WTA US Open, Day 5 Preview Part 1: Kerber v Bencic, Safarova v Cornet

Ana Ivanovic was the latest seed to fall at this year’s US Open after a surprising 7-5 6-4 loss to Karolina Pliskova.   It means that Ivanovic has lost before the third round at the last three Grand Slams.  It was disappointing because this was a really good draw for the Serb.  Credit though to Pliskova, who has had an impressive year and will have opportunities to go deeper in the draw.  One of Flavia Pennetta, Karolina Pliskova, Casey Dellacqua and Nicole Gibbs will make the quarter-finals.  After struggling to find interesting matches to preview from the second round, i’m double-parting my women’s preview for the third round matches from the bottom half because there are so many cracking matches to choose from!

1. Angelique Kerber v Belinda Bencic (WTA US Open, R3)

Bencic

Belinda Bencic has done remarkably well to reach her second consecutive third round at a Grand Slam where she will get a shot at a top eight seed in the form of Angelique Kerber.  Bencic didn’t have a great start to the summer; she lost 6-0 6-0 to Caroline Wozniacki in Istanbul and then was beaten in straight sets in Cincy by Karin Knapp.  Bencic has had a reasonably smooth transition to the WTA tour.  Her best result came in Charleston where she reached the semi-finals, but she has been picking up solid wins all year.  I think a couple of tough losses was actually good for her and gave her a chance to understand where she needs to improve.  Unsurprisingly, she rebounded well in New Haven, winning three rounds of qualifying.  At the US Open, Bencic has continued to impress with victories over Yanina Wickmayer and Kurumi Nara.  I’m often tentative when discussing a player’s potential, but I have absolutely no doubt that Bencic will be a huge star.  She’s just got it.

I’ve digressed from this match-up… Bencic needed three sets to get past the number 31 seed, Kurumi Nara, 6-4 4-6 6-1.  This was a great win for Bencic because Nara is a tough nut to crack.  Kerber was pushed to the brink in her first match of the tournament, coming through 7-5 in the third set against Ksenia Pervak.  It was a gritty win for Kerber, who had a much easier second round match against Alla Kudryavtseva, which she won, 6-2 6-4.  I don’t think it will be for another year or two at the earliest that Bencic really makes her big breakthrough on tour, but i’d expect this match to be reasonably competitive.  Kerber’s experience should pull her through…

Prediction: Kerber d. Bencic in 2 tight sets

2. Lucie Safarova v Alize Cornet (WTA US Open, R3)

Safarova

In the only all seeded third round match from the third quarter, Lucie Safarova and Alize Cornet will play each other for the third time on Friday.  The winner will have a prime opportunity to reach a first ever US Open quarter-final after Agnieszka Radwanska‘s exit to Peng Shuai.  Safarova needed three sets to overcome Saisai Zheng, 6-3 4-6 6-2 in a horrendous match.  Zheng was moonballing, Safarova was hitting masses of unforced errors, but Lucie survived.  You can read my full recap of that match HERE.  After a shaky summer hard court season, Cornet has enjoyed two comfortable victories at the US Open; in the second round, she played extremely well to dispatch Daniela Hantuchova, 6-3 6-3.  Safarova leads the H2H with Cornet 2-0, but both previous matches were decided in three sets.  Cornet has displayed the better form at this tournament, but Safarova’s victory over Zheng, a nightmare opponent for the Czech, would have been a confidence boost.  I could see this going either way, but i’ll stick with my original prediction…

Prediction: Safarova d. Cornet in 3 sets

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