WTA Miami, 4th Round Previews: Halep v Pennetta, Stephens v Bencic

1. Simona Halep v Flavia Pennetta (Miami, R4)

Flavia PennettaI was soooooo much looking forward to a potential fourth round match between Simona Halep and Victoria Azarenka.  I obviously wanted it too much! Instead, we get Halep against Flavia Pennetta, which is still very intriguing.  Pennetta defeated Azarenka in two tiebreak sets, 7-6(5) 7-6(6) in two hours and 6 minutes.  It was a long match with some great points, but messy ones too.  Both players served for the first set, but it was Pennetta who was rewarded for her aggressive and dynamic play in the decider.  Azarenka is still not quite there and looked a step slow.  She was struggling to chase down balls that I think she would have got to a few years ago.  Azarenka never stopped fighting and rallied at the end of the second set as Pennetta, for the first time, started to play a little passive.  However this was not to be Azarenka’s day.  Pennetta held her nerve in the second set tiebreak and finished with excellent stats of 32 winners to 30 unforced errors.

Halep overcame a potentially sticky third round match as she dispatched Camila Giorgi in straight sets, 6-4 7-5.  Giorgi came out attacking as she always does, but Halep soaked up the pressure well.  There were 10 breaks of serve, but Halep held when it really mattered..  Giorgi’s serve continues to let her down and she hit 11 double faults in this match.  The Halep-Pennetta head-to-head is interesting… the pair have played three matches and Pennetta has won all three.  Their last match took place at the US Open in 2013 where Pennetta prevailed in straight sets, 6-2 7-6(3).  It is worth noting that Halep pulled out of their second match through injury.  I was really impressed with Pennetta and after going winless down under, she’s now 10-3 for the year.  Pennetta should not be underestimated in this match.  I nearly went for Pennetta, but I haven’t quite got the nerve to say she’s going to beat Halep, who is having a superb year herself.

Prediction: Halep d. Pennetta in 3 sets

2. Sloane Stephens v Belinda Bencic (Miami, R4)

StephensSloane Stephens and Belinda Bencic have made back-to-back fourth round appearances in Indian Wells and Miami, but one of them will go a step further in Miami with a quater-final place on the line.  Bencic had won just one WTA main draw match heading into Indian Wells, but she has turned her season around.  She has taken advantage of a favourable draw in Miami where her projected third round opponent, Eugenie Bouchard was beaten by Tatjana Maria.  In the second round, Bencic led by a set and a break but needed three sets to overcame the number 32 seed Casey Dellacqua, 6-2 4-6 6-2.  In the third round, she beat Maria in a tight two setter, 6-4 7-5.

Stephens had won just one more match than Bencic pre-Indian Wells, but now seems to be gathering momentum.  She produced a steady performance to beat Madison Keys in the second round, 6-4 6-2 and then earnt a first win over Johanna Larsson in the third round.  I saw the end of the first set and Stephens served it out with confidence.  Her partnership with Nick Saviano seems to be working a treat.  He’s great with her on the changeover and there has been a noticeable upturn in her results.  Stephens and Bencic have never played each other before on the WTA tour.  Sloane’s recent results have been impressive and it’s hard not to ignore improvements in her mentality this last month.  I’ll be cheering for Belinda, but I think Sloane will prevail.

Prediction: Stephens d. Bencic in 3 sets

WTA Indian Wells R4 Predictions

Serena Williams d. Svetlana Kuznetsova in 2 tight sets

Sabine Lisicki d. Sara Errani in 3 sets

Poll Results: 44% of readers correctly predicted that Lisicki would beat Ivanovic, 29% correctly predicted that Pennetta would beat Azarenka and 70% correctly predicted that Williams would beat Bellis.

Photo by Jimmie48 Tennis Photography and Omar Boraby Photography

20 thoughts on “WTA Miami, 4th Round Previews: Halep v Pennetta, Stephens v Bencic

  1. James, great way to close the text “I nearly went for Pennetta, but I haven’t quite got the nerve to say she’s going to beat Halep, who is having a superb year herself.”

    If Simona is having a good day, and she should, as it seems her tennis improves while progressing through the tournament(s), she will probably dispatch Flavia without too much trouble.
    However, she complained a bit about fatigue and pain… Hope she will recover for the match.

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    • I agree as well, if Simona is having a decent day, she can send Penetta home in two regular sets with may be one break of serve in each set.

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  2. I believe Serena vs Sveta may go three sets. Kuznetsova LIVES for these moments. Of their nine matches, only four were won in straight sets (one by Kuze) and two of those went to tiebreakers. The Russian was the only person who came close to beating Serena at 2013 French Open, which she may have won had it not been for injury.

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      • Either way, it’s going to be a good match and a real indicator about what form Serena is in. Kuznetsova could still be a force to be reckoned with on clay, no matter what her form is.

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    • I didn’t have a chance to look at the H2H but I remembered it being close. I wouldn’t be surprised if this went three sets. Playing for the third day in a row could also be an issue for Serena although she wasn’t on court for long yesterday.

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      • Well Svetlana has only beaten Serena twice from nine matches. But thats a better win loss ratio than a lot of players have against Williams.

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  3. Some tasty matches to sink our teeth into today
    I think…
    Bencic will edge past Sloane
    Lisicki will beat Errani again
    CSN will outplay Aga
    Gavarilova will wear Pliskova down
    Venus will topple Wozniaki as usual
    Makarova will just about sneak past Petkovic
    and Serena will take out Kuznetsova in two competitive sets.

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  4. Me neither! I’ve just watched the highlights of Pliskova v Badosa Gibert and the clean, devastating hitting from Karo is tipping me the other way slightly. But I just think the potential for her to collapse under her own error count is always there against someone capable of the sort of relentless defence, movement and tenacity that Gavarilova has at her disposal. Pliskova made 3 first serves in the second set against Badosa Gibert and I’m counting on similar kind of numbers for my Gavarilova pick to come in!

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    • Her first serve percentage is never that great. The thing is that Pliskova’s second serve is better than 99% of players first serves LOL.

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      • I saw all of Pliskova’s matches when I went to Sydney and she made me really take notice of her having not watched much of her previously; the serve was ridiculous. I took a friend to watch her play Kerber and she had an expression of shock in every one of her service games.

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    • Pliskova’s serve loses its favorite weapon status when playing against good returners and defenders. In her IW match against Halep she scored on 42% of her second serves. Even if they are “better than 99% of players first serves”, they are pretty attackable and a good returner would be able to neutralise them to just a median stat value. When in a good day, her Aces are a mighty weapon and her powerful in-play strokes as long as she gets the time to align for the shot. Seeing Gavrilova’s energy in her match with Simona and with Sharapova, if she plays with a clear head, she’ll run Pliskova all over the baseline like the border patrol. Will be an interesting match nonetheless, one in which Gavrilova might have the morale high-ground for the start.

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      • That’s true, I’m just not sure Gavrilova has the experience of playing a serve like Pliskova’s. If she adjusts quickly she’s in for a shot. Her own serve may also look dodgy if Pliskova can get the first big hit in with a flat strike which the Miami courts take well.

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      • Tom, that’s why I chose to say that Daria has the “morale” high-ground. In the end it might only be a match of nerves. Both players are young, Pliskova being the one with a bit more experience against high-ranked players and in final stages of tournaments. But saying that overall she is a constant and experienced player and that would be her weapon against Gavrilova would be an overstatement cause that could be counteracted by Daria’s sheer enthusiasm. If Daria doesn’t shake in fear, Pliskova really needs to up her stats.

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  5. Like you James, was really looking forward to a match-up against Azarenka, but the gods of tennis decided we’d be better of with a Halep – Pennetta feast. Not worried about their H2H as it’s from Halep’s earlier days and she’s come a long way. What worked for Simona against Giorgi (where I had 0 fear of an upset) was her mind, strategy and PATIENCE. Now Pennetta is a different kind of cookie. She’s a really smart player with a diverse range of shots and with good movement on court. Also, Flavia is not a “brainless” hit or die player either. She develops her shots and that’s where she outplayed Vika in my opinion, vision.

    Hopefully, Simona won’t be as exhausted as she appeared to be by the second set with Giorgi (also worried a bit about her holding her abdomen like she was in pain). If both players are in good playing form, this should be one beautiful and open to any result match in which the one mentally stronger will advance, cause technically both can perform wonderfully.

    Kinda bummed the match will be at 4AM here, but.. Go Halep! Let’s see some great tennis!

    PS: Also cheering for Bencic, loved her course so far.

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