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.