1. Li Na v Sara Errani (White Group)
Li Na will make her debut at this year’s YEC on Wednesday in the first match of the day against Sara Errani. The Italian kicked off her championships today and started brightly with plenty of variety, but was eventually worn down by Victoria Azarenka‘s greater poise in the key moments, 7-6(4) 6-2. Li has had a remarkably solid end to the year and commented in her interviews pre-tournament that this has been her best year because she has managed to maintain her consistency throughout the whole year. I would agree and I think Li will qualify with ease from this group.
Li has a significant edge in her head-to-head with Errani and has won all 5 of their previous encounters with Errani winning no more than 4 games in a set of their last 4 matches. Errani proved today that she can be a tricky customer on the slow Istanbul court, but there will be concerns about the calf injury she picked up in the match with Azarenka and I think Li will stroll to victory in this one.
Prediction – Li to beat Errani in 2 sets
2. Victoria Azarenka v Jelena Jankovic (White Group)
It was a slow start for Victoria Azarenka in the opening match of the tournament, but she eventually fought past Sara Errani to take a 1-0 lead in the white group. Her second match will be against Jelena Jankovic, who makes her return to the YEC, which she last played in Doha, 2010 and lost all three of her group matches. Jelena, now coached by her brother, looks to be in a good place with her tennis and she will have absolutely no pressure going into this tournament and particularly this match. Azarenka leads the head-to-head by 5 wins to 3, but has won their last 4 matches. The last time they played was in Cincy where Vika won a dramatic and break-happy 3 set semi-final, 4-6 6-2 6-3. I think this could be another long match with many breaks and Azarenka prevailing, barely.
Prediction – Azarenka to beat Jankovic in 3 sets
3. Serena Williams v Agnieszka Radwanska (Red Group)
For the fourth time this year, Serena Williams and Agnieszka Radwanska will meet on a tennis court. All of their previous clashes this year have been in semi-finals, but I do not see a different outcome in this one. Radwanska put in a great performance when they played in Montreal this year, pushing the match to 7-6(3) 6-4, but the depth and weight of Serena’s strokes compared to Radwanska’s will always make this a one-sided contest. In yesterday’s action, Serena strolled to a 6-3 6-1 victory over Angelique Kerber, meanwhile Radwanska was edged out in 2 sets by Petra Kvitova. I do not have much more to add to this match-up…
Prediction – Serena to beat Radwanska in 2 sets