*Since writing this preview (booo) Kuznetsova has pulled out of Washington*
The most compelling match on Thursday’s Washington schedule will feature last year’s champion and number four seed, Svetlana Kuznetsova up against Sloane Stephens. Sloane was the first player to miss out on a seeding and will be one to watch this week. When I checked the scores on Wednesday morning I was half expecting to see she had lost as my predicted champions have been faring terribly of late! There was no such carnage as Stephens progressed with a routine 6-2 6-1 victory over Magda Linette. Kuznetsova also won her first match in DC in straight sets against the American qualifier, Sanaz Marand.
Stephens’s year really began in Indian Wells and Miami where she reached the fourth round and the quarter-finals respectively. In her last four tournaments on the clay and grass, Stephens won a combined 12 matches. Sloane has a great opportunity over the final few months of the season to move up the rankings as she has few points to defend. Kuznetsova is always a tricky one to call; she showed encouraging form before the French Open and Wimbledon but fell in the second round at both Slams. The Russian player hasn’t competed since losing to Kristyna Pliskova at Wimbledon.
Stephens and Kuznetsova have split their two previous matches with Kuznetsova winning at the Australian Open in 2012, 7-6(5) 7-5 and Stephens prevailing earlier this year at Indian Wells, 7-6(4) 1-6 6-4. Both players eased through the openers so there is not much to go on with form. Unsurprisingly based on my original predictions i’m backing Stephens for the victory who I think is the more steady and dynamic of the pair.
Prediction: Stephens d. Kuznetsova in 2 tight sets