WTA Bank of the West Classic – Stanford – Tournament Preview

The U.S Open series begins on Monday as the grounds of Stanford University play host to the Bank of The West Classic. The longest-running women’s only tennis event has attracted a stellar line-up this season including 4 of the world’s top ten, Serena Williams, Agnieszka Radwanska, Angelique Kerber and Victoria Azarenka. Defending champion Dominika Cibulkova, Ana Ivanovic, Venus Williams and Andrea Petkovic will also be competing for the title in Stanford.

Seeded players form Guide

1. Serena Williams

The eyes of the tennis world will be on two time champion and world number 1 Serena Williams when she makes her first appearance since her bizarre withdrawal from the doubles at Wimbledon. Serena has had a disappointing season by her standard, especially at the three Grand Slams where she has failed to progress past the fourth round. The U.S hard court swing is the perfect opportunity for Serena to return to return to the top of her game.

2. Agnieszka Radwanska

2013 finalist Agnieszka Radwanska returns to Stanford where she will be seeking her first title of the year. Radwanska has had a number of deep runs this season, all of which have ended in disappointment. Aga’s fourth round loss to Ekaterina Makarova at Wimbledon was arguably her worst result of the season. The 6-3 6-0 loss drew a lot of criticism; even her coach Tomasz Wiktorowski publically questioned the performance of the Pole.

3. Angelique Kerber

Angie started the season off well with solid runs in Sydney, Melbourne and Doha but her results took a dip in the next couple of months. At Roland Garros and Wimbledon, Angie returned to some decent form, her biggest win came in the fourth round at Wimbledon where she knocked out Maria Sharapova. The German has traditionally played some of her best tennis in the United States and will be looking for a solid couple of weeks and who knows perhaps a first career Grand Slam?

4. Victoria Azarenka

Vika took a wild card into Stanford to further boost the draw. The Belarusian has had a disappointing season thanks to an injury to her left foot. Azarenka should now be ready to play at a level much closer to her best and will be looking to claim her first title of the season in Stanford. Azarenka has been runner-up at the U.S Open in the last two seasons, she has mentioned that she loves playing in the United States and her results certainly reflect this. The Belarusian desperately needs to string some wins together and gain some confidence leading into the U.S open if she is to go one step better on this occasion.

5. Ana Ivanovic

Overall Ana has had a positive season to date. The highlights of the Serbs year so far have been her victory over Serna Williams on route to the quarter-finals in Melbourne, victory over Sharapova in Rome and her first grass court title in Birmingham.

6. Dominika Cibulkova

Domi returns to Stanford as the defending champion in 2014, the Slovakian came from a set down to defeat Agnieszka Radwanska in last years final. Domi started the season of on fire but has been relatively disappointing in the past few months. As the tour returns to hard courts, Domi will look to regain the form that saw her reach her first Grand Slam final in Melbourne. Given the recent poor form of Serena Williams, Victoria Azarenka and Agnieszka Radwanska, Domi has a good chance to defend her title in Stanford.

7. Carla Suarez Navarro

Carla won her first career title in Oeiras and had a solid run in Paris before falling to Bouchard in the quarter-finals. Carla has some significant points to defend at the U.S Open so she will need to build some momentum at tournaments like this leading into Flushing Meadows.

8. Andrea Petkovic has continued her rise up the rankings in 2014. Her performances on clay have been particularly impressive, winning two titles in Bad Gastein and Charleston and reaching the semi-finals at Roland Garros. Her results on hard courts haven’t been as impressive.

The top four seeds (Williams, Radwanska, Kerber and Azarenka) will all receive byes into the second round.

Serena Williams will face either Date-Krum or Karolina Pliskova in the second round. Karolina Pliskova will be a dangerous opponent for Serena in her first match since her Wimbledon meltdown. Ana Ivanovic and Sabine Lisicki will meet in the pick of the opening round matches. Ivanovic will be looking to exact revenge on Sabine who knocked the Serb out of Wimbledon In the third round. The prize for the winner will likely be a quarter-finals birth.

Quarter-Final 1 Prediction: (1) Serena Williams vs (5) Ana Ivanovic

Vika Azarenka faces a potential second round match against fellow wild card Venus Williams. Venus faces a qualifier in the opening round. Given Vika’s recent vulnerability Venus could really trouble the Belarusian. Sam Stosur has been dealt a qualifier in the opening round whilst 8th seed Andrea Petkovic will face Ajla Tomljanovic (who will soon compete as an Australian). Tomljanovic defeated Petkovic in their only previous meeting last year in Miami however on this occasion Andrea should be too strong.

Quarter-Final 2 Prediction: (4) Victoria Azarenka vs (8) Andrea Petkovic

Defending champion Dominika Cibulkova faces a tough task in the opening round when she comes up against Garbine Muguruza. The Spaniard defeated Domi in straight sets last year in s-Hertogensbosch in their only previous meeting. The winner of this match will start strong favourite in their next match against either Hantuchova or Ormaechea. After an opening round bye Angelique Kerber will likely face Coco Vandeweghe in the second round, the two have never played.

Quarter-Final 3 Prediction: (6) Dominika Cibulkova vs (3) Angelique Kerber

Agnieszka Radwanska has been dealt a very comfortable draw; the Pole will be looking to rebound after some disappointing result of late. The second seed will face Lepchenko or Garcia in the second round. The other seeded player in the bottom section is Carla Suarez Navarro who faces Monica Puig in the opening round. This is another opening round match to look forward to, a match that really could go either way.

Quarter-Final 4 Prediction: Monica Puig vs (2) Agnieszka Radwanska

Final Prediction: Dominika Cibulkova vs. Serena Williams:

It’s really hard to pick a winner for this tournament because no one really knows where Azarenka and Williams are at. The two are competitive beasts and I think they will both rebound strongly to set up a semi-final blockbuster where Serena will win a tough match. In the bottom half Radwanska should reach the semi-finals where she will likely face either Angelique Kerber or Dominika Cibulkova. Domi won the first four meeting between the two but Kerber has won their only two matches this year. I actually like Domi’s chances of defending her title or at least reaching the final.

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