Serena Williams vs. Victoria Azarenka, US Open SF Preview

2020 US OPEN – SF #2 preview + prediction: 🍎🗽
🇺🇸 (3) Serena Williams vs. 🇧🇾 Victoria Azarenka

Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka will renew hostilities when they go head-to-head

for the 23rd time with a spot in the 2020 US Open championship match up for grabs. Williams and Azarenka have played out some epic matches at Flushing Meadows in the past, including a pair of memorable finals in 2012 and 2013, this has the makings for another fiercely contested battle.

Serena Williams is just 2 wins away from finally lifting Grand Slam title number 24 after a 3 and a half year wait. Williams wants this badly, she has for a while, she usually gets what she wants. It hasn’t been an easy pathway for Williams to get to this stage, Williams started the event with a pair of straight set wins over Kristie Ahn and Margarita Gasparyan. The 6-time former champion has required 3 consecutive 3 set wins to advance to the semi-finals, a 2-6 6-2 6-2 win over the 26th seeded Sloane Stephens, a 6-3 6-7 6-3 win over the 15th seeded Maria Sakkari and a 4-6 6-3 6-2 win over Tsvetana Pironkova.

Victoria Azarenka is on a 10 match winning streak having won the Western & Southern Open right before the US Open commenced. Azarenka’s run at Flushing Meadows has been far more straightforward, the unseeded Azarenka cruised through the first week with straight set wins over Barbara Haas, the 5th seeded Aryna Sabalenka and Iga Swiatek. Azarenka’s toughest challenge came in the fourth round where she just edged past the 20th seeded Karolina Muchova 5-7 6-1 6-4. Azarenka stormed into her first major semi-final since the 2013 US Open with a 6-1 6-0 thrashing of the 15th seeded Elise Mertens.

Williams holds a dominant 18-4 head-to-head record over Azarenka. Williams has won all 10 of their previous meetings at a Grand Slam and all 3 of their previous meetings at the US Open. The most recent match between the pair took place at Indian Wells last year, Williams won 7-5 6-3.

There is no doubt that Azarenka has been able to push Williams like few have, however Williams has still dominated Azarenka, there have been many epic matches between the two, but Williams almost always wins, especially in critical matches. The reason? Azarenka’s weak serve get the treatment under pressure. Serena’s consistently strong and aggressive returns of serve have always been Azarenka’s undoing in this match-up. Azarenka’s serve is as vulnerable as ever, Williams still has the power, this should mean a Williams victory. Williams has been fighting for a major title for a few years without success, I don’t see her stumbling here against an opponent she knows how to handle.

Prediction: Serena Williams to defeat Victoria Azarenka in 2 sets

Naomi Osaka vs. Jennifer Brady, US Open SF Preview

2020 US OPEN – SF #1 preview + prediction: 🍎🗽
🇯🇵 (4) Naomi Osaka vs. 🇺🇸 (28) Jennifer Brady

A blockbuster match-up between 2018 champion Naomi Osaka and a red-hot Jennifer Brady will decide the first entrant into the 2020 US Open final. Jennifer Brady has been the most dominant player in the field, not even coming close to dropping a set, the American will face her biggest test of the event thus far against Osaka.

Jennifer Brady is through to her first Grand Slam semi-final thanks to an emphatic stretch of victories. Brady hasn’t dropped more than 4 games in a single set, the 25-year-old has averaged just 2.4 games against per set this tournament. Brady cruised through the first week with wins over Anna Blinkova, Cici Bellis and Caroline Garcia. Brady eliminated former champion Angelique Kerber in the fourth round with a 6-1 6-4 victory before securing her spot in the final 4 with a 6-3 6-2 win over Yulia Putintseva.

Naomi Osaka has built her way into ominous form heading into the business end of the event. Osaka wasn’t always convincing through the first week where she needed 3 sets to get past Misaki Doi and Marta Kostyuk, a straight set win over Camila Giorgi was sandwiched between those struggles. Osaka’s last few performances have been far more convincing, a 6-3 6-4 win over Anett Kontaveit and a 6-3 6-4 win over Shelby Rogers.

It was Osaka who won the only previous match between the pair, a 6-4 6-4 victory with on the green clay of Charleston in 2018.

This promises to be a close match between a pair of powerful and confident players. Both have the weapons to control their service games more often than not, small margins should decide this one. I’ll give the slight edge to Brady, it is Brady who has been the more consistent of the two of the whole tournament and it is Brady who has more variety in her game, which could be key in such a close match-up.

Prediction: Jennifer Brady to defeat Naomi Osaka in 3 sets
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Serena Williams vs. Tsvetana Pironkova, US Open QF Preview

2020 US OPEN – QF preview + prediction: 🍎🗽
🇺🇸 (3) Serena Williams vs. 🇧🇬 Tsvetana Pironkova

Serena Williams continues her quest for a 24th major title when she comes up against Tsvetana Pironkova in an unlikely quarter-final match-up at Flushing Meadows on day 9 of the 2020 US Open. Williams holds an unbeaten record over Pironkova and comes into this clash as a huge favourite, can the Bulgarian cause another big upset and keep her fairy-tale run alive?

Serena Williams is through to her 53rd Grand Slam quarter-final. Williams hasn’t won a major title since the 2017 Australian Open, something she will be desperate to change over the next week. Williams moved through her first few matches of the tournament easily enough, a 7-5 6-3 win over Kristie Ahn was followed by a 6-2 6-4 victory over Margarita Gasparyan. The 38-year-old overcame a couple of stern tests to book her spot in the final 8, a 2-6 6-2 6-2 win over the 26th seeded Sloane Stephens came before a hard-fought 6-3 6-7 6-3 victory over the 15th seeded Maria Sakkari. Williams will be competing in her 17th quarter-final at the US Open on Wednesday.

Tsvetana Pironkova is having an unbelievable week in New York. The unranked Bulgarian arrived in New York having not played a tournament for 3 years, in that time Pironkova gave birth and started her own business. Now the 32-year-old suddenly finds herself in her fourth major quarter-final, her first at the US Open. Pironkova moved through the first week of the tournament without dropping a set, a 6-2 6-3 win over Ludmilla Samsonova was followed by a pair of big upset wins. Pironkova defeated the 10th seeded Garbine Muguruza 7-5 6-3 before eliminating the 18th seeded Donna Vekic with a 6-4 6-1 victory. Pironkova booked her spot in the final 8 in New York with an extremely hard-fought 6-4 6-7 6-3 win over Alize Cornet.

Williams holds a perfect 4-0 head-to-head record over Pironkova. Williams won both of their previous hard court meetings in straight sets, including a 7-5 6-3 victory in their most recent clash which took place at the Western & Southern Open in 2015.

Pironkova has been brave but this is where her miracle run comes to an end. Williams is getting sharper and sharper as the tournament goes on, Pironkova is highly unlikely to match the physicality of Williams at this stage of a major tournament. Pironkova is at her best when she is able to dictate from the baseline with her strong backhand, Williams won’t allow this, Williams is too powerful. The strong serve and return of serve of Williams will mean Pironkova won’t get a chance to play her game, this spells trouble for Pironkova who is surely running out of gas coming into her 5th match of her first tournament in 3 years, Pironkova won’t be a threat defensively. Expect Williams to overpower Pironkova quite easily in this one.

Prediction: Serena Williams to defeat Tsvetana Pironkova in 2 sets
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Naomi Osaka vs. Anett Kontaveit, US Open R4 Preview

2020 US OPEN – R4 preview + prediction: ??
?? (4) Naomi Osaka vs. ?? (14) Anett Kontaveit

Naomi Osaka continues her quest for a third major title on Sunday with a tricky fourth round match-up with the 14th seeded Anett Kontaveit. This will be a rematch of the Western & Southern Open quarter-final match-up from a few week ago where Osaka just edged past the Estonian in a tight 3 set contest. Can an in-form Kontaveit flip the script at Flushing Meadows?

Naomi Osaka is through to the second week at the US Open for the third consecutive year. The 2018 US Open champion has come through a couple of tough battles on route to the fourth round. The 4th seed laboured through her opening round clash where she defeated Misaki Doi 6/2 5/7 6/2. Osaka produced a far more clinical performance in the second round where she defeated Camila Giorgi 6/1 6/2. The former world number 1 was again forced to dig deep in the third round where she outlasted Marta Kostyuk 6/3 6/7 6/2. A tough opening week for Osaka.

Anett Kontaveit also overcame an opening round scare at Flushing Meadows. Kontaveit rallied to defeat Danielle Collins 5/7 6/2 6/2 in the opening round before cruising past Kaja Juvan 6/4 6/1. The 14th seed secured her spot in the fourth round at the US Open for the first time since 2015 with an easy 6/3 6/2 win over Magda Linette. Kontaveit broke new grounds at the Australian Open earlier this year when she reached her first major quarter-final and will be looking to go even further in New York.

Naomi Osaka has won all 4 of the previous meetings between the pair. Kontaveit was close to beating Osaka in their most recent match, Osaka won from a set and a break down, a 4/6 6/2 7/5 win at the Western & Southern Open a few weeks ago.

I’m going to side with Osaka here. The 4-0 head-to-head record for Osaka says a lot, granted their match a few weeks ago was a close one, but it also showed that Osaka can overcome Kontaveit without playing her best on this surface. Expect Osaka to raise her level for this clash, it is Osaka who has proven that she raises her level at this stage of major events, whilst Kontaveit tends to go back into her shell, especially under pressure. Osaka has the greater power and consistency and should get the job done here.

Prediction: Naomi Osaka to defeat Anett Kontaveit in 2 sets
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Angelique Kerber vs. Jennifer Brady, US Open R4 Preview

2020 US OPEN – R4 preview + prediction: ??
?? (17) Angelique Kerber vs. ?? (28) Jennifer Brady

Angelique Kerber and Jennifer Brady will do battle for the first time with a spot in the US Open quarter-finals up for grabs. Kerber and Brady both stormed through the first week at Flushing Meadows without dropping a set and this encounter full of confidence. Who will prevail?

Angelique Kerber is through to the fourth round at the US Open for the first time since she won the event in 2016. The former world number 1 started her 202 US Open campaign with a 6/4 6/4 win over Ajla Tomljanovic, followed by a 6/3 7/6 victory over Anna-Lena Friedsam. Kerber sealed her spot in the final 16 thanks to a 6/3 6/4 triumph over Ann Li. It has been a surprisingly strong start to the event for Kerber who arrived in New York having not played a match since January.

Jennifer Brady is through to the fourth round at the US Open for the second time in her career. The American will be aiming to reach the quarter-finals at a major for the first time in her career. Brady entered this year’s US Open in career best form having won her first WTA Title in Lexington last month. Brady has been cruising through the draw in New York. The 25-year-old started the week with a 6/3 6/2 win over Anna Blinkova before smashing Cici Bellis 6/1 6/2. Brady booked her spot in the fourth round with a composed 6/3 6/3 win over Caroline Garcia, Brady didn’t drop serve in her win over the Frenchwoman.

I’m going to give the slight edge to Kerber in this match-up. It’s rare to have a first time match-up at this stage of a major tournament so it will be interesting to see how this one unfolds. Kerber is the proven champion and that counts for a lot heading into a big match on the biggest stage. Kerber’s counter-punching strengths should see her come through this match-up. Brady has a powerful game but it’s probably not powerful enough to consistently hit through Kerber, Kerber thrives on pace and will make life tough for Brady. Brady is also unlikely to outlast Kerber in a baseline scrap, Kerber has better movement and is more consistent. Experience and match-up seemingly favour Kerber.

Prediction: Angelique Kerber to defeat Jennifer Brady in 3 sets
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Madison Keys vs. Alize Cornet, US Open R3 Preview

2020 US OPEN – R3 preview + prediction: ??
?? (7) Madison Keys vs. ?? Alize Cornet

A third round match-up at Flushing Meadows featuring a huge contrast in styles sees the 7th seeded Madison Keys take on Alize Cornet. Keys has surprisingly beaten Cornet in all 3 of their previous meetings, despite the Frenchwoman having the weapons in her game to make life uncomfortable for Keys, Cornet has been in good form of late and will fancy her chances of causing an upset.

Madison Keys will be aiming to reach the second week at the US Open for the 6th consecutive year. The 2017 runner-up has cruised through her first couple of matches without really being tested, a 6/1 6/1 win over Timea Babos, followed by a 6/2 6/1 win over Aliona Zadoinov. The 7th seed will face her first real test of the tournament against Cornet, a far trickier opponent than her previous opponents this week.

Alize Cornet has already had a good couple of good weeks in New York. Cornet won a couple of matches at the Western & Southern Open, including a straight set win over reigning Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin. Cornet started her US Open campaign with a 6/3 1/6 6/0 win over Lauren Davis, followed by a 7/6 6/3 victory over Ysaline Bonaventure. Cornet will be aiming to reach the second week at the US Open for the first time having failed at the third round stage on 4 previous occasions.

Keys holds a 3-0 head-to-head record over Cornet. The most recent match-up between the pair took place at Wimbledon in 2016, Keys won 6/4 5/7 6/2.

I’m going to go for the upset here. I believe this is a troublesome match-up for Keys despite her winning record over the Frenchwoman. Cornet has been playing well over the last few weeks and has the versatility to cause big hitters like Keys to make too many errors. I’m sceptical of Keys heading into this match because she hasn’t been tested in her first few matches and will face a very, very tricky opponent here. I don’t think Keys is prepared for the challenge. Cornet has been moving very well over the last few weeks, if she can get into enough extended rallies, I think she will get the job done.

Prediction: Alize Cornet to defeat Madison Keys in 3 sets
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Serena Williams vs. Sloane Stephens, US Open R3 Preview

2020 US OPEN – R3 preview + prediction: ??
?? (4) Serena Williams vs. ?? (26) Sloane Stephens

Serena Williams continues her quest for a 24th major title on Saturday with a blockbuster third round clash against Sloane Stephens. This will surprisingly be the first meeting between the pair in over 5 years, the first real test of the tournament for Serena Williams. Can Stephens spoil the party, or will Williams be too strong?

All eyes are on Serena Williams at Flushing Meadows as she continues to battle for her first Grand Slam title since the 2017 Australian Open. Williams has claimed a pair of straight set victories on route to the third round, a 7/5 6/3 win over Kristie Ahn, followed by a 6/2 6/4 triumph over Margarita Gasparyan, neither of those victories were overly convincing and there are still big questions marks surroundings Serena’s ability to go all the way in New York.

Stephens has also moved into the third round without dropping a set. The 2017 US Open champion cruised past Michaela Buzarnescu 6/3 6/3 in the opening round, followed by a 6/2 6/2 victory over Olga Govortsova. Stephens has struggled in 2020 but often finds a way to peak at major events. Stephens hasn’t won 3 matches in a row at a tournament since Roland Garros last year. We will learn a lot more about how Stephens is playing when she faces Williams, a step up in opposition compared to her previous opponents this week.

Williams leads the head-to-head record at 5-1. Williams has won the last 4 meetings between the pair, two of those matches went the distance, including their most recent match which took place at Roland Garros in 2015, Williams won that match 1/6 7/5 6/3.

I’m going to go for the upset here and side with Stephens. I believe Stephens has all the necessary weapons to trouble Williams. All of Serena’s losses at majors over the last few years have come against a similar type of opponent, a top level counter-puncher, Angelique Kerber, Simona Halep, Bianca Andreescu, Naomi Osaka, Sofia Kenin and Wang Qiang. They all beat Williams in a similar fashion. They were all able to absorb the pace of Williams thanks to their fantastic movement, stick with Williams in neutral rallies, they all also had the ability to redirect power and hurt Williams by stretching her out wide and exposing her movement. Stephens has the perfect balance of fantastic movement and power behind her groundstrokes to win in a similar fashion. Williams hasn’t been impressive from the baseline since the tour restart, if Sloane can get into enough neutral rallies, she should be able to get the job done.

Prediction: Sloane Stephens to defeat Serena Williams in 3 sets
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Aryna Sabalenka vs. Victoria Azarenka US Open R2 Preview

2020 US OPEN – R2 preview + prediction: ??
?? (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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Anastasija Sevastova vs. Marta Kostyuk, US Open R2 Preview

2020 US OPEN – R2 preview + prediction: ??
?? (31) Anastasija Sevastova vs. ?? Marta Kostyuk

An interesting second round clash from Flushing Meadows on day 3 sees the 31st seeded Anastasija Sevastova come up against 18-year-old Marta Kostyuk. Sevastova’s strong record at Flushing Meadows goes on the line against a player on the rise.

Sevastova claimed another big victory on a major court at Flushing Meadows when she defeated Cori Gauff 6-3 5-7 6-4 on Louis Armstrong in her first-round match. A roller-coaster win for Sevastova who was at one stage up by a set and a break, a single break was enough in the deciding set for the 30-year-old. Sevastova will be aiming to reach the third round at the US Open for the fifth consecutive year, the US Open has been the Latvian’s most successful major where she reached the quarter-finals in 2016 and 2017, followed by a semi-final run in 2018.

Marta Kostyuk claimed her first main draw victory at the US Open and her first at a Grand Slam since her Australian Open breakthrough in 2018 with a comprehensive 6-1 6-2 win over Daria Kasatkina. A big win for the Ukrainian who now gets a chance to equal her best run at a major.

This will be the first career meeting between the pair. I’m going to side with the experienced Sevastova. Kostyuk is talented, a powerful player, but her game is still raw, and she may struggle against the versatility and unpredictability of Sevastova. Flushing Meadows is where Sevastova plays her best tennis, having finally claimed her first tour level victory of the season in the first round I expect Sevastova to play with more freedom and bamboozle her opponent.

Prediction: Anastasija Sevastova to defeat Marta Kostyuk in 2 sets
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Karolina Pliskova vs. Caroline Garcia, US Open R2 Preview

2020 US OPEN – R2 preview + prediction: ??
?? (1) Karolina Pliskova vs. ?? Caroline Garcia

Arguably the most intriguing second round match-up from the 2020 US Open sees the top seeded Karolina Pliskova take on the always-dangerous Caroline Garcia. Pliskova enters this match as a strong favourite but is unlikely to have things all her own way in a match-up that she has previously struggled in. A danger match for the top seed early in the tournament.

The 2020 US Open is perhaps Karolina Pliskova’s greatest chance to finally win a major title. Pliskova was the runner-up at Flushing Meadows in 2016 and will hoping she can go one step further in a weakened field with many of her main rivals not in attendance. Pliskova made a good start to the tournament with a 6-4 6-0 win over Anhelina Kalinina but will face a much, much tougher test in the next round.

The US Open has historically been Caroline Garcia’s least successful major, the only major that the Frenchwoman hasn’t reached the second week in singles. Nevertheless, Garcia made a solid start to her 2020 campaign at Flushing Meadows with an easy 6-3 6-2 win over Jasmine Paolini.

The head-to-head record between Pliskova and Garcia is split at 3 wins apiece. The most recent meeting between the pair saw Garcia emerge victorious in the 2018 Tianjin final, a 7-6 6-3 win for Garcia. All 6 of the previous meetings between the pair were tight matches, 3 of them went the distance, the other 3 were very close 2 set matches.

I’m going to go for the upset here. Garcia has what it takes to bring down the top seeded Pliskova. Garcia’s strong return of serve is the problem for Pliskova in this match-up, Garcia’s ability to handle the Pliskova serve is greater than most on tour, importantly Garcia can also manage her own service games nicely in this match-up. Meanwhile, Garcia has the greater flare and variety from the baseline and a stronger game at the net. The quick surface will give Garcia the chance to dominate and to rush Pliskova with her early ball striking and ability to quickly move up the court. The pressure is all on Pliskova in this match, another factor working in Garcia’s favour. Upset alert!

Prediction: Caroline Garcia to defeat Karolina Pliskova in 3 sets
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