??? 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