???? 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.