Aryna Sabalenka vs. Karolina Pliskova, Wimbledon SF Preview

🇬🇧 Wimbledon SF: 🇧🇾 (2) Aryna Sabalenka vs. 🇨🇿 (8) Karolina Pliskova

Thursday’s second semi-final from SW19 sees the 2nd seeded Karolina Pliskova take the 8th seeded Aryna Sabalenka. This match-up arguably features the two best players on the WTA tour that have yet to win a Grand Slam title. Sabalenka will be competing in her first major semi-final having never previously reached a major quarter-final before this week. Conversely Pliskova will be competing in her fourth Grand Slam semi-final, having now reached the final 4 at each of the 4 majors.

Aryna Sabalenka’s route to the semi-finals:

R1: def. (Q) Monica Niculescu 6-1 6-4
R2: def. (WC) Katie Boulter 4-6 6-3 6-3
R3: def. (Q) MarĂ­a Camila Osorio Serrano 6-0 6-3
R4: def. (18) Elena Rybakina 6-3 4-6 6-3
QF: def. (21) Ons Jabeur 6-4 6-3

Karolina Pliskova’s route to the semi-finals:

R1: def. Tamara Zidansek 7-5 6-4
R2: def. Donna Vekic 6-2 6-2
R3: def. Tereza Martincova 6-3 6-3
R4: def. (wc) Ludmila Samsonova 6-2 6-3
QF: def. Viktorija Golubic 6-2 6-2

Karolina Pliskova has more clinically progressed through the draw; the Czech hasn’t dropped a set but has certainly had a very favourable draw. Sabalenka has had a couple of her typical lapses but has rallied to beat a couple of quality opponents in the last couple of rounds.

Sabalenka has won both previous meetings between the pair, a 6-3 2-6 7-6 on the grass of Eastbourne in 2018, followed by a 2-6 6-3 7-5 win on the hard courts of Cincinnati in 2019.

I’m going for the upset here. Firstly, Pliskova is more experienced, in general, and more importantly at this stage of a major, that has to count for something. Secondly, Pliskova’s slightly steadier game may prove advantageous in a match that is sure to be full of nerves and played with fine margins. Thirdly, Pliskova has been more consistent this tournament and is less likely to suffer from a mid-match lapse in her level, which could also be key in what should be a close match. It has been a long time coming for Pliskova to win a match like this, she looks to be in a good position to take advantage this time.

Prediction: Karolina Pliskova to defeat Aryna Sabalenka in 3 sets

Aryna Sabalenka vs. Ons Jabeur, Wimbledon QF Preview

Wimbledon QF Preview: (2) Aryna Sabalenka vs. (21) Ons Jabeur

The pick of the quarter-final matchups on Tuesday at SW19 sees the 2nd seeded Aryna Sabalenka take on the 21st seeded Ons Jabeur. Both ladies will be competing in their first Wimbledon quarter-final, both looking to reach a Grand Slam semi-final for the first time.

Aryna Sabalenka made the most of a favourable draw to move through the first week in London, beating a pair of qualifiers and a wild card to make the round of 16 at Wimbledon for the first time. The Belarusian overcame her first major test in the fourth round by beating an in-form Elena Rybakina in 3 sets, belatedly booking her spot in maiden Grand Slam quarter-final.

R1: def. (Q) Monica Niculescu 6-1 6-4
R2: def. (WC) Katie Boulter 4-6 6-3 6-3
R3: def. (Q) MarĂ­a Camila Osorio Serrano 6-0 6-3
R4: def. (18) Elena Rybakina 6-3 4-6 6-3

Ons Jabeur has had one of the toughest draws of all the quarterfinalists, but admirably defeated a pair of Grand Slam champions from a set down to reach her second Grand Slam quarter-final. Jabeur has won more matches than anyone on tour in 2021 having recently won her first singles title on the grass of Birmingham, her confidence is clearly at an all-time high.

R1: def. Rebecca Peterson 6-2 6-1
R2: def. (WC) Venus Williams 7-5 6-0
R3: def. (11) Garbine Muguruza 5-7 6-3 6-2
R4: def. (7) Iga Swiatek 5-7 6-1 6-1

The head-head record between the pair is split at 1 win apiece. It was Jabeur who emerged victorious in the first meeting between the two, a 7-6 2-6 6-3 victory at the third round stage of Roland Garros last year. More recently it was Sabalenka who came out on top with a 6-2 6-4 win on the hard courts in Abu Dhabi. This will be the first meeting between the pair on a grass court and the most important match in their H2H series.

In match-up where both ladies possess great power behind their serves and from the baseline, it is the added versatility and touch to the Jabeur game that should give the Tunisian the edge, especially on a grass court. Jabeur has the ability to unsettle the big game of Sabalenka because of her unpredictability. Sabalenka hasn’t played any opponents with much variety to their game this tournament, that leaves her vulnerable heading into this tricky match-up. Conversely Jabeur is coming off a pair of very difficult victories over opponents that possess similar threats to Sabalenka, seemingly leaving Jabeur very well prepared for this match.

Prediction: Ons Jabeur to defeat Aryna Sabalenka in 3 sets

Aryna Sabalenka vs. Katerina Siniakova, Strasbourg QF Preview

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?? (4) Aryna Sabalenka vs. ?? Katerina Siniakova

The fourth and final quarter-final from the Internationaux de Strasbourg on Thursday sees the fourth seeded Aryna Sabalenka come up against Katerina Siniakova. This will be the first career meeting between Sabalenka and Siniakova, it will be interesting to see how the match-up evolves given the contrast in styles.

Sabalenka and Siniakova have both claimed back-to-back victories for the first time since the tour restart on route to the final 8 in Strasbourg. Sabalenka has had a favourable draw, hasn’t been too convincing but has got the job done. The Belarusian defeated Ellen Perez 6-4 6-3 in the opening round before defeating Anna Blinkova 1-6 6-4 6-2. Siniakova fought from behind in her opening round match as she defeated Bernarda Pera 4-6 7-6 6-1 before producing a solid performance to beat the seventh seeded Ekaterina Alexandrova 6-2 6-4.

I’m going to go for the upset here. I think Siniakova has what it takes to bring down a rusty Sabalenka on a clay court. Siniakova has better results on clay over the last year and half, including a run to the fourth round at Roland Garros last year where she beat the world number 1 Naomi Osaka. Siniakova can make life tough for big hitters on this surface. Sabalenka’s level hasn’t been great over her first few matches, or in general since the tour restart. Siniakova has been able to claim a few good victories, the Czech players versatile game could see her through this one.

Prediction: Katerina Siniakova to defeat Aryna Sabalenka in 3 sets

Aryna Sabalenka vs. Victoria Azarenka US Open R2 Preview

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?? (5) Aryna Sabalenka vs. ?? Victoria Azarenka

The pick of the second round match-ups on Day 4 at Flushing Meadows sees the 5th seeded Aryna Sabalenka come up against 2-time runner-up Victoria Azarenka. It is Azarenka who brings the far better from into this match, but Sabalenka’s best can beat anybody, will Sabalenka raise her level for this blockbuster clash?

Sabalenka’s form since the tour restart has been average. The 22-year-old was on a roll before the tour shutdown when she won the Qatar Total Open in Doha. Sabalenka hasn’t recaptured that form, failing to win back-to-back matches in Lexington and at the Western & Southern Open. Sabalenka started her US Open campaign with anther fairly unconvincing performance as she defeated Oceane Dodin 7-6 6-4. Sabalenka has a poor Grand Slam record, the only time the Belarusian has reached the second week of a major was at the US Open in 2018, the world number 13 will be keen to reverse that trend over the next couple of weeks.

Azarenka entered the 2020 US Open as the form player in the draw after winning the Western & Southern Open. Azarenka’s Western & Southern Open triumph was her first tournament win since Miami in 2016, straight set wins over Donna Vekic, Caroline Garcia, Alize Cornet and Ons Jabeur, followed by a 3 set win over Johanna Konta did the job before Naomi Osaka pulled out of the final. Azarenka strolled into the second round of the US Open with an easy 6-1 6-2 win over Barbara Haas. That’s 6 wins in a row for Azarenka at Flushing Meadows, an achievement she achieved on 2 previous occasions.

The only previous meeting between the pair took place in the opening round of last year’s US Open, Sabalenka trailed that match by a set and a break before rallying to win 3-6 6-3 6-4.

This is a tough match to call. Form is on Azarenka’s side, but Sabalenka has proven she is capable in this match-up and has generally been the better player of the two in recent years. I’m going to give the slight edge to Sabalenka. Sabalenka is due for a big win, this is her chance. Sabalenka defeated Azarenka 12 months ago at this very venue and is well suited to the quick hard courts at Flushing Meadows. Azarenka’s opponents at the Western & Southern Open last week weren’t opponents that took that racquet out of her hands, Sabalenka is a totally different threat for Azarenka. Sabalenka has the game to overpower Azarenka, I think she will find the right level to do just that.

Prediction: Aryna Sabalenka to defeat Victoria Azarenka in 3 sets
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Simona Halep vs. Aryna Sabalenka, Dubai QF Preview

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?? (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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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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Aryna Sabalenka vs. Victoria Azarenka, US Open R1 Preview

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?? (9) Aryna Sabalenka vs. ?? Victoria Azarenka

A blockbuster opening round match-up in New York sees Belarus’s top players go head-to-head for the first time when the 9th seeded Aryna Sabalenka takes on 2-time former finalist Victoria Azarenka. Expect fireworks between two of the fiercest competitors on tour desperate to avoid an opening round exit at the final Grand Slam of the year. Who will prevail?

2019 hasn’t gone to plan for Aryna Sabalenka. Nevertheless, the 21-year-old is still one of the tours most exciting young prospects and is still clinging to a spot in the top 10. Sabalenka’s recent form isn’t great but she did start her US Open series off with a run to the final in San Jose where she would disappointingly succumb to Saisai Zheng in straight sets. Since then the fiery Belarusian was upset in the opening round in Toronto at the hands of Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in a very close match, Sabalenka was then beaten in the round of 16 by Maria Sakkari in a similarly tight 3 set match.

Victoria Azarenka is far from the player that reached back-to-back US Open finals in 2012 and 2013. Azarenka’s results have been consistently mediocre over the last few years and her recent form is true of that. Azarenka was beaten in straight sets in the second round of all 3 of her US Open series events before heading to New York, Azarenka was beaten by Donna Vekic in Stanford and Cincinnati whilst she was beaten by Dayan Yastremska in Toronto. Unfortunately for Azarenka has been dealt yet another tough early round draw at a major, she will need to dig deep to get through this one.

Interestingly this will be the first career meeting between Sabalenka and Azarenka. This is a classic match-up between a power hitter and a counter-puncher. Sabalenka has the superior firepower but Azarenka deals with power better than most. Usually I would side with the counter-puncher but on this occasion I’ll stick with Sabalenka. Azarenka was easily beaten by Vekic (twice) and Yastremska in recent weeks, Sabalenka provides a similar but stronger challenge, if Sabalenka can control her power she will be too strong for Azarenka.

Prediction: Aryna Sabalenka to defeat Victoria Azarenka in 3 sets

Aryna Sabalenka vs. Dominika Cibulkova, Roland Garros R1 Preview

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?? (11) Aryna Sabalenka vs. ?? Dominika Cibulkova

A blockbuster opening round match-up at Roland Garros sees the 11th seeded Aryna Sabalenka comes up against the always-dangerous Dominika Cibulkova. This is arguably the toughest opening round match-up in the draw, a match-up that one could expect to see in the second week of a Grand Slam rather than the opening round. Sabalenka and Cibulkova are both fierce competitors and will relish the early challenge, who will prevail?

Aryna Sabalenka arrives in Paris on the back of a solid run to the semi-finals in Strasbourg last week. Sabalenka entered Strasbourg in desperate need of wins given she had lost back-to-back opening round matches in Madrid and Rome. Sabalenka claimed a couple of commanding wins in Strasbourg before succumbing to Dayana Yastremska in straight sets. Whilst Sabalenka enters Roland Garros as the number 11 seed, she is very inexperienced at the event, she has never won a main draw match in Paris and this will be just her second main draw appearance at Roland Garros.

Conversely, Dominika Cibulkova is very experienced in Paris. Cibulkova made it to the semi-finals in Paris all the way back in 2009 and has won 21 matches at the tournament over the years. Cibulkova’s form in 2019 has not been great but she often finds a way to raise her level for the majors. Cibulkova has reached the final 8 at a Grand Slam on 8 occasions and has frequently claimed upset wins early in majors. Will Sabalenka be her next victim?

It was Sabalenka who won the only previous match between the pair, a 7-5 6-3 win at the quarter-final stage in Wuhan last year.

To view my analysis / prediction for this match: Click here
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Angelique Kerber vs. Aryna Sabalenka, Indian Wells R4 Preview

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?? (8) Angelique Kerber vs. ?? (9) Aryna Sabalenka

The pick of the fourth round clashes from the BNP Paribas Open on Tuesday sees Angelique Kerber take on Aryna Sabalenka for the very first time. This is an intriguing match-up that sees a 3-time Grand Slam champion and former world number 1 take on the tours most exciting young player who has already established herself in the top 10. Can the powerful Belarusian blast Kerber off the court?

Angelique Kerber of Germany in action during her third-round match at the 2019 BNP Paribas Open WTA Premier Mandatory tennis tournament

Aryna Sabalenka has struggled in recent times to consistently produce the stunning level of tennis that she produced for much of 2018. The signs have been fairly good thus far Sabalenka in Indian Wells as she has booked her spot in the fourth round for the first time. Sabalenka received a bye through the first round before battling past Ajla Tomljanovic in 3 sets. Sabalenka secured her spot in the fourth round with a solid 6-2 7-5 victory over Lesia Tsurenko. Sabalenka will need to step up her level if she is to advance any further in the Californian desert as Kerber will be her first major test.

Angelique Kerber has made a decent start to the season and a decent start to her BNP Paribas Open campaign. Kerber will be hoping she can take things to the next level over the next week as she looks to win her first title of 2019 and her first title in Indian Wells. Kerber started the tournament with a commanding 6-0 6-2 victory over Yulia Putintseva before being really pushed in a 3-6 6-1 6-3 win over Natalia Vikhlyantseva, perhaps the battle Kerber needed to take her game to the next level this week.

This is a fascinating match-up because of the contrast in styles, especially given this will be the first meeting between the pair. Sabalenka is one of the most powerful and aggressive players at the top of the game whilst Kerber is the best counter-puncher on tour, this is the ultimate test for Sabalenka.

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Aryna Sabalenka vs. Caroline Garcia, Zhuhai RR preview + prediction

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?? (3) Aryna Sabalenka vs. ?? (8) Caroline Garcia

The final match from the orchid group sees Aryna Sabalenka take on Caroline Garcia in Zhuhai. Sabalenka started her Zhuhai campaign with a straight set win over Ashleigh Barty whilst Garcia suffered a straight set loss at the hands of Barty in her first match of the week. Sabalenka’s destiny is in her own hands, a win and she is through, a loss and she may still go through but It will come down to games/sets won.

Embed from Getty Images

Sabalenka has won both of the previous matches between the pair, both came in similar fashion, both on a hard court in 2018. Garcia got into a match winning positions in both of those matches but crumbled when it mattered most. Sabalenka beat Garcia 5-7 7-6 6-0 in Beijing a a few months ago in their most recent match. I have to side with Sabalenka again here given their H2H record and the form of the pair so far this week in Zhuhai. Sabalenka has generally been one of the best payers on tour over the last few months whilst Garcia continues to be disappointing.

Prediction: Aryna Sabalenka to defeat Caroline Garcia in 2 sets