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

Kiki Bertens vs. Jelena Ostapenko, Strasbourg R2 Preview

??? Internationaux de Strasbourg – R2 preview + prediction
?? (3) Kiki Bertens vs. ?? Jelena Ostapenko

Kiki Bertens begins her Strasbourg campaign on Wednesday with a potentially dangerous second round clash against Jelena Ostapenko. Kiki Bertens has been one of the top performers on clay over the last few years, amassing a 47/16 win/loss record on clay since 2017. However, Bertens is yet to win a clay court match in 2020 and will be keen to gather some winning momentum before heading to Roland Garros next week.

Bertens arrives in Strasbourg fresh from a disappointing early exit in Rome. Bertens received a bye through the opening round in Rome before stumbling to Polona Hercog in straight sets in what was the Dutchwoman’s first competitive match since the tour restart. Bertens is competing in Strasbourg for the first time this week, the third seed received an opening round after she took the top seeds spot at the top of the draw after a withdrawal.

Jelena Ostapenko is a former Roland Garros champion but managed to record negative win/loss records on clay over the last couple of years. Ostapenko also played her first competitive match since the tour restart last week in Rome where she suffered a straight set loss to Magda Linette in the opening round. Ostapenko recorded a much needed victory as she defeated Lauren Davis 6-2 6-3 to kick-start her Strasbourg campaign.

Bertens holds a 2-1 head-to-head record over Ostapenko and has won both of their tour level meetings. The most recent match between the pair took place in Madrid last year, Bertens won 6-4 6-3.

I’ll back Bertens to ignite her clay court season with a victory over Ostapenko. Bertens is undoubtedly one of the strongest players on tour on a clay court, Ostapenko is a Roland Garros champion but clay is her least dangerous surface and she remains incredibly inconsistent and unreliable. Bertens has a far greater serve, more controlled power and a more versatile game, a much better player on this surface, expect Bertens to be too solid for Ostapenko.

Prediction: Kiki Bertens to defeat Jelena Ostapenko in 2 sets

Sloane Stephens vs. Jelena Ostapenko, Eastbourne R2 Preview

Nature Valley International, Eastbourne R2
?? (7) Sloane Stephens vs. ?? Jelena Ostapenko

Two Grand Slam champions will collide in a blockbuster second round clash at the Nature Valley International on Tuesday as the 7th seeded Sloane Stephens takes on Jelena Ostapenko in Eastbourne. Stephens and Ostapenko are two of the most unpredictable players on the WTA tour, both are capable of playing top level tennis but both can also go missing from time-to-time.

Sloane Stephens will be in action for the first time since her disappointing quarter-final loss to Johanna Konta at Roland Garros earlier this month. Grass is traditionally Stephens least preferred surface, the American has nothing to lose over the coming weeks as she has no points to defend given she was beaten in the opening round at Wimbledon last year in the only match she played on the grass. Perhaps the lack of pressure will work in the American’s favour.

Conversely, Jelena Ostapenko is much more comfortable on the grass. Ostapenko arrives in Eastbourne fresh from a quarter-final showing in Birmingham, Ostapenko’s Birmingham campaign did end quite sadly as she squandered 5 match points and a set and a break lead to lose to Petra Martic in the quarter-finals, nevertheless it was a decent week. The pressure is on Ostapenko over the next few weeks as she has to defend semi-final points at Wimbledon.

It was Sloane Stephens who won the only previous match between the pair, a 7-6 6-1 win over the Latvian in the Miami Open final last year. Can Stephens maintain her perfect record over Ostapenko in Eastbourne?

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Jelena Ostapenko vs. Victoria Azarenka, Roland Garros R1 Preview

???? Roland Garros, R1 Preview
?? Jelena Ostapenko vs. ?? Victoria Azarenka

One of the most intriguing opening round matches at Roland Garros in 2019 sees two former Grand Slam champions collide when Jelena Ostapenko takes on Victoria Azarenka. Ostapenko and Azarenka were arguably the two most dangerous unseeded players in the draw so both can consider themselves unlucky with this draw, to make matters more complicated, the winner of this match is highly likely to face the top ranked Naomi Osaka in the next round.

Victoria Azarenka of Belarus during practice at the 2019 Roland Garros Grand Slam tennis tournament

Jelena Ostapenko is continuing to slip down the WTA standings. Ostapenko has been consistently inconsistent over the last 18 months and is a shadow of the player that shocked the tennis world two years ago to win the Roland Garros title as a teenager. Ostapenko has lost 10 of he last 14 matches and is simply playing without any confidence in recent times, perhaps a return to the scene of her greatest achievement will help spark a form reversal?

Conversely, Victoria Azarenka is steadily climbing back up the rankings and brings good form into Roland Garros after a strong run in Rome a few weeks ago. Azarenka battled her way through to the quarter-finals in Rome where she claimed an impressive 3 set win over the 2-time defending champion Elina Svitolina in the second round, a win that proves Azarenka can still beat the best, a seemingly important moment in Azarenka’s journey back o the top.

This will surprisingly be the first career meeting between Ostapenko and Azarenka. Expect fireworks between two feisty competitors that know what it takes to win big matches. Who will prevail?

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Anastasija Sevastova vs. Jelena Ostapenko, Stuttgart R1 Preview

??? Porsche Tennis GP, Stuttgart R1 Preview
?? (7) Anastasija Sevastova vs. ?? Jelena Ostapenko

Latvia’s two top players will do battle at the opening round stage of the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart when the 7th seeded Anastasija Sevastova takes on Jelena Ostapenko. This is an intriguing match-up given the contrast in styles between the pair, the versatility and creativity of Sevastova up against the power of Ostapenko, who will prevail?

Anastasija Sevastova of Latvia during practice ahead of her opening round match with Jelena Ostapenko at the 2019 Porsche Tennis Grand Prix WTA Premier tennis tournament.

Sevastova and Ostapenko have both struggled to find their best tennis in 2019. This was supposed to be a big year for Latvian tennis but things have certainly not gone to plan. Latvia was beaten by Germany in their first World Group playoff appearance in a long time, Ostapenko lost both her rubbers while Sevastova chose not to take part.

Sevastova and Ostapenko are both very capable on clay and will be keen to finally gain some momentum in 2019 over the next few months on the red dirt. The pair have only played once before, Sevastova won that match via retirement in Moscow back n 2015. It will be interesting to see how this match-ups pans out this time around.

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Jelena Ostapenko vs. Maria Sakkari, Australian Open R1 Preview

?? Australian Open, R1 Preview
?? (22) Jelena Ostapenko vs. ?? Maria Sakkari

One of the toughest opening round match-ups at Melbourne Park on Monday sees the 22nd seeded Jelena Ostapenko take on Maria Sakkari, the Greek rising star. Ostapenko arrives at Melbourne Park in a slump, the Latvian has lost her first two matches of the season and will need a dramatic improvement if she is to get through this tough opening round match-up.

Maria Sakkari of Greece practices ahead of the 2019 Australian Open Grand Slam tennis tournament

Jelena Ostapenko is a shadow of the player that stormed to the Roland Garros title in 2017. Ostapenko started her 2019 campaign with an embarrassing opening round loss to Monica Niculescu in Shenzhen where she won just 2 games. More recently Ostapenko played n Sydney where she produced a more respectable level but was still beaten by Ashleigh Barty in straight sets.

Maria Sakkari has made a more impressive start to her 2019 campaign. Sakkari started the season at the Hopman Cup where she went 2 from 3 in her singles matches, Sakkari defeated Katie Boulter and Belinda Bencic in straight sets whilst succumbing to Serena Williams in a competitive straight set loss. Sakkari did however suffer an opening round loss to Magda Linette in Hobart last week, perhaps it was for the best.

The only previous match between the pair took place in Charleston in 2017, Ostapenko won that match 6-2 4-6 6-2. Much has changed since then, Sakkari will fancy her chances this time around.

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Ashleigh Barty vs. Jelena Ostapenko, Sydney R1 Preview

? Sydney International, R1 Preview
?? Jelena Ostapenko vs. ?? Ashleigh Barty

Ash Barty begins her Sydney International campaign with a potentially difficult opening round clash with Jelena Ostapenko. The top ranked Australian woman heads into this match as a strong favourite. Barty brings good form into this event having ended 2018 really well and having played some good matches in Perth last week, conversely Ostapenko is in awful form and in desperate need of a form reversal before heading to Melbourne.

Ostapenko has lost 6 of her last 8 matches spanning back to the US Open last year. Ostapenko made a messy start to the 2019 season, the 2017 Roland Garros champion was thrashed by Monica Niculescu, Ostapenko managed to win just 2 games in her first round match with the Romanian in Shenzhen and looked very rusty.

On the other hand, Ash Barty is in great form. Barty has won 9 of her last 12 matches having ended 2018 on high by winning the title in Zhuhai. Barty started her 2019 campaign with a solid showing at the Hopman Cup, Barty defeated Alize Cornet and Garbine Muguruza in straight sets before being beaten by Angelique Kerber in straight sets. Barty made the final in Sydney last year and will be hoping to go one step further in 2019.

Can Ostapenko find some decent form in Sydney and Challenge the top ranked Aussie?

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Jelena Ostapenko vs. Daria Gavrilova, Wuhan R1 Preview

? Dongfeng Motor Wuhan Open, R1 Preview
?? (10) Jelena Ostapenko vs. ?? Daria Gavrilova

A first round match-up in Wuhan which features a huge contrast in styles sees the 10th seeded Jelena Ostapenko take on Daria Gavrilova. Adding to the intrigue is the fact that this will be the first career meeting between the pair. Will attack of defence prevail?

Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia in action during her third-round match at the 2018 US Open Grand Slam tennis tournament

Jelena Ostapenko and Daria Gavrilova have both been in fairly disappointing form of late, both had poor results during the North American hard court swing and both suffered early exits last week. Ostapenko was beaten at the second round stage in her title defense in Seoul, smashed by Ekaterina Alexandrova in straight sets. Gavrilova played a couple of marathon matches against the Pliskova sisters in Tokyo, Gavrilova let several leads slip on route to a three 3 set loss to Karolina Pliskova.

This should be an entertaining match between two totally different players. Ostapenko has the firepower whilst Gavrilova has the defensive prowess. Gavrilova will make life hard for Ostapenko if she is off her game but if the Latvian fires she should be too strong.

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Jelena Ostapenko vs. Andrea Petkovic, US Open R1 Preview

??? US OPEN: R1 Preview
?? (10) Jelena Ostapenko vs. ?? Andrea Petkovic

Jelena Ostapenko will begin her 2018 Flushing Meadows campaign on Tuesday with a potentially tricky first round clash against Germany’s Andrea Petkovic. Ostapenko has shown over the last few seasons that she is always dangerous at Grand Slam events, the 2017 Roland Garros champion will be particularly keen for a good run in New York given it has historically been her least successful Grand Slam event.

Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia in action during her first-round match at the 2018 Western & Southern Open WTA Premier 5 tennis tournament

Ostapenko was unable to win a match in her 2 lead-up events to the final Grand Slam of the year. The Latvian suffered first-up losses to Johanna Konta in Montreal and Alize Cornet in Cincinnati, both losses were in similar fashion, winning the opening set before crumbling as the match wore on. Prior to those losses Ostapenko did reach the semi-finals at Wimbledon, her best result of the season thus far. Ostapenko has generally performed well at the biggest events over the last few years so she will bring confidence into this event despite her recent losses.

Unlike Ostapenko, Petkovic has really struggled at the Grand Slam level over the last few years, Petkovic has won 5 matches in her last 7 Grand Slam main draw appearances. Petkovic’s U.S Open series campaign got off to a good start when she reached the semi-finals in Washington D.C but the last couple of weeks have not been so impressive. Petkovic failed to get through the qualifying draw in Cincinnati and New Haven, retiring injured in the later.

It was Ostapenko who won the only previous match between the pair, a 7-5 1-0 victory via retirement at the semi-final stage in Doha back in 2016. The pair have gone in completely different direction over the past few years, Ostapenko has solidified her spot in the top 10 whilst Petkovic has consistently slipped outside the top 50.

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Angelique Kerber vs. Jelena Ostapenko, Wimbledon SF Preview

?? Wimbledon semi-final preview
?? (11) Angelique Kerber vs. ?? (12) Jelena Ostapenko

Thursday’s first semi-final at SW19 sees the 11th seeded Angelique Kerber take on the 12th seeded Jelena Ostapenko. Surprisingly, this will be the first career meeting between Kerber and Ostapenko, an exciting match-up that features an extreme contrast in styles. This match-up will feature arguably the best counter-puncher in the world against one of the most aggressive players on tour, an exciting match-up between two former Grand Slam champions. Who will prevail?

Angelique Kerber of Germany in action during her second-round match at the 2018 Wimbledon Championships Grand Slam tournament

Angelique Kerber is through to her 7th career Grand Slam semi-final, her third at Wimbledon. Kerber’s level has steadily improved throughout the event. The German got off to a slow start with unimpressive wins over Vera Zvonareva and Claire Liu. Kerber brings great momentum into this semi-final clash after straight set wins over Naomi Osaka, Belinda Bencic and Daria Kasatkina. Kerber has made it to the pointy end of several big events in the last 6 months but has frequently failed at this hurdle, she will be keen to make amends here.

Jelena Ostapenko has steamrolled through the draw, reaching the final 4 without dropping a single set. The Latvian waltzed through the first week, comfortably beating Katie Dunne, Kirsten Flipkens and Vitalia Diatchenko. Ostapenko found herself trailing in matches against Aliaksandra Sasnovich and Dominika Cibulkova but on both occasions she recovered to win a tight opening set before taking control in the second. Ostapenko’s 7-5 6-4 win over Dominika Cibulkova in the quarter-finals was particularly impressive.

Kerber and Ostapenko both bring great form into this match, both are high on confidence and will fully expect to win this match. It will be interesting to see how this match-up pans in out in the first career meeting between the pair.

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