In Thursday’s final match of the day, Mona Barthel scored her first top ten win since beating Angelique Kerber in Doha two years ago, to take out the number one seed in Antwerp, Eugenie Bouchard. Mona won, 4-6 6-1 6-2 in one hour and 38 minutes, finishing with 19 winners to 17 unforced errors. This result didn’t look likely at the start as Bouchard made a confident and aggressive start, going up a double break. Barthel managed to get both breaks of serve back, but then faltered serving at 4-4 before dropping the opener. In the second set, peak Mona made an appearance. At one stage in the set, she won 12 out of 13 points as she completely dominated Bouchard. She grew in belief as the match wore on and it was nice to see her produce some variety with some delicate drop shots. Barthel is also a decent player at the net and she demonstrated that during this match with 11 out of 13 points won at the net. I still remember the match she played against Monica Niculescu in Luxembourg at the end of last year (THAT MATCH NEARLY DESTROYED ME) when she spent most of the match up at the net.
Barthel continued to grow in confidence as she went up a double break in the third set. At the changeover at 3-0, you could see a tiny little smile emerge on her face! There were a few jittery moments, as to be expected, but Barthel remained in control as Bouchard went for more and more, and started to spray her shots. Bouchard’s serve let her down in the final two sets (21% second serve points won in the decider) and she didn’t do enough on return. She hit some return winners in the final game of the match, but they were largely cancelled out as she failed to hit returns back into court. Barthel serving out sets and matches always makes me feel physically nauseous. Her serve was a little shaky, but her groundies were solid and she held it together well. I’ve seen so many Barthel matches where she has been so passive and nervy trying to close out matches… but Mona got the job done this time! It’s easy to forget that Barthel tried to serve out a match against Madison Brengle FOUR TIMES last month in Hobart and ended up losing. I’m so relieved she hasn’t let that result dominate her and has been able to respond positively…
In the quarter-finals, Mona will play Barbora Zahlavova Strycova, who enjoyed her second straight sets win of the week with a 6-4 6-2 victory over Alize Cornet. It was the first time Barbora has beaten Alize after five consecutive losses. This was a pretty solid indicator of how much Zahlavova Strycova has improved over the past year. She still has her moments of crazy, but she has been very solid in her first two matches in Antwerp and very difficult to break down. Alize was even sobbing at the end of the first set… poor gal. I also think BZS HAS a plan B, unlike many players, Bouchard being one. Against Wickmayer, she stayed pretty firmly rooted to the baseline because that’s all she needed to do, but she can come in and be more aggressive if required.
Barthel and Zahlavova Strycova last met in the semi-finals in Luxembourg where BZS won comfortably in straight sets, 6-3 6-2. BZS has been so solid this week and this year, it would take a really competent display from Mona to take out the Czech player.
Prediction: Zahlavova Strycova d. Barthel in 2 tight sets
WTA Antwerp Quarter-Final Prediction
Carla Suarez Navarro d. Francesca Schiavone in 3 sets