-6 6-3 in Miami last year in what was one of the best matches of the year.

 

I’m going to side with Radwanska here, I think Aga is playing some very solid and consistent tennis this week and she knows that she must keep winning to qualify for Singapore. Cibulkova has also playing good tennis, however she has been a bit inconsistent and she can’t afford any inconsistency against Radwanska. The Pole can’t let this opportunity slip, a first title of 2015 is within touching distance.

Prediction: Agnieszka Radwanska to defeat Dominika Cibulkova in 3 sets

Caroline Wozniacki vs Belinda Bencic, Tokyo SF Preview

Tokyo SF #1: (1) Caroline Wozniacki vs (8) Belinda Bencic

Saturday’s first semi-final at the Toray Pan Pacific Open sees top seed Caroline Wozniacki come up against Swiss rising star Belinda Bencic. Caroline Wozniacki will enter this match desperate for revenge, Bencic has defeated Wozniacki in all three of their matches in 2015. This is an extremely important match for both ladies in their quest to reach the WTA Finals in Singapore, Bencic is currently 11th in the race to Singapore whilst Wozniacki is 13th and simply must win this match.

 

After a dreadful North American hard court summer, Caroline Wozniacki has made an impressive start to her Asian Swing. The Dane kick-started her week in Tokyo with a comprehensive 6-2 6-2 victory over Croatian qualifier Ana Konjuh. Wozniacki advanced to the semi-finals with an extremely hard-fought 6-2 3-6 6-3 win over Angelique Kerber, the Dane’s first victory over a top 10 opponent since Stuttgart. In one of the highest quality matches of the year, it was Wozniacki who remained a little more consistent, raising her level at the end of the third set to set up a semi-final showdown with Belinda Bencic.

Belinda Bencic continues to impress, getting ever so close to cracking the top 10 for the first time in her career. Bencic waltzed past Yi-Fan Xu 6-0 6-0 in the first round before recording an extremely impressive, hard-fought 6-7 6-3 6-4 victory over Sam Stosur. The 18-year-old advanced to the semi-finals courtesy of a 7-6 6-1 triumph over a wayward Garbine Muguruza. In the first meeting between two of the tours future starts, it was Bencic who was more consistent from the baseline and was able to execute her game much better than Muguruza. Belinda Bencic will be extremely confident heading into Saturday’s semi-final given her recent success against Caroline Wozniacki.

 

Belinda Bencic holds a 3-1 head-to-head record over Wozniacki. Wozniacki thrashed Bencic 6-0 6-0 in Istanbul last year, Bencic has responded remarkably to that defeat by winning the next three matches against the Dane. The most recent encounter between the pair took place last month in Toronto. Bencic picked up a 7-5 7-5 victory on route to winning the biggest title of her career.

This promises to be a fantastic match, it’s very difficult to separate these two. I think Bencic has the slight edge heading into this one, firstly because of her recent success over the Dane and secondly because she is the fresher of the two heading into this one. Wozniacki seems to be carrying an injury at the moment and it will be difficult for her to fully recover from her gruelling quarter-final victory over Kerber.

Prediction: Belinda Bencic to defeat Caroline Wozniacki in 3 sets

Dominika Cibulkova vs Ana Ivanovic, Tokyo QF Preview

Tokyo QF #4: Dominika Cibulkova (2) Ana Ivanovic

The fourth and final quarter-final at the 2015 Toray Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo sees defending champion Ana Ivanovic come up against Dominika Cibulkova. Ana Ivanovic will enter this match with revenge on her mind, the Serb will be desperate to avenge her extremely disappointing first round loss to the Slovakian at the U.S Open last month. This promises to be an exciting match between two of the most passionate players on tour, both ladies will give it their all.

Dominika Cibulkova advanced to the second round courtesy of Mirjana Lucic-Baroni retiring after playing out a set and bit of their first round match. The Slovakian reached the quarter-final stage by defeating Carla Suarez Navarro 6-4 6-4 in a hard-fought contest. Domi’s courage separated the pair in the important moments, Domi was not afraid to go big in critical moments and never deviated from her aggressive game despite some wayward moments.

 

Ana Ivanovic made a decent start to her title defence in Tokyo, picking up a 7-5 6-2 victory over Camila Giorgi. In a battle of two of the biggest hitters on tour, it was Ivanovic who remained solid whilst Giorgi committed a whopping 45 unforced errors.

Dominika Cibulkova holds a 3-2 head-to-head record over Ana Ivanovic. The two met last month at the U.S Open, and it was Cibulkova who emerged victorious with a 6-3 3-6 6-3 first round win. These two are quite similar in a number of ways, both love to dictate play from the baseline with thunderous groundstrokes but both struggle with inconsistency. I think Cibulkova is better positioned heading into this one, Domi will be confident after her victory over Ana last month, Domi’s game is slightly more reliable and she is really effective at punishing Ana’s wayward serve.

Prediction: Dominika Cibulkova to defeat Ana Ivanovic in 3 sets

Agnieszka Radwanska vs Karolina Pliskova, Tokyo QF Preview

Tokyo QF #3: (7) Agnieszka Radwanska (4) Karolina Pliskova

Agnieszka Radwanska and Karolina Pliskova will do battle in a pivotal quarter-final clash at the Toray Pan Pacific Open. Both ladies are fighting for the final couple of places at the WTA Finals in Singapore, a victory here is vital. The contrast in styles between these two always makes for a fascinating encounter, the clever Pole up against the powerful Czech.

Agnieszka Radwanska needs to keep winning if she wants to make her fifth consecutive appearance at the WTA Finals. The Pole has continued her great record in Tokyo, reaching the quarter-finals for seventh time in her seventh appearance at the event. Aga started the week with a comprehensive 6-3 6-3 victory over CoCo Vandeweghe before setting up a clash with Karolina Pliskova courtesy of a 6-4 6-1 victory over Elina Svitolina. The first set was extremely close, Aga made the most of the only break point she had which also happened to be a set point. Svitolina never recovered from the disappointment of losing the first set as Radwanska waltzed to the finish line. Radwanska now has a golden opportunity to advance to the semi-finals when she comes up against an opponent she has never lost to.

 

After receiving a bye through the first round, Karolina Pliskova advanced to the quarter-finals with a 6-2 6-4 victory over Kurumi Nara. It was a decent performance by Pliskova in her first match since her humiliating first round exit in New York. Pliskova’s form swung wildly throughout the match, she will need a much more consistent performance on Friday if she is to claim her first career victory over Radwanska.

Agnieszka Radwanska has a perfect 3-0 head-to-head record against Karolina Pliksova. The Pole has totally dominated Pliskova, winning all three of their previous matches in straight sets. Their most recent encounter took place a couple of months ago on the grass in Eastbourne, it was Radwanska who cruised to a 6-2 6-1 victory over a wayward Pliskova. I suspect Radwanska will once again get the better of Pliskova on Friday in Tokyo, the Pole’s consistency and clever play seem to rattle Pliskova. Radwanska’s form in the first two rounds suggest she is playing at a high enough level to take care of business here.

Prediction: Aga Radwanska to defeat Karolina Pliksova in 2 sets

Garbine Muguruza vs Belinda Bencic, Tokyo QF Preview

Tokyo QF #2: (3) Garbine Muguruza vs (8) Belinda Bencic

A very exciting quarter-final clash at the Toray Pan Pacific Open sees the two most promising young stars on the tour go head-to-head, Garbine Muguruza and Belinda Bencic. This will be the very first meeting between the pair, adding to the intrigue of this match-up. This is a critical match for both ladies chances of reaching the WTA Finals in Singapore, both are on the verge of their very first appearance at the prestigious season finale.

Garbine Muguruza’s North American summer was extremely disappointing, especially considering how well she played on route to the final at Wimbledon. Garbine will be aiming to put the disappointment behind her and end the season on a high. After receiving a bye into the second round, the Spaniard made a good start to her Asian swing with a 6-3 6-4 victory over Barbora Strycova. It was a critical win for Garbine who played the important points well, saving five break points in the very last game before closing out the match.

 

Belinda Bencic continues to solidify her spot in the top 20, the Swiss rising star in now on the verge of reaching the top 10 for the first time. Belinda made an emphatic start to her Tokyo campaign, recording a crushing 6-0 6-0 victory over Yi-Fan Xu in the first round. Belinda’s second round victory was a much greater contest, the 18-year-old fought past Sam Stosur to clinch a 6-7 6-3 6-4 win. It was a very mature performance by Bencic, she dealt with the disappointment of losing an extremely tight first set very well and remained composed at the end of the match to close out an impressive win.

This will be the first career encounter between Garbine and Belinda, it is very hard to separate the two heading into this match. Bencic certainly enters this match with the greater form, however Garbine’s powerful game should match-up well against Bencic. The Spaniard usually handles match-up’s like this really well and I suspect she will emerge victorious on Friday, she is certainly due for a big win and seems to enjoy the conditions in Tokyo.

Prediction: Garbine Muguruza to defeat Belinda Bencic in 3 sets

Caroline Wozniacki vs Angelique Kerber, Tokyo QF Preview

Tokyo QF #1: (1) Caroline Wozniacki vs (5) Angelique Kerber

A blockbuster quarter-final clash at the Toray Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo sees top seed and former champion Caroline Wozniacki take on former finalist Angelique Kerber. Wozniacki and Kerber have one of the most competitive rivalries on tour, this promises to be another epic clash between the pair. Both ladies give very little away, a long and physical match is to be expected. This looms as an important match for both ladies in their quest to qualify for the WTA Finals in Singapore.

After a disappointing North American summer, Caroline Wozniacki made a positive start to the Asian Swing on Wednesday. After receiving a bye through to the second round, the Dane recorded a comfortable 6-2 6-2 victory over Croatian qualifier Ana Konjuh. Wozniacki is currently 14th in the Race to Singapore, a victory in this match is hugely important for Caroline if she wants to keep her slim chances of qualifying for yet another WTA Finals campaign alive. Wozniacki’s recent record against top players has been poor, the Dane hasn’t won a match against a top 10 opponent since Stuttgart where she beat Simona Halep. Wozniacki will be desperate to turn that around in Tokyo.

 

Angelique Kerber raced through her opening round match in Tokyo, picking up an emphatic 6-2 6-2 victory over Daria Gavrilova, the German’s fourth victory over Gavrilova in 2015. Angie’s second round victory was a little less perfect, the German got off to a poor start but recovered strongly to record a 5-7 6-1 6-0 victory over American Madison Brengle. Kerber is currently ranked 8th in the race to Singapore, a couple more victories in Tokyo will really help her chances of qualifying for the season finale.

Angelique Kerber holds a 6-4 head-to-head record over the Dane. Kerber has won 3 of the last 4 matches between the pair including an epic 3-6 6-1 7-5 victory in the final at Stuttgart earlier this year in what was their most recent encounter. There is very little to separate these two on a hard court, whoever steps up their game and rises to the occasion will prevail. Kerber seems to be in better shape at the moment and has been much more successful against players ranked around her. I suspect Kerber will be too strong on this occasion, her powerful groundstrokes give her the edge in this match-up.

Prediction: Angie Kerber to defeat Caroline Wozniacki in 3 sets

Carla Suarez Navarro vs Dominika Cibulkova, Toyko R2 Preview

Tokyo R2: (6) Carla Suarez Navarro vs Dominika Cibulkova

Both Carla Suarez Navarro and Dominika Cibulkova have struggled at various stages throughout season 2015, for different reasons. The Spaniard made a positive start to the year but arrived in Tokyo on the back of eight straight defeats. Dominika Cibulkova spent the majority of the year on the sidelines but now seems to be back to her best and ready to finish the year off on a high.

Carla Suarez Navarro advanced to the second round in Tokyo with a 7-6 6-2 victory over Kateryna Bondarenko, snapping s string of eight consecutive losses prior to the event. It wasn’t a pretty match, Carla squandered 6 set points on her own serve in the first set before finally closing it out in the tiebreaker. After a strong start to the year, Carla was in a prime position to reach the WTA Finals for the first time in her career, however the Spaniard now finds herself in 8th place on the Road to Singapore and will need to dramatically improve her recent form if she is to qualify for Singapore.

 

Dominika has much different motivators over the next couple of weeks, the Slovakian is not in contention for Singapore but will be looking to end a frustrating season on a high and improve her ranking as much as possible ahead of season 2016. Cibulkova advanced to the second round in Tokyo courtesy of a first round victory over an injured Mirjana Lucic-Baroni.

Cibulkova has a perfect 2-0 head-to-head record over Carla. Domi thumped Suarez Navarro 6-1 6-0 at the Australian Open last year and recorded a 7-5 6-4 win over the Spaniard in Sofia later on in the year. I expect Cibulkova to continue her unbeaten record against Carla on Thursday. The Spaniard is clearly deprived of confidence at the moment and will struggle to keep up with the Slovakian’s high intensity game.

Prediction: Dominika Cibulkova to defeat Carla Suarez Navarro in 2 sets

Agnieszka Radwanska vs Elina Svitolina, Tokyo R2 Preview

Tokyo R2: (7) Agnieszka Radwanska vs Elina Svitolina

Perhaps the most intriguing of the all the second round clashes at the 2015 Toray Pan Pacific Open Tokyo sees Agnieszka Radwanska come up against Elina Svitolina. This is an extremely tough second round match-up, both ladies are currently inside the world’s top 20 and enter this match in pretty shape. This is critical match in terms of the road to Singapore, neither lady can afford an early round exit this week if they want to qualify for the season finale.

After yet another mediocre performance at the U.S Open, Agnieszka Radwanska now finds herself really battling for one of the final positions in Singapore. The Pole has reached the WTA Finals in the previous four years. Radwanska made a positive start to her Asian campaign, recording a comprehensive 6-3 6-3 victory over CoCo Vandeweghe In the first round. It was a typically clean performance by the Pole who absorbed everything the powerful American threw up her, in the end Aga’s consistency was too much for CoCo to overcome. The 2011 Tokyo champion will be aiming to claim her second title at the event this week, Aga has never won the same title twice.

 

Elina Svitolina also had a mediocre showing in New York, succumbing in the third round with a loss to Ekaterina Makarova. The Ukrainian is an outside chance to reach her first ever WTA Finals campaign, the Ukrainian is currently ranked 17th in the race to Singapore. Elina will need to perform exceptionally well over the next couple of weeks and she made the perfect start to her Tokyo campaign on Monday. Elina thumped compatriot Olga Savchuk 6-2 6-0 in a commanding performance to set up a second round clash with Radwanska.

In the only previous meeting between the pair, Radwanska recorded an extremely hard-fought 7-6 5-7 6-2 victory in Miami last year. This is fascinating match-up because these two are two of the best movers on tour, both give absolutely nothing away. An extremely physical match is to be expected, the winner of this match will be whoever steps up their game and is a little more aggressive than usual. I think Radwanska has the edge just because she has much more variety and is a bit more comfortable with coming forward to the net. Svitolina cannot rely on her usual scrambling game to get past Radwanska.

Prediction: Agnieszka Radwanska to defeat Elina Svitolina in 3 sets

Kurumi Nara vs Karolina Pliskova, Tokyo R2 Preview

Tokyo R2: Kurumi Nara vs (4) Karolina Pliskova

Karolina Pliskova will open her 2015 Toray Pan Pacific Open campaign with a second round clash against Kurumi Nara. Pliskova suffered a humiliating first round exit in New York and will be looking to rebound during the Asian swing as she attempts to reach the WTA Finals for the first time in her career.

Kurumi Nara advanced to the second round in Tokyo courtesy of a 7-6 6-1 victory over compatriot Misaki Doi. The Japanese number 1 has struggled in recent months, Nara hasn’t won back-to-back matches since Nuremburg and has won back-to-back matches on just three occasions in 2015. Nara is the only remaining Japanese player in the draw and will have the home crowd on her side for the rest of the week. 

 

Karolina Pliskova’s North American summer started perfectly when she reached the final in Stanford, however it ultimately ended in disastrous fashion when she suffered a shock first round loss to Anna Tatishvili. Nevertheless, this has been the best season of Karolina’s career and she will be hoping to top it off with her first ever appearance at the WTA Finals. Karolina is currently ranked 9th on the Road to Singapore so she will need to perform well over the next couple of weeks if she is to qualify for Singapore.

The head-to-head record between Nara and Pliskova is level at one win apiece. It was Pliskova who emerged victorious in their most recent encounter, a 6-4 7-5 victory in Beijing in 2013. Pliskova should once again have the edge on Thursday, Pliskova’s big game has the ability to overwhelm Nara. The difference in height and power between these two is extreme, Pliskova will need to have a very bad day to lose this.

Prediction: Karolina Pliskova to defeat Kurumi Nara in 2 sets