Carlsbad & Washington, Wednesday’s Ones to Watch: Azarenka-Schiavone, Petkovic-Barthel

1. Victoria Azarenka v Francesca Schiavone (Carlsbad, R2)
Victoria Azarenka

2013 has been a bit of a rollercoaster year for Victoria Azarenka.  The first few months could not have been much better for Vika as she claimed her second Australian Open title in January and earnt a win over the world number one, Serena Williams in Doha.  However since Indian Wells, Azarenka has been a dealt a number of injuries that have halted her progress.  Carlsbad marks another return from injury, this time after a bad fall at Wimbledon that forced her to pull out of the tournament before her second round match.  

First up is Francesca Schiavone, who came through a crazy opening round match with fellow Italian, Flavia Pennetta, 7-6(4) 6-7(6) 6-4 in a match two minutes shy of the three hour mark.  The first set featured 12 consecutive breaks of serve, a feat I have not witnessed since I started following tennis closely.  They last met at Roland Garros where Azarenka was emphatic in victory and although there will be rust for sure, I do not think Schiavone has the beating of Azarenka here. 
Prediction – Azarenka to beat Schiavone in 2 sets

2. Andrea Petkovic v Mona Barthel (WTA Washington, R2)
An all-German affair tops the bill on the ladies side in Washington as the resurgent Andrea Petkovic takes on the number six seed, Mona Barthel.  Like 2012, Barthel made a strong start to the season with a second WTA title in Paris, but a failure to perform well at the big events has prevented her from moving further up the rankings.  In round one, Barthel had her most convincing win in months as she defeated Stephanie Voegele, 6-2 6-2.  Petkovic is still finding her feet on the tour again and she beat the American qualifier, Jessica Pegula, 6-2 7-5 on Monday.  This will be a first career meeting and although Barthel is ahead in the rankings, Petkovic would be my favourite based on her superior consistency, even at this relatively early stage of her comeback.

Prediction – Petkovic to beat Barthel in 2 tight sets

3. Juan Martin del Potro v Ryan Harrison (ATP Washington, R2)
Del Potro

Juan Martin del Potro returns to action on Wednesday for the first time since that cracking semi-final at Wimbledon where pushed Novak Djokovic in a five set thriller.  His first opponent is Ryan Harrison, who earnt an impressive win over Lleyton Hewitt in the first round, 6-3 7-5.  Harrison has not had a great 2013 and is currently languishing at number 107 in the rankings.  However he has started to turn things around of late as he made the semi-finals in Atlanta last week.  Once again, he has a tough draw, but there are signs he is starting to come back.  In this one, I think DelPo will open with a win.

Prediction – Del Potro to beat Harrison in 2 tight sets
4. Petra Kvitova v  Laura Robson (Carlsbad, R2)
A quick addition to the preview for the first match today in Carlsbad, which will see an Australian Open rematch between Petra Kvitova and Laura Robson.  The Brit had a gruelling opener against Ayumi Morita as she rallied from a set down and within two points from losing the match to win, 4-6 7-5 6-2.  It was a solid win since Robson had lost to Morita when they last played in Oeiras.  This will be Kvitova’s first match since Wimbledon where she lost to Kirsten Flipkens in the quarters.  She has posted on Twitter about working especially hard in the last three weeks and she will need to hit the ground running against Robson, who always raises her games for the top players.  It was Robson who edged out Kvitova in Melbourne in an error-strewn affair.  but I think Petra will just sneak this one…

Prediction – Kvitova to beat Robson in 3 tough sets

Best of the rest: WTA Carlsbad 2nd Round Predictions

Roberta Vinci to beat Bethanie Mattek-Sands in 2 tight sets
Sam Stosur to beat Sesil Karatantcheva in 2 sets

Best of the rest: WTA Washington 2nd Round Predictions
Julien Benneteau to beat Mardy Fish in 3 sets
Ivan Dodig to beat Tobias Kamke in 2 tight sets
Radek Stepanek to beat Michael Llodra in 2 sets
John Isner to beat Alex Kuznetsov in 2 tight sets
Tommy Haas to beat Tim Smyczek in 2 sets
Kei Nishikori to beat Jack Sock in 3 sets
Gilles Simon to beat Dmitry Tursunov in 3 sets
Kevin Anderson to beat James Duckworth in 2 tight sets

Best of the rest: WTA Washington 2nd Round Predictions
Angelique Kerber to beat Melanie Oudin in 2 sets
Magdalena Rybarikova to beat Jana Cepelova in 3 sets
Olga Puchkova to beat Paula Ormaechea in 2 sets

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