Time to ring the bell again for a new WTA match-up… the first match on the Centre Court on Wednesday will be one of just three all-seeded clashes featuring Ana Ivanovic and Garbiñe Muguruza in yet another first career meeting. Both players have struggled to find their best form over the past few months but enjoyed surprisingly routine second round wins in Wuhan; Ivanovic beat Madison Brengle, 6-0 6-3, being dealt a worthy slice of luck in not having to play Dominika Cibulkova for the second week in a row, while Muguruza thrashed Sloane Stephens, 6-0 6-2.
The one-sided nature of Muguruza’s victory over Stephens was a surprise with the American player winning just THREE points in the second set. The first set had a couple of close games with Muguruza failing to claim the double break with Stephens holding on at *1-3, saving four break points in a five deuce game. It was somewhat reminiscent to Stephen’s match against Ivanovic in Cincy where she won a 14-deuce game and saved nine break points but won just one more game in the match with Ivanovic cruising to victory. In this match, Stephens would not win another game after holding as Muguruza won the next nine games to complete the win in just 62 minutes.
The second set was a mixture of Muguruza winners and Stephens errors. It just went by so fast with Muguruza’s intensity and weight of shot rushing Stephens into mistakes. The American player tried to maintain her aggression but it just wasn’t working. It would have been nice to see Stephens back off a little and try to get balls in court but it was a tough one with Muguruza fully dialled in on this occasion.
Muguruza and Ivanovic have never played before so there’s no data to go on. Ivanovic is a difficult one to judge right now because some of her results this year have been decent but generally, it has felt like a disappointing year. The French Open semi-final sticks out like a sore thumb, but she did also reach the quarter-finals of both Toronto and Cincy last month. Performance-wise, Ivanovic has looked a shadow of 2014 and this has obviously not been helped by injuries and fatigue.
Muguruza has won just three matches since reaching the Wimbledon final. Once again, we’ve witnessed a player make a huge breakthrough but struggle on tour in the time immediately after. Muguruza split with her long-term coach, Alejo Mancisidor, which came as a shock. I’d be intrigued to know why that was and whether it was a response to Muguruza’s two losses immediately after Wimbledon in Toronto and Cincy. This must have been a hefty change-up for the Spaniard although there are some early signs she is turning it around with Sam Sumyk currently in her box.
The winner of this match has a decent opportunity to go deeper in the draw as they will play an unseeded player, either Anna Karolina Schmiedlova or Kristina Mladenovic in the quarters. Schmiedlova had a super win over a clearly laboured, Caroline Wozniacki, 1-6 6-4 7-6(6). Wozniacki was cruising, up 6-1 4-1 with the Dane’s consistency too much for Schmiedlova who kept making errors. The Slovak player did extremely well to turn it around and hit some wonderful angled backhands. Schmiedlova’s had a super run since Wimbledon and it feels like it has gone a little unnoticed. Wins like this will help to raise her profile although laying low is not necessarily a bad thing! It would be encouraging though to see Schmiedlova translate her form from the Internationals to these types of events and there are signs she is beginning to do this after also reaching the quarter-finals in Cincy.
Both matches are first time meetings and 50/50 picks (for me at least!). I feel more confident picking Muguruza over Ivanovic, particularly if the Spaniard can find the intensity somewhere close to what she displayed against Stephens. The other one is even tougher to pick out a winner and I surprise myself in siding ever so slightly with Schmiedlova. I really do like Mladenovic but not watching any of her matches this week is making it tricky.
Prediction: Muguruza d. Ivanovic in 3 sets
Prediction: Schmiedlova d. Mladenovic in 3 sets