Naomi Osaka vs. Victoria Azarenka, CincyTennis Final Preview

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

Johanna Konta vs. Victoria Azarenka, CincyTennis SF Preview

?? 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

Naomi Osaka vs. Elise Mertens, CincyTennis SF Preview

?? Western & Southern Open – SF Preview + Prediction: ?
?? (4) Naomi Osaka vs. ?? (14) Elise Mertens

The 4th seeded Naomi Osaka comes up against the 14th seeded Elise Mertens at the semi-final stage of the 2020 Western & Southern Open in New York. Osaka has done well to get through a couple of tricky matches this week and enters the semi-final stage as the highest remaining seed, can the Japanese star make it all the way to the final?

Elise Mertens has won more main draw matches than any other player since the tour restart. Mertens reached the final on clay in Prague a few weeks ago and is now into the final 4 at the Western & Southern Open. Mertens has secured 3 commanding straight set wins over Rebecca Peterson, Veronika Kudermetova and Jessica Pegula, In between those wins Mertens was pushed to 3 sets by Kristina Mladenovic. Mertens has now won 8 of her last 9 matches at Flushing Meadows having reached the US Open quarter-finals last year.

It has been a roller-coaster ride for Osaka on route to the semi-finals. The 2-time major champion started the event with a gallant 6-7 6-4 6-2 win over Karolina Muchova before hammering Dayana Yastremska 6-3 6-1. Osaka looked down and out in her quarter-final clash with Anett Kontaveit when she trailed by a set and an early break, however Osaka displayed her champion qualities as she turned the match around to win 4-6 6-2 7-5.

The head-to-head record between the pair is split at 1 win apiece. Osaka won the most recent match between the pair, a 6-4 6-1 win in Osaka last year, while Mertens won 6-4 1-6 6-4 in Wuhan back in 2017.

This is a tough match to call, a seemingly even match-up between two players with a lot to offer. Osaka’s best is better, but can she consistently play at a high enough level to get the better of an in-form Mertens? I’m leaning towards no. Osaka’s level has been very inconsistent this week. Both have played a lot of tennis over a short period of time this week and will be thinking of conserving energy for the US Open, especially Osaka. Mertens is hard to beat when she is on a roll. Mertens is a fantastic counter-puncher, especially on a quick hard court surface, a solid, consistent effort from Mertens could see her grind out a victory over Osaka.

Prediction: Elise Mertens to defeat Naomi Osaka in 3 sets

Johanna Konta vs. Maria Sakkari, CincyTennis QF Preview

?? Western & Southern Open – QF Preview + Prediction:
?? (8) Johanna Konta vs. ?? (13) Maria Sakkari

The fourth and final quarter-final of the day at the Western & Southern Open sees the 8th seeded Johanna Konta take on the 13th seeded Maria Sakkari In New York.

Johanna Konta received a bye through round one before storming through her first couple of matches at Flushing Meadows. Konta started the event with a 6-2 6-0 win over Kristen Flipkens before defeating Vera Zvonareva 6-4 6-2. An important couple of wins for Konta given she lost to Maria Bouzkova in straight sets in her return event in Lexington a few weeks ago.

Maria Sakkari also claimed a pair of straight set wins in her first few matches of the event. Sakkari defeated Cori Gauff 6-1 6-3 before defeating Yulia Putintseva 6-4 7-6. Sakkari’s biggest win came in the third round as she defeated Serena Williams 5-7 7-6 6-1 in what was a strange match. Sakkari was down and out on a few occasions in the second set but managed to stick around and snatch the second set. Sakkari didn’t need to do much in the third set as Williams imploded on the other side of the net.

Konta holds a 3-1 head-to-head record over Sakkari. The most recent meeting between the pair took place on grass in Eastbourne last year, Konta won that match 6-4 7-6. Sakkari’s only previous victory over the Brit was on clay in the Rabat final last year, a 2-6 6-4 6-1 victory.

This is a tough match to call, probably the most evenly matched quarter-final of the day. I’m going to give the slight edge to Sakkari. It’s hard to read much into Konta’s victories this week, she was never really tested, Sakkari will test the Brit. Sakkari has come through some tough situations on a few occasions this week and that could give her the edge in what should be a close match. Sakkari showed against Williams that she can live with power from the other side of the net and then attack when she has the chance, a similar approach will be needed to get the win here.

Prediction: Maria Sakkari to defeat Johanna Konta in 3 sets

Ons Jabeur vs. Victoria Azarenka, CincyTennis QF Preview

?? 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

Elise Mertens vs. Jessica Pegula, CincyTennis QF Preview

?? Western & Southern Open – QF Preview + Prediction:
?? (14) Elise Mertens vs. ?? (Q) Jessica Pegula

The first quarter-final of the day at the Western & Southern Open in New York sees the 14th seeded Elise Mertens come up against a red-hot Jessica Pegula. This will be the first career meeting between the pair, who will prevail?

Elise Mertens has been one of the most successful players since the tour resumption. The Belgian reached the final in Prague a few weeks back, Mertens has transitioned very nicely from clay to hard courts to reach the final 8 at Flushing Meadows. The 24-year-old cruised through her opening round match with a 6-0 6-2 win over Rebecca Peterson before scrapping past Kristina Mladenovic 6-1 6-7 6-3. Mertens booked her spot in the quarter-finals with a 6-2 6-3 victory over Veronika Kudermetova.

Jessica Pegula has already won 5 matches this week having come through the qualifying draw, the 26-year-old is the only remaining qualifier in the draw. The American has picked up 3 big victories in the main draw over more fancied opponents. Pegula defeated an in-form Jennifer Brady 7-6 6-4 in the first round before beating Amanda Anisimova 7-5 6-2. Pegula scored an important top 10 win to book her spot in the final 8 when she beat Aryna Sabalenka 6-2 2-6 6-3.

This is a big opportunity for both players, both will see this as a very winnable match. I’m going to side with Mertens here. Pegula has already played a lot of tennis this week and had her left thigh heavily strapped in the previous round. It’s safe to assume Mertens will be the fresher of the two heading into this match, this could be an important factor in a match-up that will feature a good amount of long rallies given the similar playing styles of the pair. Mertens also has the edge when it comes to experiences in big matches at the later stages of events like this.

Prediction: Elise Mertens to defeat Jessica Pegula in 3 sets

Serena Williams vs. Maria Sakkari, CincyTennis R3 Preview

?? Western & Southern Open – R3 Preview + Prediction:
?? (3) Serena Williams vs. ?? (13) Maria Sakkari

Serena Williams continues her US Open preparations on Tuesday evening with a third round clash against the 13th seeded Maria Sakkari at the Western & Southern Open in New York. Williams is coming off a marathon victory in her first outing of the tournament and is potentially vulnerable heading into this clash against a player that’s been in great form this week. Can Sakkari pull off the upset?

Maria Sakkari has picked up a pair of straight set victories to reach the third round at Flushing Meadows. The 25-year-old started the week with an impressive 6-1 6-3 thrashing of the much-hyped Cori Gauff. Sakkari was forced to work much harder for her second round victory and did well to overcome Yulia Putintseva 6-4 7-6. Sakkari saved a pair of set points in an epic second set tiebreak which she eventually won 11-9 to secure a hard-fought win over the Kazakh.

Serena Williams is making a habit of getting herself into lengthy battles against opponents she would expect to beat comfortably. All 3 of Serena’s matches went the distance in her first tournament back at the Top Seed Open in Lexington. The 23-time Grand Slam champion made a similarly unconvincing start to her Western & Southern Open campaign, a 7-6 3-6 7-6 win over Arantxa Rus in a match that last just over 3 hours. Williams will have a little over 24 hours to recover for her clash against Sakkari, a potentially problematic scenario for the 38-year-old.

The only previous meeting between the pair took place at the Hopman Cup in 2018, Williams won that match 7-6 6-2.

I’m going to side with Sakkari here. The biggest factor heading into this match is the limited rest Williams has coming off a gruelling 3-hour match in extreme heat. Williams herself admitted she struggled physically during that match, the American will be made to work for every point against Sakkari, so she will need to recover quickly. Conversely, Sakkari comes into this match full of confidence after a pair of straight set wins over tough opponents and will be very keen to claim a victory over such an icon of the game. Sakkari is the type of opponent Williams has struggled with over the last few years, a counter-puncher with weapons. If Sakkari can make this a physical battle, she is likely to come out on top, especially with Williams having one eye on the US Open next week. 

Prediction: Maria Sakkari to defeat Serena Williams in 3 sets

Simona Halep vs. Kiki Bertens, Cincinnati Final Preview

?? Western & Southern Open, Cincinnati Final Preview
?? (1) Simona Halep vs. ?? Kiki Bertens

Simona Halep will be looking to extend her winning streak and strengthen her hold at the top of the rankings when she takes on Kiki Bertens in Sunday’s final at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati. Halep and Bertens are arguably the two form players over the last month, expect a high quality final between two extremely confident competitors. Halep has had the better of this match-up in the past but this will be their first match on a hard court in almost a decade. Can Bertens take down the world number 1 to win the biggest title of her career?

Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands in action during her second-round match at the 2018 Western & Southern Open WTA Premier 5 tennis tournament

Simona Halep is on a roll, full of confidence and at the top of her game. Halep arrived in Cincinnati straight from a gruelling final win over Sloane Stephens at the Rogers Cup. It would have been understandable if Halep took this tournament lightly, to the contrary she has been extremely strong on route to her 6th final of the year. The world number 1 made a slow start to the event with a 3 set win over Ajla Tomljanovic before beating Ashleigh Barty, Lesia Tsurenko and Aryna Sabalenka in straight sets. Halep’s ability to take down a red-hot Sabalenka was certainly a confidence boosting win.

It has been an outstanding month for Kiki Bertens. Bertens arrived in Cincinnati fresh from back-to-back quarter-final appearances at Wimbledon and the Rogers Cup. Bertens rolled through her first couple of matches, beating CoCo Vandeweghe and Caroline Wozniacki, dropping a combined 6 games. Bertens then required 3 sets to get by Anett Kontaveit in an injury interrupted match before producing her best performance in a straight set demolition of Elina Svitolina. Bertens booked her spot in the final with a gutsy 3-6 6-4 6-2 win over Petra Kvitova to give herself a chance to win a maiden hard court title.

Halep holds a 3-1 H2H record over Bertens. Halep won the two recent meetings between the pair, both in straight sets: 7-5 6-1 in Rome last year and 6-4 6-3 at Wimbledon in 2016. This will be the first meeting between the two on a hard court in almost 8 years.

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

Angelique Kerber vs. Madison Keys, Cincinnati R3 Preview

?? Western & Southern Open, Cincinnati R3 Preview
?? (4) Angelique Kerber vs. ?? (13) Madison Keys

Angelique Kerber and Madison will renew hostilities when they meet at the third round stage of the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati. Kerber has dominated this match-up in the past, the German holds a convincing 7-1 record over the American and therefore enters this match as a strong favourite. Nevertheless, Kerber has looked vulnerable since her Wimbledon triumph so Keys is not without a chance here.

Angelique Kerber of Germany in action during her second-round match at the 2018 Western & Southern Open WTA Premier 5 tennis tournament

Angelique Kerber arrived in Cincinnati having not won a match since her Wimbledon triumph last month. It seemed like Kerber would leave Cincinnati winless when she dropped the opening set of her second round match with Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, but Kerber rebounded to claim a hard-fought 4-6 7-5 6-4 victory. It was a topsy-turvy match, momentum swung wildly throughout. Ultimately it was Kerber who consistently found a better level in a high quality final set. A significant win for Kerber. Kerber received a bye through the opening round.

Madison Keys also survived a first-up scare in Cincinnati. Keys was down a set and a break against Bethanie Mattek-Sands in her opening round match but remained strong to bounce back and record a 3-6 7-6 6-4 win over a troublesome opponent. Keys produced a much better performance in her second round match as she easily defeated Camila Giorgi 6-2 6-2 to set up another clash with Kerber.

Kerber holds a 7-1 H2H record over Keys. Kerber has won all 6 of the previous meetings between the pair on a hard court, including a 6-1 6-2 thrashing at the Australian Open earlier this year in what was their most recent clash.

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

Caroline Garcia vs. Aryna Sabalenka, Cincinnati R3 Preview

?? Western & Southern Open, Cincinnati R3 Preview
?? (6) Caroline Garcia vs. ?? Aryna Sabalenka

Caroline Garcia and Aryna Sabalenka will go head-to-head for the first time on Thursday when they meet at the third round stage of the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati. This looms as an exciting clash between two confident, aggressive, young competitors. Garcia and Sabalenka both enter this clash in great form, it will be interesting to see how this match-up pans out.

Caroline Garcia of France in action during the first round at the 2018 Western & Southern Open WTA Premier 5 tennis tournament

Caroline Garcia is starting to build momentum after a disappointing grass court swing. The Frenchwoman arrived in Cincinnati fresh off a quarter-final appearance in Montreal, Garcia defeated Magdalena Rybarikova and Maria Sharapova in Montreal which saw her reach enter the top 5 for the first time. Garcia started her Cincinnati campaign with another notable victory, defeating Victoria Azarenka 6-4 7-5, a gutsy win given Garcia was behind in each set.

Aryna Sabalenka also arrived in Cincinnati on the back of a good week in Montreal. Sabalenka claimed a big 3-set win over Caroline Wozniacki on route to a third round showing in Montreal. Sabalenka came from match point down to beat Wozniacki but lost from match point up against Elise Mertens in the next round. Sabalenka has already claimed 2 huge wins in Cincinnati, coming from a set down to defeat both Johanna Konta and Karolina Pliskova. The Belarusian’s fearless game is seeing her rise and rise up the WTA pecking order and there are no signs of that stopping.

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