*NEW MATCH-UP ALERT KLAXON*
While I didn’t include Garbiñe Muguruza v Sloane Stephens in my post earlier this year of WTA match-ups that I was desperate to see, this was one that I considered and am compelled to watch! Last week we got Muguruza v Bencic and now Muguruza v Stephens… Muguruza had a bye into the second round while Stephens had a solid win in the first round over Alison Riske in straight sets, 7-6(4) 6-3 in one hour and 58 minutes. Stephens suffered a surprising quarter-final loss to the eventual finalist, Aliaksandra Sasnovich last week in Seoul. I say surprise but Stephens has become much more reliable this year in defeating players you would expect her to beat.
Stephens could have wrapped up the win over Riske much sooner; in the first set she failed to convert on three break points in the seventh game and then when she did get the crucial break, was unable to serve it out, getting broken to 15. Stephens played some decent tennis in the tiebreak, closing it out with a serve out wide and forehand winner down-the-line. Both players failed to take advantage of opportunities with the pair combining for five break point conversions out of a total of 19. Stephens eventually sealed the win in straight sets which is pretty much all you can ask for, closing the match with an ace.
I always think that the top seeds with a bye are at a disadvantage against an opponent who has already played a match and got used to the court surface. This will give Stephens a boost and add to that, Muguruza’s uninspiring recent form. The Spaniard won a round in Tokyo, beating Barbora Strycova in straight sets but lost out to Belinda Bencic in the quarters, 7-6(1) 6-1 in a sea of unforced errors having competed well for the first set. Losing to Bencic is no disgrace and I feel like Muguruza needs matches right now having played little tennis since Wimbledon. The motivation should still be there with Singapore well within grasp.
This is a bit a toss-up and I won’t be surprised whoever wins. It’s one of those matches where I don’t have much valid reasoning behind the prediction. I’m going for Muguruza…
Prediction: Muguruza d. Stephens in 3 sets