Ashleigh Barty vs. Qiang Wang, Zhuhai Final preview + prediction

?? WTA Elite Trophy Zhuhai – Final preview + prediction
?? (9) Ashleigh Barty vs. ?? (11) Qiang Wang

Saturday’s final in Zhuhai sees the 9th seeded Ashleigh Barty take on the 11th seeded Qiang Wang. Barty and Wang will both be playing to win the biggest title of their respective careers and end the 2018 season on the ultimate high. Wang received a second chance in the tournament when Madison Keys withdrew before her semi-final match with Garbine Muguruza, Wang certainly made the most of that opportunity by smashing Muguruza to reach the final in front of an adoring home crowd.

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It was Ash Barty who won the only previous match between the pair, a 7-5 6-4 win for Barty in Strasbourg earlier this year. I expect a very different result here, I’m going to side with Wang. Wang has been extremely impressive over the last couple of months and should have the slight edge here. Wang has significantly improved her serve and that will be key to victory here. If Wang can match Barty’s serving she should win as it is Wang who has the more dynamic game from the baseline, greater endurance and a greater return of serve. Wang has been particularly strong in China this year so it would be a fitting end to the season if she wins here.

Prediction: Qiang Wang to defeat Ashleigh Barty in 3 sets

Anastasija Sevastova vs. Garbine Muguruza, Zhuhai RR preview + prediction

?? WTA Elite Trophy Zhuhai – RR preview + prediction
?? (2) Anastasija Sevastova vs. ?? (7) Garbine Muguruza

The final match from the camellia group will be a straight shootout for a place in the semi-finals as the second seeded Anastasija Sevastova takes on the seventh seeded Garbine Muguruza. Sevastova and Muguruza both started their Zhuhai campaigns with victories of Shuai Zhang, Sevastova won 6-0 7-6 whilst Muguruza won 3-6 6-3 6-2. This means there are no complicated scenarios heading into this match, the winner progresses and the loser is out.

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Muguruza holds a 2-1 head-to-head record over Sevastova. The most recent match between the pair took place at the Australian Open in 2017, Muguruza won 6-4 6-2. I’m going to side with Sevastova on this occasion. Muguruza has been very unconvincing of late and required a medical timeout early in her win over Zhang the other day. Muguruza is very inconsistent and unpredictable at the moment whilst Sevastova has won over 40 matches this year and usually brings a good level to every match she plays. The consistency and versatility of Sevastova is a troublesome prospect for a shaky Muguruza.

Prediction: Anastasija Sevastova to defeat Garbine Muguruza in 3 sets

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

?? WTA Elite Trophy Zhuhai – RR preview + prediction
?? (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.

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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

Madison Keys vs. Qiang Wang, Zhuhai RR preview + prediction

?? WTA Elite Trophy Zhuhai – RR preview + prediction
?? (6) Madison Keys vs. ?? (11) Qiang Wang

Madison Keys and Qiang Wang will renew hostilities when they do battle in the final match from the Camelia group in Zhuhai. Keys has had the wood over Wang, the American has won both of the previous matches between the pair, both in straight sets, both on a hard court earlier this year. Keys won her match first match of the week over Daria Kasatkina in straight sets whilst Wang was defeated by Kasatkina in 3 sets, it all comes down to this, Wang will need to win in straight sets to stand a chance of progressing whilst a win for Keys guarantees her place in the semi-finals, Keys can still progress even if she loses.

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I’m going to side with Wang here. Of the two, it is Wang who has been in the far better form of late despite her loss to Kasatkina the other day. Keys did beat Wang in straight sets in both of their previous matches but Wang has improved significantly since then. A tired Kasatkina offered little resistance for Keys, Wang will be a much tougher test. There are still some injury concerns with Keys and I question her ability to get through a tough, physical match, which Wang should be good enough to force. I think Wang has one last fight left in her and will end a great year on a high in front of her home crowd.

Prediction: Qiang Wang to defeat Madison Keys in 3 sets

Caroline Garcia vs. Ashleigh Barty, Zhuhai RR preview + prediction

WTA Elite Trophy – Zhuhai RR preview + prediction
?? (8) Caroline Garcia vs. ?? (9) Ashleigh Barty

Caroline Garcia and Ashleigh Barty will go head-to-head for just the second time when they do battle in Zhuhai on Thursday. Barty started her Zhuhai campaign a few days ago with a straight set loss to Aryna Sabalenka whilst Garcia will be in action for the first time this week. Barty’s first-up loss means she is virtually eliminated whilst a win for Garcia will set-up a showdown with Sabalenka for a spot in the semi-finals.

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It was Garcia who emerged victorious in the only previous meeting between the pair, a 6-7 7-6 6-2 victory in the Wuhan final last year. This is an interesting match-up because both players are very versatile and love to move up the court where they are very handy at the net. Both have are solid behind their serve and have strong weapons from the baseline. What gives Garcia the edge is her stronger return of serve and greater firepower from the baseline. Expect Garcia to win in a close one.

Prediction: Caroline Garcia to defeat Ashleigh Barty in 3 sets

Elise Mertens vs. Julia Goerges, Zhuhai RR preview + prediction

WTA Elite Trophy – Zhuhai RR preview + prediction
?? (4) Elise Mertens vs. ?? (5) Julia Goerges

Julia Goerges’ title defense is hanging by a thread heading into Thursday’s match with Elise Mertens. Goerges suffered a shock 3-set loss at the hands of Anett Kontaveit in her first match of the week whilst Mertens defeated Kontaveit in straight sets in her first match of the event. This all means that Goerges needs to win this match in straight sets to advance, otherwise Mertens will go through to the semi-finals.

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This will be the first career meeting between Mertens and Goerges. I’m going to side with Mertens here. The pair will be aware of the situation heading into this match, 1 set will do for Mertens. Once Mertens gets that set I think the resistance of Goerges will waver and Mertens will cruise to victory. Mertens has the versatile game that should frustrate Goerges, especially given how poorly Goerges played in her first-up loss to Kontaveit. Mertens on the other hand looked very solid in her first match and should be too consistent for Goerges.

Prediction: Elise Mertens to defeat Julia Goerges in 2 sets

Anastasija Sevastova vs. Shuai Zhang, Zhuhai RR preview + prediction

WTA Elite Trophy – Zhuhai RR preview + prediction
?? (2) Anastasija Sevastova vs. ?? (12) Shuai Zhang

The second seeded Anastasija Sevastova begins her Zhuhai campaign on Thursday night against China’s Shuai Zhang. The only other match from this group took place on Wednesday evening, Garbine Muguruza came from a set down to defeat Zhang. Zhang needs to win this in straight sets to have any hope of qualifying for the semi-finals whilst a Sevastova win will set-up a showdown with Muguruza for a spot in the final 4.

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Sevastova won the only previous match between the pair 6-2 6-4 in Madrid last year. I expect Sevastova to be too strong again here. Sevastova should be able to handle the solid game of Zhang whilst Sevastova is far more versatile and has more weapons at her disposal. Zhang will struggle to hit through Sevastova whilst the Latvian’s mix of touch and power will see her take control of this match. Sevastova played well on this surface last year where she reached the semi-finals.

Prediction: Anastasija Sevastova to defeat Shuai Zhang in 2 sets

Daria Kasatkina vs. Madison Keys, Zhuhai RR Preview

WTA Elite Trophy Zhuhai, Group Stage – Preview
?? (1) Daria Kasatkina vs. ?? (6) Madison Keys

Daria Kasatkina will have the chance to become the first player to secure a place in the semi-finals when she takes on Madison Keys in Zhuhai on Wednesday. Kasatkina claimed an extremely hard-fought 3-set win over Qiang Wang in her Zhuhai debut but will have to overcome a negative record against Madison Keys if she is to secure her place in the final 4, can she do it?

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Daria Kasatkina arrived in Zhuhai on high having won the Kremlin Cup in Moscow in her most recent event. Kasatkina’s confidence was evident as she got off to a flying start against Qiang Wang, the match turned into a real battle which is where Kasatkina thrived. The Russian managed to fight back in the deciding set to claim a 6-1 2-6 7-5 win. Kasatkina’s defensive skills overwhelmed Wang, she will need those defensive skills to be on point if she has a chance of beating Keys.

Madison Keys arrives in Zhuhai under a large injury could. Madison’s Asian swing was again totally derailed by injury. Keys got through her first round matches in Wuhan and Beijing before being struck down by injury in the next round on each occasion. It is therefore somewhat surprising that Keys has elected to travel to Zhuhai but no doubt she is here looking to regain some confidence and end the season on a high. Keys will be competing in Zhuhai for the first time since competing in the inaugural event in 2015 where she failed to progress past the group stage.

Keys holds a commanding 3-0 head-to-head record over Kasatkina. A couple of those wins were comfortable straight set wins including a 6-2 6-1 thrashing in Cincinnati in their most recent match.

To view my analysis / prediction for this match: Click here

Venus Williams vs Karolina Pliskova, WTA Elite Trophy Zhuhai Final Preview

Zhuhai Final: (1) Venus Williams vs (2) Karolina Pliskova 

The inaugural WTA Elite Trophy in Zhuhai will end with a bang on Sunday when the top 2 seeds and 2 of the biggest hitters on tour collide with a spot in the top 10 on the line. The winner of this match will end the year in the top 10, a massive added incentive for both ladies to win this final. This will be the first career meeting between Venus and Karolina, it promises to be hotly contested, quality final between two players who have played awesome tennis week and seem to be peaking just in time for the final after perfect semi-final performances. 

Venus Williams seems to be peaking at the right time in Zhuhai. The American played inconsistent tennis during the group stage but managed to claim consecutive 3 set victories over Madison Keys and Saisai Zheng, coming from a set down on both occasions. Venus wasn’t at her best but used all of her experience to peak at the right time in each match. 

 

The American’s best performance of the week came on Saturday where she thumped Roberta Vinci 6-2 6-2 to reach Sunday’s final. Venus was clearly on mission, maintaining a level and high intensity for the entire clash. Venus was particularly impressive at the net and served extremely well. It will be important for Venus to produce another high quality serving performance on Sunday against Pliskova, otherwise she will be in trouble. 

Karolina Pliskova also saved her best performance of the week thus far for the semi-final stage, recording a comfortable 6-4 6-1 victory over Elina Svitolina. Pliskova was at her powerful best, the Czech was not broken all match and pounced upon the Ukrainian’s weak second serve. Karolina also went unbeaten through the group stage, defeating Jelena Jankovic in 3 sets and Sara Errani in straight sets 

 

With so much on the line, this promises to be an extremely competitive final. I’m going to give the slight edge in this match-up to Karolina Pliskova. Both ladies obviously possess extreme power, both from the service line and the baseline. The biggest difference is probably Karolina’s superior serve, the Czech’s serve is far more reliable, especially her second serve. For this reason I think it will be easier for Karolina to break serve which is a massive advantage in this particular match-up which will be dominated by serve. 

However, Experience is certainly on the American’s side and Pliskova will need to overcome a poor record in finals. The Czech is 1 win and 4 losses in finals this year. Despite that record, I don’t think nerves were a factor. 

Prediction: Karolina Pliskova to defeat Venus Williams in 3 sets 

WTA Elite Trophy, Zhuhai Semi-Final Match Previews & Predictions

Zhuhai Semi-Final Match Previews & Predictions

The introduction of the WTA Elite trophy in Zhuhai was quite controversial with many questioning the timing and player commitment to the tournament. However the event has been pretty successful thus far with good crowds and some quality matches, amongst some disappointing retirements. The tournament promises to end with a bang, we are left with 4 worthy semi-finalists and 3 entertaining hard-fought battles to come. 

Semi-Final #1: (1) Venus Williams vs (4) Roberta Vinci

Saturday’s first semi-final in Zhuhai will be a battle between the two veterans in the field. This promises to be a heated battle given the controversial ending to their most recent clash in Wuhan a couple of months ago. Roberta Vinci will  enter this match searching for her first career victory over the American. 

 

Venus Williams won both of her group stage matches, fighting back from a set down on both occasions. Venus started the week with a 3-6 7-6 6-1 victory over Madison Keys. Venus was outplayed for the majority of the opening 2 sets but used all of her experience to send the match to a decider before running away with the match. Venus made a sluggish start to her second match, but recovered well to claim a 4-6 6-1 6-1 win over Saisai Zheng. Venus is now extremely close to securing a spot in the top 10, she will certainly do that is she claims the title in Zhuhai. 

Roberta Vinci started the week with an impressive 6-4 6-4 win over Svetlana Kuznetsova, not dropping serve throughout the whole match. Roberta’s second match didn’t go so well, suffering a horror 1-6 0-6 loss to a red-hot Anna Schmiedlova. Roberta’s spot in the semi-finals was already confirmed before her match with Anna, that could certainly have something to do with the lopsided scoreline. 

 

Venus holds a perfect 4-0 head-to-head record over Roberta and has the added advantage of a day of rest heading into this match. Venus defeated Roberta 5-7 6-2 7-6 in their most recent clash at the semi-final stage in Wuhan. The quick courts  in Zhuhai will certainly help Venus, I suspect the American will continue her dominance over the Italian with a hard-fought win to advance to the final. 

Prediction: Venus Williams to defeat Roberta Vinci in 3 sets

 

Semi-Final #2: (8) Elina Svitolina vs (3) Karolina Pliskova 

Saturday’s second semi-final of the day promises to be a cracker when fellow rising stars Elina Svitolina and Karolina Pliskova collide for a place in Sunday’s final. Both Elina and Karolina are searching for their biggest career title this week, it would be the perfect way to end career best seasons for both ladies. Both ladies went unbeaten through the group stage and bring good form into Saturday night’s match. 

 

Elina Svitolina has been at her fighting best this week in Zhuhai. The Ukrainian started the week with a 7-6 6-3 victory over Andrea Petkovic before defeating Carla Suarez Navarro 6-7 6-1 6-3. Elina’s win over Carla was particularly impressive, Elina scrambled well from the baseline, committing to chasing down every ball. Elina will need to raise her level on Saturday if she is to defeat Karolina for the first time. 

Karolina Pliskova has been at her thunderous best this week. Stunning Jelena Jankovic with a 6-4 2-6 6-3 victory before thumping Sara Errani 6-0 6-3 to advance to the semi-finals. The quick courts in Zhuhai really seem to help Karolina, certainly in a match-up against counter-punchers. 

 

Karolina Pliskova holds a perfect 3-0 head-to-head record over Elina, winning their most recent clash 2-6 6-4 6-4 in Wuhan a couple of months ago. Pliskova seems to have the edge over Elina, and I suspect that will once again be the case on Saturday. 

Pliskova has the added advantage of having a day of rest before this match whilst Svitolina played a gruelling match against Carla on Friday evening. The quick surface will also help Pliskova hit through Svitolina. 

Prediction: Karolina Pliskova to defeat Elina Svitolina in 2 sets