Monday in Beijing saw two notable results: Serena Williams recovered from a 5-0 first set deficit and multiple set points to somehow overcome Silvia Soler-Espinosa in straight sets, 7-5 6-2. Alize Cornet also had another excellent win in this Asian Swing as she defeated Jelena Jankovic in three sets, 7-5 3-6 6-4 in two hours and 39 minutes. I was following this match on the live scoreboard and oh boy, were there a lot of twists and turns?! The majority of second round matches will be played on Tuesday. Here’s my top three to watch…
1. Eugenie Bouchard v Sabine Lisicki (WTA Beijing, R2)
Sabine Lisicki won through her first round match against the Chinese wildcard, Xu Shilin in three sets to set up a second rounder with the Wuhan finalist, Eugenie Bouchard. Lisicki didn’t look herself; she had her blood pressure checked in the second set and looked ill, barely offering a wave as she thanked the crowd at the end. Xu played some excellent tennis in the first set, but faded away at a rather rapid pace. There have been some very impressive performances from the Chinese players during this Asian Swing and with the Li Na effect in motion, I do believe the top ten in five or ten years time will be dominated by China.
Back to this match… this will be a first career match-up between the pair. I don’t think either player will be at their best. Lisicki will have had a day off to get better, meanwhile Bouchard could be fatigued after her run to the final in Wuhan. Despite losing in the final to Petra Kvitova, Bouchard should have gained some confidence from her performances in Wuhan. Lisicki has been playing better of late, but her serve remains an issue and Bouchard, with a couple of days rest, should have enough in the tank and greater consistency to pull out the win.
Prediction: Bouchard d. Lisicki in 2 sets
2. Andrea Petkovic v Madison Keys (WTA Beijing, R2)
Andrea Petkovic and Madison Keys both saved match points to set up a second round encounter in Beijing. Keys came from 5-3* down in the deciding set to beat good friend, Alison Riske. It was a tough loss for Riske; she hit one poor error in trying to serve out the match, but Keys also hit a number of winners. Petkovic had an even more dramatic match as she saved three match points and came from numerous breaks down in the match to defeat Monica Niculescu, 2-6 7-6(8) 6-4. Niculescu was coming in confident having won Guangzhou and two rounds of qualifying in Beijing, but Petkovic’s spirit was really impressive. Two of the match points she saved were on exhausting rallies.
This will be a first career match-up between Keys and Petkovic. I don’t think either player was anywhere close to their best in the first round, but both showed character to secure the win. Keys especially, has not pushed on since winning Eastbourne. I believe a good tournament for her is just around the corner and this could be it.
Prediction: Keys d. Petkovic in 3 tight sets
3. Maria Sharapova v Elina Svitolina (WTA Beijing, R2)
After reaching the semi-finals of Wuhan, Elina Svitolina was given a first round bye in Beijing. We were therefore, presented with a situation where Maria Sharapova had to win a match to set up a tie with Svitolina! Sharapova did just that, overcoming Kaia Kanepi in straight sets, 6-4 6-1. On paper, it was a tough match for Maria and particularly so with her recent form. After a reasonably close first set, Sharapova motored through the second set to record her fourth consecutive victory against Kanepi.
Svitolina is having a very solid year as she continues her push to crack the top 30. After winning her second title in Baku, Svitolina reached the quarter-finals of Cincinnati and last week, the semi-finals of Wuhan. In her run to the last four, Svitolina defeated Camila Giorgi, Sabine Lisicki and Angelique Kerber all in straight sets. Svitolina has a consistent game, but if Sharapova plays clean match, then I don’t see this match being tagged with an upset alert.
Prediction: Sharapova d. Svitolina in 2 sets (1 tight, 1 easy)
WTA Beijing 2nd Round Predictions
Serena Williams d. Tsvetana Pironkova in 2 sets (who knows?)
Simona Halep d. Zhu Lin in 2 sets
Agnieszka Radwanska d. Roberta Vinci in 2 sets
Ana Ivanovic d. Romina Oprandi in 2 sets
Angelique Kerber d. Zarina Diyas in 3 sets
Flavia Pennetta d. Carla Suarez Navarro in 3 sets
Svetlana Kuznetsova d. Kurumi Nara in 2 sets
Ekaterina Makarova d. Polona Hercog in 2 very tight sets
Lucie Safarova d. Mona Barthel in 3 sets