WTA Cincinnati Open Preview

by Jack Suffers on August 16, 2015

The US hard court season steps up another gear this week as the WTA Tour heads to the Linder Family Tennis Center in Ohio for one of the biggest tournaments of the season below the Grand Slams. The event is arguably played on one of the quickest hard courts of the calendar – ideal preparation for the US Open which gets underway at the end of the month. Here’s a breakdown of the draw and who we might see in contention for the title.

Serena Williams quarter

Semi-finalist: Serena Williams
Vulnerable seed: Carla Suarez Navarro

williamsThere’s no doubt the world number one has gone through a slight lull after Wimbledon. First, she had an elbow injury which disrupted her schedule,  before being ousted in the Toronto semi-finals by Belinda Bencic, inflicting only her second defeat of the season. That result, and the fact she had won the first set, will probably make her even more determined to do well here. Serena completed the Cincinnati-US Open double last year for the first time in her career, and also made the final in 2013, when she lost to Victoria Azarenka, so it is a place with lots of good memories.

The American could face Sara Errani in the third round, who has shown surprisingly good hard court form in Toronto after mediocre performances on the surface in 2015, before sixth seed Ana Ivanovic lurks in the quarter-finals. A meeting there would be a rematch of last year’s final, which Serena won comfortably 6-4 6-1. The Serbian is hoping to put her quarter-final exit to Bencic in Toronto behind her and could be a threat if Serena is not feeling 100% physically, which many feel is the only barrier to her not picking up the title.

Also in this quarter is Venus Williams, who is likely to face Ivanovic in round two if she gets past Zarina Diyas, but the first round match to watch will be 10th seed Carla Suarez Navarro’s clash against Sloane Stephens, who picked up her first WTA title in Washington title last week. The American’s early defeat in Toronto was down to physical fatigue more than anything, and she could be a dangerous prospect here.

Petra Kvitova quarter

Semi-finalist: Angelique Kerber
Vulnerable seed: Petra Kvitova

kvitovaThe two-time Wimbledon champion is going through a rough spell at the moment, having revealed in Toronto that she diagnosed with mononucleosis. She gamely played the tournament, but lost in straight sets to Azarenka in the second round. It’s hard to tell what condition she will is in going into Cincinnati but, in any case, her performances here in recent years haven’t been anything to shout about. She gets a tough opener against either Caroline Garcia or Sabine Lisicki, whose serve is always dangerous on such a fast surface. After that, Kvitova could face Ukrainian 14th seed Elina Svitolina, who beat her in the first round last year. Eugenie Bouchard is also in this section, but can the Canadian revive her form with a good run? It seems unlikely.

The other section of this quarter features 7th seed Lucie Safarova, whose poor form in the big hard court events this year continued in Montreal with a loss to Daria Gavrilova in the first round. She could face big-hitting wildcard Coco Vandeweghe in the second round, and an upset there would surprise no one. However, the standout first round match is Angelique Kerber v Belinda Bencic, with the former having reached the final in 2012 and the latter showing excellent form to reach the last four in Toronto after knocking out Wozniacki, Lisicki and Ivanovic. But will youngster still have the energy to do well in Cincinnati? It’s uncertain, and this quarter in general is wide open.

Simona Halep quarter

Semi-finalist: Victoria Azarenka
Vulnerable seed: Caroline Wozniacki

halepThis section of the draw is probably the most loaded, with Halep, Wozniacki, Azarenka and Muguruza all vying for a semi-final spot. In reaching the last four in Montreal at the time of writing, Romanian Halep looks confident and back to her best on her favourite surface, and the quick courts at the Linder Family Tennis Center should suit her counter-punching style. Her first couple of matches don’t look too bad either, with Mladenovic and Petkovic being possible opponents, and the latter hasn’t got past the second round since 2011.

The top half of the quarter could see a third round clash between Wozniacki and Wimbledon finalist Muguruza, although both players lost their opening matches in Montreal and are still adapting to the surface. The former is likely to face 2013 champion Azarenka in a blockbuster second round clash, and the Dane will be hoping to seek revenge for her quarter-final exit that year. Meanwhile, Muguruza gets a qualifier before either Anastasia Pavyluchenkova or Roberta Vinci as she seeks to build some momentum after an understandable lull in the season.

Maria Sharapova quarter

Semi-finalist: Jelena Jankovic
Vulnerable seed: Agnieszka Radwanska

sharapovaThe Russian returns to the tour following a right leg strain which forced her to pull out of Toronto this week, and her past record suggests she knows her way around these courts. The 2nd seed won the title in 2011 and also reached the final the year before, but Agnieszka Radwanska’s recent ranking drop to 14 means the pair could meet as early as the third round. The Pole’s performances here have been unusually average given the quick conditions which suit her game, and she has fallen at the quarter-final stage the last three years. Her attitude this week will also be interesting to monitor, as she was beaten by Halep in Toronto after winning the opening set 6-0.

The top half of this quarter sees a fascinating first round meeting between Madison Keys and Timea Bacsinszky in what should be a classic big hitter v counterpuncher match-up. And the winner of that will be desperate that home hope Madison Brengle can upset Jelena Jankovic, who won the title in 2009 and was runner-up in 2011. Therefore, 8th seed Karolina Pliskova, who is competing in the main draw for the first time, looks to have the easiest start of the top players, with the Czech facing either Sam Stosur or a qualifier in round two. Like the second quarter, this part of the draw is pretty open, so don’t be surprised if we get an unexpected semi-finalist here.

Tournament predictions

Semi-final 1: Serena Williams d. Angelique Kerber

Semi-final 2: Jelena Jankovic d. Victoria Azarenka

Final: Serena Williams d. Jelena Jankovic

About The Author

has written 3 awesome posts on Betting on Tennis.

Jack is a glutten for punishment obviously, follow him and feel his pain following the WTA