Elina Svitolina vs. Elena Rybakina, Strasbourg Final Preview

??? Internationaux de Strasbourg – FINAL preview + prediction
?? (2) Elina Svitolina vs. ?? (5) Elena Rybakina

Elina Svitolina and Elena Rybakina will go head-to-head for the first time when they meet in Saturday’s championship match at the Internationaux de Strasbourg. Svitolina will be playing for her 15th WTA singles title, her second of 2020, whilst Rybakina will also be playing for her second title of the season and third overall.

It has been an important week for both Svitolina and Rybakina, both were in good form before the tour shutdown, but both had previously struggled to recapture that form prior to Strasbourg. Rybakina is yet to drop a set this week, storming into her fifth final of the season, whilst Svitolina has beaten 3 tricky opponents to reach her second final of the season.

Pathway to the championship match: (Svitolina)

R1: bye
R2: def. Magda Linette 7-6 7-5
QF: def. Jill Teichmann 6-4 6-3
SF: def. (4) Aryna Sabalenka 6-2 4-6 6-4

Pathway to the championship match: (Rybakina)

R1: def. Greet Minnen 7-5 6-4
R2: def. Alize Cornet 6-3 7-6
QF: def. Shuai Zhang 6-3 6-2
SF: def. Nao Hibino 6-3 6-4

It will be interesting to see how this match-up pans out in the first meeting between the pair. I’m going to side with Svitolina here. Firstly, I believe the surface suits Svitolina in this match-up, Svitolina will have more time to handle the power of Rybakina and get herself into more extended rallies where she should have the edge. Svitolina has the greater stamina and mental strength under pressure. Secondly, I suspect Svitolina will handle the occasion better, Svitolina knows how to get the job done in finals, the same hasn’t been true of Rybakina who has lost 3 of 4 finals this year. Svitolina has also had the tougher draw and will benefit from playing and defeating Aryna Sabalenka in the previous round, a similar type of opponent to Rybakina. The world number 5 should be too solid.

Prediction: Elina Svitolina to defeat Elena Rybakina in 2 sets

Elena Rybakina vs. Nao Hibino, Strasbourg SF Preview

??? Internationaux de Strasbourg – SF #1 preview + prediction
?? (5) Elena Rybakina vs. ?? Nao Hibino

Elena Rybakina will be aiming to reach her 5th final of the season when she comes up against Nao Hibino in Friday’s first semi-final at the Internationaux de Strasbourg. Conversely Hibino will be aiming to reach her first final of the year, her first final since Hiroshima late last year and her first ever tour level final on a clay court. Rybakina comes into this match as a strong favourite, but Hibino has defied the odds all week, can she do it again?

Elena Rybakina has stormed into the final 4 in Strasbourg without dropping a set. The 5th seed has claimed straight set wins over Greet Minnen, Alize Cornet and Shuai Zhang. Rybakina has won all 4 of her previous semi-finals in 2020, can she make it 5 from 5?

Nao Hibino is having her greatest week on clay court. The Japanese player stared the week with an upset 3 set victory over the 8th seeded Sloane Stephens before claiming a pair of straight set wins over Zarina Diyas and Jelena Ostapenko.

The only previous meeting between the pair tool place at the final qualifying stage of Roland Garros last year, Rybakina won that match 7-5 7-5. Rybakina has improved dramatically since then, now an established top 20 player and still on the rise.

I suspect this will be a closer match than expected. Rybakina should win, but Hibino won’t be a pushover. Rybakina has the stronger game, especially behind her serve, but Hibino can match Rybakina from the baseline where she has looked very strong all week, if the Japanese player can get into enough neutral rallies, she has a decent chance in matchup where there is nothing to lose, I’ll go for the upset.

Prediction: Nao Hibino to defeat Elena Rybakina in 3 sets

Aryna Sabalenka vs. Katerina Siniakova, Strasbourg QF Preview

??? Internationaux de Strasbourg – QF preview + prediction
?? (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

Nao Hibino vs. Jelena Ostapenko, Strasbourg QF Preview

??? Internationaux de Strasbourg – QF preview + prediction
?? Nao Hibino vs. ?? Jelena Ostapenko

An unlikely quarter-final matchup kick-starts proceedings in Strasbourg on Thursday when Nao Hibino comes up against 2017 Roland Garros champion Jelena Ostapenko. It is Ostapenko who heads into this clash as a strong favourite, the Latvian has a far greater record at this level of competition and defeated Hibino in straight sets in both of their previous matches.

Nao Hibino is having one of her best tournaments on a clay court. Hibino started the week with a 6-2 3-6 6-1 victory over the 8th seeded Sloane Stephens. The 25-year-old backed up her victory over the former US Open champion with a solid 7-5 6-3 win over Zarina Diyas. A much needed couple of wins for Hibino who hadn’t won back-to-back matches since Hua Hin in February.

Jelena Ostapenko has displayed glimpses of her damaging best on route to the final 8 in Strasbourg. The 23-year-old started the tournament with a 6-2 6-3 win over Lauren Davis before advancing past the third seeded Kiki Bertens via a retirement when she led 2-6 6-4 4-2. Ostapenko looked down and out in that match but to her credit she raised her level when it mattered, and her opponent collapsed.

Ostapenko holds a 2-0 record over Hibino. Ostapenko claimed a 6-4 6-4 victory in Dubai in 2016, followed by a 6-2 6-2 win in Seoul, Ostapenko was in far greater form when they last met, expect this match to be a closer one.

Ostapenko deserves to be the favourite here, but not such a strong favourite. Hibino doesn’t have a good record on clay but has played a couple of good matches this week. Ostapenko is a Roland Garros champion but has a poor recent record on clay. Ostapenko’s best is too good for Hibino, especially on a clay court where she can utilize her superior firepower. However, Hibino is playing solid tennis at the moment, if Ostapenko is off her game, Hibino can make this very close. I’m not convinced by Ostapenko’s level right now, so I expect this to be a close one, I’ll give the Latvian the benefit of the doubt.

Prediction: Jelena Ostapenko to defeat Nao Hibino in 3 sets

Elena Rybakina vs. Shuai Zhang, Strasbourg QF Preview

??? Internationaux de Strasbourg – QF preview + prediction
?? (5) Elena Rybakina vs. ?? (Q) Shuai Zhang

Elena Rybakina has been one of the most improved players on tour in 2020. The Kazakh continues her Strasbourg campaign on Thursday with a quarter-final clash against Chinese qualifier Shuai Zhang.

The 5th seeded Elena Rybakina is yet to drop a set this week. Rybakina started the week with a 7-5 6-4 win over Greet Minnen before battling past former champion Alize Cornet 6-3 7-6. Rybakina has a 26/7 win/loss record in 2020 but is still yet to consistently find here stunning early season form this the tour restart.

Shuai Zhang arrived in Strasbourg on a 5-match losing streak. Zhang snapped her losing run in the qualifying round where she defeated Storm Sanders 7-6 3-6 6-0. Zhang moved through the first round of the main draw with a hard-fought 3-6 6-4 6-2 win over Ajla Tomljanovic before beating local wild card Clara Burel 6-3 7-6.

Rybakina defeated Zhang 7-6 6-3 in the Hobart International final earlier this year in what was their only previous meeting.

Rybakina enters this match as a big favourite but this should be closer than expected. Rybakina looked shaky in the previous round against Cornet where she really struggled to close out the match. Zhang is a solid opponent and has the type of game to make life difficult for the big hitting Rybakina. I’ll give Rybakina the benefit of the doubt, she has the extra firepower and the far greater results this year.

Prediction: Elena Rybakina to defeat Shuai Zhang in 3 sets

Elina Svitolina vs. Jill Teichmann, Strasbourg QF Preview

??? Internationaux de Strasbourg – QF preview + prediction
?? (2) Elina Svitolina vs. ?? Jill Teichmann

The second seeded Elina Svitolina continues her Strasbourg campaign on Thursday with a quarter-final clash against Switzerland’s Jill Teichmann. This will be the first career meeting between the pair, on paper it is Svitolina who is a big favourite, but Teichmann is in good form and is especially tough to beat on a clay court.

Elina Svitolina is starting to gain some much needed momentum with Roland Garros just around the corner. Svitolina won a couple of tough straight set matches in Rome last week over Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Svetlana Kuznetsova and started her Strasbourg campaign with a similarly tough 7-6 7-5 win over Magda Linette after receiving a bye through the opening round. Clay has historically been Svitolina’s favourite surface; her exceptional movement makes her a problematic match-up for anyone on the red dirt.

Jill Teichmann has beaten a pair of tough opponents to reach the final 8 in Strasbourg. The 23-year-old started the week with a 6-2 6-3 win over the 6th seeded Amanda Anisimova. Teichmann secured her spot in the quarter-finals with a hard-fought 7-6 7-5 win over Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova where she fought from behind in each set.

I’m going to side with the world number 5 here, it feels like Svitolina is heading in the right direction and should be too solid for Teichmann. Svitolina has won several tight sets over her last few matches, a great sign for her that she is playing well in the big moments. Teichmann had some great results on clay in 2019, winning titles in Prague and Palermo, but she also had some terrible results in between. Svitolina’s base level is higher, she will generally win in this match-up and is playing well enough to suggest this will be one of those occasions.

Prediction: Elina Svitolina to defeat Jill Teichmann in 2 sets

Mihaela Buzarnescu vs. Dominika Cibulkova, Strasbourg SF Preview

?? Internationaux de Strasbourg, SF Preview
?? (4) Mihaela Buzarnescu vs. ?? (5) Dominika Cibulkova

Mihaela Buzarnescu and Dominika Cibulkova will go head-to-head for the first time at the WTA tour level when they meet in Friday’s first semi-final in Strasbourg. This is a critical match for both, for different reasons. Buzarnescu is still searching for her first career title at this level whilst every win for Cibulkova is big as she continues to gain momentum after some recent poor form.

Buzarnescu started the week with a hard-fought 3 set win over Magda Linette from a set down. Since that match Buzarnescu has been relatively untroubled, claiming straight set wins over Elena Rybakina and Su-Wei Hsieh. The Romanian will be aiming to reach her third final of the year having never previously reached a WTA tour level final before 2018.

Cibulkova has cruised into her second semi-final of the year without dropping a set. The Slovakian started the week with comfortable wins over Chloe Paquet and Reka-Luca Jani before claiming a noteworthy 6-4 6-3 win over defending champion Samantha Stosur, one of the Cibulkova’s better wins in 2018.

It will be interesting to see how this match-up pans out, the first between the two at this level.

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