The only second round match in Cincy on the WTA side is the last match on the Center Court schedule which promises to be an intriguing clash between two Grand Slam champions, Ana Ivanovic and Venus Williams.
In first round action on Monday, Venus defeated Zarina Diyas, 7-6(6) 6-4 in what was a patchy match. It was reasonably enjoyable, perhaps not for Venus fans though as her level fluctuated during the one hour and 40 minute hour contest. Venus was up a break in the first set but failed to serve out the set with Diyas mounting a comeback and coming within two points of the set. The first set went to the tiebreak where Diyas led 4-1 at one point, but Venus was able to recover the deficit and take it 8-6.
Venus played some wonderful tennis in the second set, taking big cuts of the ball and overpowering Diyas to go up 5-0. However Venus wavered from then, not playing as aggressively and looking a little tight as Diyas took some pointers from her coach in not leaving the ball in Venus’s hitting zone and trying to get her more experienced opponent on the move.
Diyas has a solid game and every now and then, she did something special; for example the point she closed out at the net to break at 5-2. Diyas was 5/5 on net approaches during the match. However, she struggled to maintain this throughout the match and was passive at times. Diyas got back from 5-0 to 5-4 but couldn’t quite level up at 5-5 despite having game points for 5-5. She finished the match with two sloppy errors to essentially gift the victory to Venus. There were a number of blips in this match from Venus, notably serving for sets which she failed to do on three occasions. Still, a win is a win and this was a good one for Venus since she had lost her last three matches.
Ivanovic’s year has been a strange one; it started promisingly with a final appearance in Brisbane but soon went sour with a foot injury and Caroline Garcia the main stumbling blocks during the first couple of months of the year. Her entire slate of results have been disappointing but she did manage to achieve her best performance at a Grand Slam at the French Open where she reached the semi-finals, her best result at a GS since winning the tournament in 2008. That result does stick out like an outlier but Ivanovic played some great tennis, especially in her fourth round and quarter-final matches against Makarova and Svitolina.
Last week in Toronto, Ivanovic won two matches before losing to the eventual champion, Belinda Bencic. Ivanovic was in and out, not displaying a particularly convincing performance as Bencic was the superior player in the crucial moments, winning 6-4 6-2. Ivanovic received a bye in the first round and was the finalist here last year, beating Maria Sharapova in the semi-finals (remember that one?) before losing to Serena in the final.
Venus and Ana have played 11 times with Venus winning nine of those matches including their most recent match in Dubai where Venus stormed to a super quick victory, 6-2 6-1. Ivanovic had won their match before that, a final in Auckland where she held on for a 6-2 5-7 6-4 victory to take the title.
I don’t think either player has been particularly convincing in the last month. Venus is running away with the head-to-head but I’m not sure if the win against Diyas was enough to give her the sufficient momentum against Ivanovic. I think that being the late night match might play into Ivanovic’s favour. I’m not expecting a classic but I think it will be entertaining nonetheless.
Prediction: Ivanovic d. V.Williams in 3 sets