Belinda Bencic vs. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Dubai R1 Preview

Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, R1 Preview
🇨🇭 (4) Belinda Bencic vs. 🇷🇺 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova

The fourth seeded Belinda Bencic begins her 2020 Dubai campaign on Tuesday with a tough opening round match-up against Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. Bencic, the defending champion in Dubai, has dominated this match-up in the past, but it is Pavlyuchenkova who enters this match with the better form having reached the Australian Open quarter-finals just a few weeks ago.

Belinda Bencic has made an average start to her 2020 campaign but enters Dubai at a career high ranking of 4 in the world. Bencic arrives in Dubai on the back of a disappointing second round loss to Maria Sakkari at the quarter-final stage in St. Petersburg. Bencic has a modest 5-4 win/loss record in 2020 and is under pressure this week as the defending champion.

Pavlyuchenkova has made a strong start to the 2020 season thanks to reaching the final 8 at the Australian Open for the second year in a row. In 2019 Pavlyuchenkova was unable to build on her strong start to the year, the Russian will be hoping to avoid a similar fate in 2020, starting with a good run in Dubai.

Bencic holds a commanding 5-1 head-to-head record over Pavlyuchenkova. Bencic has won the last 4 matches between the pair, including a 3-6 6-1 6-1 victory in the Moscow final last year. Interestingly it was Pavlyuchenkova who won their only previous match on an outdoor hard court, a 6-2 6-4 win in Washington back in 2015.

I’m going to side with Pavlyuchenkova here. Bencic has consistently played average tennis in 2020 and seems to be lacking confidence at the moment. Conversely, Pavlyuchenkova enters this match rested after a great run in Melbourne. The pressure is on Bencic here given her strong record over Pavlyuchenkova and given she is the defending champion this week. The scene is set for Pavlyuchenkova to overpower Bencic.

Prediction: Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova to defeat Belinda Bencic in 3 sets
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Aryna Sabalenka vs. Maria Sakkari, Dubai R1 Preview

🇦🇪 Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, R1 Preview
🇧🇾 (7) Aryna Sabalenka vs. 🇬🇷 Maria Sakkari

Aryna Sabalenka and Maria Sakkari will renew hostilities when they go head-to-head at the opening round stage at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Tuesday. Sabalenka has made a modest start to the season whilst Sakkari is building in confidence after a couple of successful tournaments. Except a very competitive contest here with the head-to-head record between the pair split at 1-1.

Sabalenka will be back in action for the first time since a disappointing opening round exit at the Australian Open. Sabalenka was in good shape heading into Melbourne after reaching the semi-finals in Adelaide. However, things quickly unravelled in Melbourne where the Belarusian was beaten by Carla Suarez Navarro in a couple of tight sets. It will be interesting to see what type of level Sabalenka can bring in her Dubai opener given she hasn’t played in almost a month.

Maria Sakkari arrives in Dubai in good form. Sakkari arrives fresh from a semi-final showing in St. Petersburg where she upset the top seeded Belinda Bencic in the quarter-finals before succumbing to Elena Rybakina in 3 sets. Prior to St. Petersburg, Sakkari reached the fourth round in Melbourne, her best run at a major.

Sabalenka and Sakkari have split their two previous meetings with a win apiece, both in 2019. It was Sakkari who emerged victorious in their first contest, a 6-7 6-4 6-4 victory in Cincinnati. Most recently, Sabalenka claimed a 6-3 6-4 win in Zhuhai.

I’m going to side with Sakkari here. It is Sakkari is match-hardened heading into this contest having just reached the semi-finals in St. Petersburg. Conversely, Sabalenka hasn’t played a singles match for a month, that has to give the edge to the Green number 1. Furthermore, I think this is a troublesome match-up for Sabalenka, especially when she isn’t at her best, which is likely to be the case here. Sakkari will apply relentless pressure to Sabalenka, forcing the Belarusian into extended rallies where Sabalenka is likely to buckle under the pressure.

Prediction: Maria Sakkari to defeat Aryna Sabalenka in 3 sets
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Sofia Kenin vs. Garbine Muguruza, Australian Open Final Preview

🇦🇺 Australian Open, FINAL 🏆 preview + prediction:
🇺🇸 (14) Sofia Kenin vs. 🇪🇸 Garbine Muguruza

The 2020 Australian Open final promises to be an epic as 2019’s most improved player: Sofia Kenin, comes up against 2-time former Grand Slam champion: Garbine Muguruza. The pair head into this match on a high after stunning upset victories in their respective semi-final matches.

Sofia Kenin continues to reach new heights, the American will enter the top 10 for the first time after this tournament. Kenin cruised through the first week of the event with straight set wins over Martina Trevisan, Ann Li and Shuai Zhang. It was in the fourth round where Kenin dropped her only set of the tournament thus far, the 14th seed came from a set down to defeat Cori Gauff 6/7 6/3 6/0 before easing past Ons Jabeur in straight sets. It was at the semi-final stage where Kenin made her biggest move, a 7/6 7/5 win over the top ranked Ash Barty, Kenin saved a couple of set points in each set on route to record a famous win over the Aussie.

Garbine Muguruza has been in vintage form at Melbourne Park over the last fortnight, the Spaniard is arguably playing the best tennis she has played in over 2 years. The former world number 1 made a wayward start to the tournament but managed to claim back-to-back 3 set wins over Shelby Rogers and Ajla Tomljanovic. Muguruza significantly stepped up her level in the third round to defeat Elina Svitolina 6/1 6/2 before beating Kiki Bertens 6/3 6/3 to record back-to-back top 10 wins for the first time since Doha 2018. Muguruza defeated Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 7/5 6/3 before securing a spot in a maiden Australian Open final with an extremely impressive 7/6 7/5 win over Simona Halep. Muguruza has been amazingly tough in the important moments of every single one of her matches this tournament.

It was Sofia Kenin who won the only previous match between the pair, a 6/0 2/6 6/2 win for the American at the China Open last year. Kenin will face a very different Muguruza on this occasion, is the American good enough to maintain her perfect record over the Spaniard?

Yes, I’m going to side with Kenin here. Granted Muguruza is a 2-time former Grand Slam champion and therefore has the edge in terms of experience. However, Kenin is unfazed and on a mission. I doubt Kenin will be troubled by the occasion, if anything she will rise to the occasion. Over the last 12 months it is Kenin who has been the far more consistent and reliable player, I’m going to give that more importance than immediate form because both are clearly playing well at this event. Kenin has the versatility to disrupt the rhythm of Muguruza as well as the power to the Spaniard, I think this is a good match-up for Kenin, the American can go all the way.

Prediction: Sofia Kenin to defeat Garbine Muguruza 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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Ash Barty vs. Sofia Kenin, Australian Open SF Preview

🇦🇺 Australian Open, SF #1 preview + prediction:
🇦🇺 (1) Ash Barty vs. 🇺🇸 (14) Sofia Kenin

Ash Barty continues her quest to become the first Australian woman to win the Australian Open since 1978 when she comes up against the 14th seeded Sofia Kenin in the first semi-final on Thursday. Barty heads into this match as a strong favourite but will be unlikely to have things all go her own way against a feisty opponent that has previously beaten the Australian. 

Ash Barty is on a 9-match winning streak heading into semi-final day at Melbourne Park. The world number 1 arrived in Melbourne fresh from winning the title in Adelaide and has steadily worked her way into top form at her home major to reach the final 4 for the first time. Barty has twice been pushed to 3 sets this tournament but managed to get the job done in 2 over her trickiest opponent thus far to confirm her spot in the semi-finals with a 7/6 6/2 win over the 7th seeded Petra Kvitova. The Barty backhand slice continues to cause her opponents all types of problems, a weapon that could take Barty all the way to the title. 

Sofia Kenin has made the most of a favourable draw to motor her way through to a maiden Grand Slam semi-final appearance. Kenin moved through the first week with straight set wins over Martina Trevisan, Ann Li and Shuai Zhang. It was in the fourth round that the American dropped her only set of the tournament, fighting from behind to defeat Cori Gauff 6/7 6/3 6/0. Kenin booked her spot in the semi-finals with a tricky 6/4 6/4 win over Ons Jabeur. 

Barty heads into this clash with a 3-1 head-to-head record over Kenin. The pair met on 3 occasions in 2019, it was Barty who won the most recent match between the pair, a 6/3 7/5 win in Wuhan. Kenin pushed Barty to 3 sets at Roland Garros before beating the Aussie 6/7 6/3 6/4 at the Rogers Cup. 

I get the sense of an upset here, I’ll side with Kenin. This is certainly the biggest test Barty has faced, Kenin is a difficult match-up for Barty and is not messing around at the moment. Kenin has beaten Barty on a hard court, recently at the Rogers Cup last year and has challenged Barty in all of their previous matches. Kenin has the solid baseline game to deal with the variety of Barty, she isn’t afraid to get into extended rallies and has the firepower to hurt the Aussie when the right opportunity presents. Kenin will be able to deal with the Barty backhand slice better than any of the Aussie’s previous opponent have this tournament. Barty has mainly faced powerful opponents at this event but will face a different task here. 

Prediction: Sofia Kenin to defeat Ash Barty in 3 sets
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Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova vs. Garbine Muguruza, Australian Open QF Preview

🇦🇺 Australian Open, QF preview + prediction:
🇷🇺 (30) Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova vs. 🇪🇸 Garbine Muguruza

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Garbine Muguruza will go head-to-head with a place in the semi-finals up for grabs at the 2020 Australian Open. Not many would have expected Pavlyuchenkova or Muguruza to be featuring at this stage of the tournament, but both have been playing exceptional tennis and will head into this quarter-final clash full of confidence. Who will emerge victorious?

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova will be competing at the quarter-final stage in Melbourne for the second consecutive year and for the third time out of the last 4 years. This will be Pavlyuchenkova’s 6th quarter-final appearance at a Grand Slam but the Russian has never made it to the semi-finals of a major, perhaps it will be 6th time lucky?

Pavlyuchenkova moved through the first week of the event without dropping a set. The 30th seed started the event with a 6/1 7/5 win over Nina Stojanovic before battling past Taylor Townsend 7/5 7/6. Pavlyuchenkova made her biggest move at the third round stage where she eliminated the second seeded Karolina Pliskova thanks to a 7/6 7/6 triumph. The Russian booked her spot in the final 8 with a hard-fought 6/7 7/6 6/2 win over the 17th seeded Angelique Kerber.

Garbine Muguruza is playing the best tennis she has played in years to reach the final 8 at Melbourne Park for the second time in her career. The 2-time former Grand Slam champion was rusty in her first couple of matches of the event, requiring 3 sets on both occasions, a 0/6 6/1 6/0 win over Shelby Rogers followed by a 6/3 3/6 6/3 win over Ajla Tomljanovic. Muguruza seriously picked up her level to advance to the final 8 with back-to-back wins over top 10 opponents, a 6/1 6/2 smashing of the 5th seeded Elina Svitolina before beating the 9th seeded Kiki Bertens 6/3 6/3. Muguruza’s level over the last few matches has been reminiscent of the form that saw her become a major champion.

Muguruza has won both of the completed matches between the pair, both in straight sets. A 7/5 6/1 win in Cincinnati in 2016 followed by a 6/1 6/2 in Birmingham in 2018. Expect Pavlyuchenkova to be far more competitive on this occasion.

I’m going to go for the upset here and side with Pavlyuchenkova. This is a tough match to call, both players head into this clash in great form and both play a very similar game. Pavlyuchenkova and Muguruza both command the court with their strong groundstrokes, both are efficient at moving up the court to finish points. It will come down to who can execute better on the day, I believe it is time for Pavlyuchenkova to take the next step, with Muguruza’s ex-coach by her side I think an in-form Pavlyuchenkova will come up with a plan to undo the Spaniard.

Prediction: Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova to defeat Garbine Muguruza in 3 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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Anett Kontaveit vs. Iga Swiatek, Australian Open R4 Preview

🇦🇺 Australian Open, R4 preview + prediction:
🇪🇪 (28) Anett Kontaveit vs. 🇵🇱 Iga Swiatek

Anett Kontaveit and Iga Swiatek will both be competing to reach a maiden Grand Slam quarter-final when they do battle in the round of 16 at Melbourne Park on Monday. Kontaveit will be making her fourth appearance at this stage of a major whilst Swiatek is making her second appearance in the fourth round of a major. This is a huge opportunity for both. 

Anett Kontaveit has been in surprisingly damaging form. The Estonian spent the later stages of 2019 away from the tour due to illness and injury but has quickly found her range in 2020. Kontaveit started her Australian Open campaign with a 6/0 6/2 win over Astra Sharma before claiming a less convincing 6/2 4/6 6/1 win over Sara Sorribes Tormo. It was at the third round stage where the 28th seed made her biggest move with a hugely impressive 6/0 6/1 demolition of the 6th seeded Belinda Bencic.

Iga Swiatek is a player on the rise, the 18-year-old is one of the brightest young prospects on tour and is already making an impact at the majors. Swiatek reached the round of 16 in Paris last year and has emulated that run in Melbourne. Swiatek didn’t drop a set during the first week, starting with a 6/3 6/2 win over Timea Babos before beating Carla Suarez Navarro 6/3 7/5. Swiatek also made her biggest move in the third round where she upset the 19th seeded Donna Vekic with a 7/5 6/3 win.

It was Kontaveit who emerged victorious in the only previous meeting between the pair, a 6/4 7/6 win in Cincinnati last year.

I’m going to give the slight edge to Kontaveit here. This is a very tough match-up to predict, a fairly even match-up. Both players have weapons to cause damage, the key differentiator is levels of experience. I’ll give Kontaveit the benefit of the doubt given her greater experience on the big stage and at the later stages of big events. Kontaveit has been at this stage before in Melbourne and has played in some big matches elsewhere, certainly more so than her vastly less experienced opponent, that could be the difference in an otherwise tight match-up.

Prediction: Anett Kontaveit to defeat Iga Swiatek in 3 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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Petra Kvitova vs. Maria Sakkari, Australian Open R4 Preview

🇦🇺 Australian Open, R4 preview + prediction:
🇨🇿 (7) Petra Kvitova vs. 🇬🇷 (22) Maria Sakkari

Petra Kvitova continues her quest for a maiden Australian Open title on Sunday with a tricky clash against the 22nd seeded Maria Sakkari. Kvitova has stormed through the draw in an ominous fashion for her rivals. However, Sakkari will come into this match with confidence given her positive recent record over the 2-time former Wimbledon champion.

Petra Kvitova was rarely troubled in her progress through the opening week of the tournament. Kvitova started the event with a 6/1 6/0 pounding of Katerina Siniakova which actually left Siniakova in tears. It was in the second round that Kvitova faced some challenging moments but pulled through to defeat Paula Badosa 7/5 7/5. The 7th seed played another near-perfect match to book her spot in the round of 16 with a 6/1 6/2 win over Ekaterina Alexandrova.

Maria Sakkari has also navigated her way through the opening week without dropping a single set to reach the round of 16 for the first time at a major. Sakkari easily defeated Margarita Gasparyan 6/2 6/2 in the opening round before battling past Nao Hibino 7/6 6/4. Sakkari made her biggest move in the third round where she upset the 10th seeded Madison Keys 6/4 6/4. Sakkari is enjoying strong support from the large Greek community in Melbourne.

It was Maria Sakkari who won the most recent match between the pair. The Greek player claimed a hard-fought 6/4 2/6 6/3 victory over Kvitova in Cincinnati last year. Sakkari also defeated Kvitova in Rome earlier in 2019, via retirement with Kvitova retiring down 0/4 in the deciding set. Their other completed match also took place last year with Kvitova winning 6/1 6/4 in Miami.

I’m going to side with Kvitova here. Once Kvitova gets into a major tournament she becomes tougher and tougher to beat. Sakkari is the type of player that can only beat Kvitova if the Czech player has a bad day, I don’t see that happening here. Kvitova has already played a couple of ruthless matches in Melbourne and should be too strong for Sakkari on this surface. Kvitova has looked very sharp and focused and will know that she has a great opportunity to go all the way in Melbourne given the state of the draw.

Prediction: Petra Kvitova to defeat Maria Sakkari in 2 sets
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