In the biggest upset so far in terms of seeding, Garbine Muguruza defeated Jelena Jankovic, 7-6(4) 6-4 in Tokyo on Thursday. Jankovic served for the first set twice and had a mini-break in the tiebreak, but Muguruza competed extremely well to bag the opening set. Jankovic became increasingly frustrated in the second set and after a flurry of breaks, it was Muguruza who held her nerve to serve out the upset win. For some great pictures from Tokyo, check out @_Tatinka_ on Twitter HERE.
Tokyo has an enticing quartet of matches for Friday. Here’s a double preview featuring the two late night matches with Cibulkova v Kerber at not before 9am UK time followed by Ivanovic v Safarova.
1. Ana Ivanovic v Lucie Safarova (WTA Tokyo, QF)
Ana Ivanovic and Lucie Safarova will reignite one of the more puzzling match-ups on the WTA tour when the pair play each other in the quarter-finals of Tokyo on Friday. Safarova leads the head-to-head 5-2 and has won their last five matches, covering a period of five years. When you focus on the key strengths of their games, it kind of makes sense. As a leftie, Safarova’s strength, the forehand, often plays into Ivanovic’s weakness, the backhand. It’s one of the more definitive examples that tennis is all about match-ups. Ivanovic booked her spot in the last eight of Tokyo with a 6-3 6-4 victory over Victoria Azarenka. As the Race to Singapore hots up, it was an important win for Ivanovic, who secured her first win over Vika since 2010.
Safarova has rallied from a set down in both of her matches in Tokyo; in the second round, she defeated Belinda Bencic, 3-6 6-4 6-2. Bencic played a superb first set in what was a high quality opener. The 17-year-old was taking the ball so early and was hitting some beautiful backhands with an array of angles. Lucie fought back and once again, demonstrated the steady improvements she has made to her mental toughness in 2014. I wrote a detailed article about Lucie last month where I discussed her partnership with Rob Steckley, which continues to flourish.
Two more three set wins are likely to have gone a fair way to continue to fill up Safarova’s confidence gauge. Equally, Ivanovic dealt with the pressure of being the favourite in her second round match against Azarenka, which should have given her a boost of confidence following an early exit at the US Open. This is a very tough match to call because on paper you would back Ana, but based on the H2H, it’s Lucie. In their last match at the French Open, Safarova won 6-3 6-3 in a superb third round victory. Four of Lucie’s five wins over Ana have come in straight wins and Lucie has performed extremely well in all those wins. I’m disappointed to have gone against Lucie in her first two matches, but in this case, I think the match-up is key and am therefore, backing Lucie to continue her recent dominance over Ana.
Prediction: Safarova d. Ivanovic in 3 sets
2. Angelique Kerber v Dominika Cibulkova (WTA Tokyo, QF)
Since losing in the final of Kuala Lumpur, Dominika Cibulkova‘s season has turned pretty sour. This all culminated with a shock first round exit to the 15-year-old American, Cici Bellis at the US Open. To her credit, Cibulkova has responded extremely well and won back-to-back matches in Tokyo. Straight set victories over Kirsten Flipkens and Coco Vandeweghe have catapulted Cibulkova into the quarter-finals of a tournament for the first time since Kuala Lumpur in April. Cibulkova will play Angelique Kerber, who won her first match in Tokyo against Elina Svitolina, 6-4 6-4.
This will be the seventh time that Cibulkova and Kerber have met on the WTA tour. Rather surprisingly, Cibulkova won their first four encounters. Kerber has since restored parity, winning their 2014 clashes in Sydney (7-6 7-5) and Fed Cup (6-3 7-6). Before this tournament, Kerber would have been a pretty clear favourite, but Cibulkova has played much, much better this week. I think this will be a close match, which will go the distance; Kerber has competed impressively in tight matches this year and therefore, is my pick in this match-up.
Prediction: Kerber d. Cibulkova in 3 sets
WTA Tokyo Quarter-Final Predictions
Garbine Muguruza d. Casey Dellacqua in 2 tight sets
Caroline Wozniacki d. Carla Suarez Navarro in 2 tight sets
WTA Guangzhou Semi-Final Predictions
Monica Niculescu d. Yafan Wang in 3 sets
Timea Bacsinszky d. Alize Cornet in 2 sets
WTA Seoul Quarter-Final Predictions
Agnieszka Radwanska d. Varvara Lepchenko in 2 very tight sets
Magdalena Rybarikova d. Christina McHale in 3 sets
Kaia Kanepi d. Maria Kirilenko in 2 tight sets *Kanepi posted on her FB page that she has a cold so i’m not sure about this one*
Karolina Pliskova d. Nicole Gibbs in 2 sets