??? Roland Garros, R2 preview + prediction: ?? (10) Victoria Azarenka vs. ?? Anna Karolina Schmiedlova
A red-hot Victoria Azarenka comes up against Anna Karolina Schmiedlova at the second round stage in Paris. Azarenka is one of the form players on tour at the moment, fresh from a runner-up appearance at the US Open the Belarusian has quickly found her footing on the red clay having reached the final 8 in Rome a few weeks ago. Azarenka enters this second round clash as a big favourite.
Azarenka made a strong start to her 2020 Roland Garros campaign when she easily defeated Danka Kovinic 6-1 6-2. Azarenka wasn’t pleased with the cold, rainy conditions, but her tennis certainly wasn’t thrown off by the conditions. Roland Garros has traditionally been Azarenka’s least successful major, unsurprisingly given clay has traditionally been Azarenka’s least successful surface, the 2-time major winner hasn’t reached the third round in Paris since 2015.
Schmiedlova broke a run of 4 consecutive opening round exits at Roland Garros thanks to a 6-4 6-4 victory over Venus Williams on day 1 of the 2020 tournament. Schmiedlova’s equal best run at a major took place in Paris back in 2014. Clay is Schmiedlova’s best surface but her mediocre results over the last few years haven’t reflected the talent she possesses.
This will be the first career meeting between the pair.
Azarenka is rightfully the big favourite heading into this match given her superb recent form. However, Schmiedlova has the game to make this closer than expected. Schmiedlova is one player that will enjoy the heavy conditions in Paris, conditions that could bring this match closer. Schmiedlova has a powerful return of serve and a handy drop shot, a few shots that are important against Azarenka, to punish the Belarusian’s weak second serve and to move her off the baseline. Schmiedlova has nothing to lose and a dangerous game. Nevertheless, Azarenka should prevail here, she is a class above and full of confidence at the moment.
Prediction: Victoria Azarenka to defeat Anna Karolina Schmiedlova in 3 sets
Internazionali BNL d’Italia, Rome QF preview + prediction ?? (9) Garbine Muguruza vs. ?? Victoria Azarenka
A blockbuster quarter-final clash in Rome sees a pair of 2-time major champions go head-to-head when the 9th seeded Garbine Muguruza takes on the red-hot Victoria Azarenka. Muguruza is a dangerous player on clay, the 2016 Roland Garros champion will fancy her chances here.
Muguruza has beaten 3 dangerous opponents on route to the quarter-finals in Rome. The Spaniard started the event with a 6-3 6-3 win over Sloane Stephens before outlasting Coric Gauff 7-6 3-6 6-3. Muguruza produced her most impressive performance of the tournament in the third round where she beat the 7th seeded Johanna Konta 6-4 6-1.
Azarenka is the form player on tour having won 14 of her last 15 matches. Fresh from a runner-up showing at the US Open, Azarenka has shown little signs of slowing down in Rome. Azarenka started the event with a hard-fought 7-6 6-2 win over Venus Williams before smashing the third seeded Sofia Kenin 6-0 6-0. The Belarussian secured her spot in the final 8 via a retirement when Kasatkina injured herself at 6-6 in the opening set of their third round match.
Azarenka holds a 2-1 head-to-head record over Muguruza. Azarenka defeated Muguruza via a retirement in Rome last year. Their only completed match without a retirement was in Miami 2016, Azarenka won 7-6 7-6.
This is a very tough match to call. I’m going to go for the upset here. Muguruza has the game and the form to bring down Azarenka. If Muguruza is patient and is able to execute her game, she should be able to overpower Azarenka on a clay court. Muguruza’s aggressive returns and ability to move up the court will help her in this matchup. However, if Muguruza is off her game, Azarenka will be too solid. Muguruza seems to be playing well enough to suggest she will produce a good performance in this match.
Prediction: Garbine Muguruza to defeat Victoria Azarenka in 3 sets
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
2020 US OPEN – QF preview + prediction: ?? ?? (16) Elise Mertens vs. ?? Victoria Azarenka
Wednesday’s second quarter-final from the 2020 US Open sees the 16th seeded Elise Mertens come up against 2-time former finalist Victoria Azarenka. This will be the first career meeting between Mertens and Azarenka, an exciting match-up between a pair of red-hot opponents.
Elise Mertens has stormed into a second consecutive quarter-final at the US Open without dropping a single set. Mertens moved through the first week with wins over 3 unseeded opponents, a 6-2 6-2 win over Laura Siegemund, a 6-3 7-5 victory over Sara Sorribes Tormo, followed by a 7-5 6-1 triumph over Caty McNally. Mertens produced her most impressive performance in the fourth round where she totally outplayed the 2nd seeded Sofia Kenin to record a 6-3 6-3 victory, perhaps the best anyone has played all tournament.
Victoria Azarenka is the form player on tour, the former world number 1 is on a 9-match winning streak having won the Western & Southern Open last week. Azarenka also moved through the first week of the tournament with ease, defeating Barbara Haas 6-1 6-2, the 5th seeded Aryna Sabalenka 6-1 6-3 and Iga Swiatek 6-4 6-2. Azarenka’s biggest test came at the fourth round stage where she snuck past the 20th seeded Karolina Muchova 5-7 6-1 6-4, Azarenka was initially outplayed until Muchova became injured.
I’m going to side with Mertens here. Mertens was extremely impressive in her win over Kenin and will get the job done with a similar level in this match-up. Azarenka is on a roll but there are holes in her game, most notably her serve. Mertens has a strong return of serve and should take advantage of Azarenka’s weak serve. Mertens can match Azarenka from the back of the court, I don’t think Azarenka can consistently hit through Mertens and I would favour Mertens to outlast Azarenka in a baseline battle.
Prediction: Elise Mertens to defeat Victoria Azarenka in 2 sets
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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Western & Southern Open – F: preview + prediction: ?? (4) Naomi Osaka vs. ?? Victoria Azarenka
A blockbuster final between a pair of 2-time major champions and former world number 1’s will decide who takes home the 2020 Western & Southern Open crown. The 4th seeded Naomi Osaka takes on Victoria Azarenka. Expect a high-quality baseline battle here between two proven champions, who will prevail?
It has been a roller-coaster week for Naomi Osaka at Flushing Meadows in her first event since the tour restart. Osaka started the week with a hard-fought 3 set win over Karolina Muchova before comfortably defeating Dayana Yastremska in straight sets. The 22-year-old was again forced to fight from a set down in her quarter-final clash with Anett Kontaveit before booking her spot in the Saturday’s final with a 6-2 7-6 win over Elise Mertens. It has also been a big week for Osaka off the court after her decision not to take to the court for Thursday’s planned semi-final led to the entire tournament being delayed by a day.
Victoria Azarenka is having her best week on tour in years. The Belarusian stormed through her first 4 matches of the week without dropping a single set, recording wins over Donna Vekic, Caroline Garcia, Alize Cornet and Ons Jabeur. The 2013 Western & Southern Open champion faced her greatest test in the semi-finals where she claimed an impressive 4-6 6-4 6-1 comeback win over Johanna Konta. Azarenka’s return of serve has always been one of her greatest weapons and it did the damage against Konta. Heading into their semi-final clash Konta hadn’t dropped serve all week, the Brit didn’t drop serve in the opening set on Friday before Azarenka broke the Brit’s serve on 5 occasions over the next few sets to make a real statement.
Osaka holds a 2-1 head-to-head record over Azarenka. The most recent meeting between the pair took place at Roland Garros last year, Osaka claimed a dramatic 4-6 7-5 6-3 victory despite being outplayed for most of the opening 2 sets.
I’m going to go for the upset here, I think Azarenka has what it takes to defeat Osaka in this final. Azarenka has been at her counter-punching best this week, she will get a chance to play the type of tennis she loves against Osaka. Azarenka thrives on hard, flat hitting from the other side of the net, she gets that against Osaka. The pair play a very similar game, in this situation I’ll side with the tactically astute Azarenka who has been smothering her opponents all week. It feels like there is much more pressure on Osaka heading into this final, Osaka has been the talk of the town over the last few days and that may very well work against her heading into the championship match.
Prediction: Victoria Azarenka to defeat Naomi Osaka in 3 sets
?? Western & Southern Open – SF Preview + Prediction: ? ?? (8) Johanna Konta vs. ?? Victoria Azarenka
An intriguing semi-final clash from the Western & Southern Open sees the 8th seeded Johanna Konta take on a resurgent Victoria Azarenka. Expect a tough contest between two damaging baseline hitters and two in form players, neither have dropped a set this week and both will enter this clash full of confidence.
Johanna Konta has cruised into the final 4 at Flushing Meadows. Konta started the week with a 6-2 6-0 win over Kirsten Flipkens followed by a 6-4 6-2 win over Vera Zvonareva. Konta secured her spot in the final 4 with a clinical 6-4 6-3 win over Maria Sakkari. Konta is yet to drop serve all tournament, the Brit saved the only two break points she has faced over her first 3 matches this week in her win over Sakkari, a dominant serving record.
Victoria Azarenka is having one of her best weeks on tour in many years. Azarenka started the event with a 6-2 6-3 win over Donna Vekic, followed by a 6-2 7-6 win over Caroline Garcia, a pair of opponents Azarenka had never previously beaten. The former number 1 followed up those victories with a 6-4 7-5 win over Alize Cornet and an especially hard-fought 7-6 6-2 win over Ons Jabeur, Azarenka saved 4 set points in a high quality, intense opening set against the Tunisian before running away with the match in the second.
The pair have split their two previously completed matches. Azarenka won 6-4 6-2 in Indian Wells back in 2016, whilst Konta prevailed 6-3 6-1 in their most recent match-up in Montreal in 2018.
Whilst I have been impressed with Azarenka’s performances this week, I think this is where her run comes to an end. At this stage in their respective careers it is Konta who should have the edge from the baseline and on serve. Konta has the more dynamic game from the baseline and enjoys these types of match-ups where she can feed off the pace off Azarenka but not be overpowered. Konta also has the far more consistent serve, which will allow her to get on top of most rallies. Azarenka is in great form and will of course put up a great fight, should be a close match.
Prediction: Johanna Konta to defeat Victoria Azarenka in 3 sets
?? Western & Southern Open – QF Preview + Prediction: ?? Ons Jabeur vs. ?? Victoria Azarenka
A resurgent Victoria Azarenka will be looking to reach the semi-finals of the Western & Southern Open for the first time since she won the event in 2013 when she comes up against Ons Jabeur on Wednesday. This will be the first career meeting between the pair, an interesting match-up, a big opportunity for both to the reach the final 4.
Ons Jabeur continues to impress in 2020. This hasn’t been a good year for most, for Jabeur it has been a great year. Jabeur reached a Grand Slam QF for the first time earlier this year at the Australian Open and is now into the final 8 at the Western & Southern Open for the first time. Jabeur battled past Leylah Fernandez 0-6 6-4 6-3 in the first round before upsetting the 7th seed and defending champion Madison Keys 6-4 6-1. Jabeur booked her spot in the final 8 with a commanding 6-3 6-0 win over Christina McHale.
Azarenka is having a great week in New York. The 2-time former US Open finalist has a great record at this venue and could be on the verge of another big result at Flushing Meadows. Azarenka started the week with a 6-2 6-3 win over Donna Vekic, followed by a 6-2 7-6 win over Caroline Garcia, a pair of important wins given Azarenka had never previously beaten either of those opponents. Azarenka booked her spot in the final 8 with a hard-fought 6-4 7-5 win over an in-form Alize Cornet.
I like Azarenka in this match-up. Jabeur is certainly playing great tennis right now, but I think she could be exposed in this match-up. Azarenka isn’t usually bothered by versatile opponents; the former world number 1 can handle the different looks Jabeur will throw at her. Azarenka’s baseline game has looked great this week, especially her backhand. If Azarenka is on her game, she won’t allow Jabeur to spin her webs, Azarenka’s power from the baseline and ability to take the ball early and move up the court can expose the poor movement of Jabeur.
Prediction: Victoria Azarenka to defeat Ons Jabeur in 2 sets
?? Western & Southern Open – R3 Preview + Prediction: ?? Victoria Azarenka vs. ?? Alize Cornet
An unseeded pair go head-to-head for a place in the quarter-finals at the Western & Southern Open when Victoria Azarenka takes on Alize Cornet on Tuesday afternoon in New York. Azarenka holds a dominant 6-0 record over Cornet, can the in-form Frenchwoman finally snatch her first win over the former world number 1?
Azarenka is having a great week at Flushing Meadows. Azarenka has beaten a pair of players she has struggled against in the past, a 6/2 6/3 win over Donna Vekic followed by a 6/2 7/6 win over Caroline Garcia. Prior to this week Azarenka had a 0/5 record against the pair. Azarenka is moving well and striking the ball with authority from the baseline, showing signs of the player that twice reached the US Open finals at this very venue.
Alize Cornet is also on a roll in New York. Cornet started the event with a dominant 6/0 6/4 win over Catty McNally before upsetting the second seeded Sofia Kenin 6/1 7/6. The movement of Cornet has been the standout, especially in her win over Kenin where she was tracking down ball after ball, drawing error after error from the reigning Australian Open champion. An even greater effort will be required if Cornet is to finally defeat Azarenka.
Azarenka has won all 6 of the previous meetings between the pair. 3 of those victories were in straight sets, including their two most recent matches. Azarenka defeated Cornet 6/4 6/4 at Wimbledon last year in their latest encounter.
There’s a reason Cornet has never beaten Azarenka. This is simply a bad match-up for Cornet. Azarenka enjoys these types of matchups where she can’t be overpowered or rushed. Azarenka will be full of confidence heading into this match after 2 big wins this week and has the formula to take care of Cornet. Azarenka is usually too strong for Cornet because she has a cleaner strike off both sides, returns better and has a stronger first serve.
Prediction: Victoria Azarenka to defeat Alize Cornet in 2 sets
???? US OPEN, R1 match preview ?? (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