Beijing draw carnage… the top two seeds, Simona Halep and Petra Kvitova, are both out of the final Premier Mandatory event of the season. Kvitova lost for the first ever time to Sara Errani in straight sets, 7-5 6-4. Kvitova was characteristically error-strewn and went 4 for 17 on break point conversions. Errani played a good match and did well to make it increasingly physical with Kvitova once again running out of steam. Kvitova never stopped fighting and i’m looking forward to hopefulllly seeing her back to full fitness in 2016.
Halep retired with an achilles problem down 4-5 in the first set of her match against Lara Arruabarrena. Karolina Pliskova also lost on a day where there were four retirements. It definitely feels like the end of the season and so many of the stars of the WTA seem to have issues heading into Singapore and Zhuhai. Here’s a look at some of the best matches on Monday’s schedule with second round matches in Beijing as well as a small handful of first round matches to be completed.
1. Elina Svitolina v Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (Beijing, R2)
Elina Svitolina and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova advanced through their first round matches in straight sets to set up an intriguing second rounder at the 2015 China Open on Monday. Svitolina had another eventful match against Yulia Putintseva in a match was unfortunately not streamed.
For pictures from Beijing, @_Tatinka_ is a great follow on Twitter! Putintseva had three set points at *5-4 *40-0 but Svitolina mounted a comeback to win 9 of the next 11 games and post another win over Poots. Their match at Roland Garros earlier this year, which Svitolina won, 1-6 7-5 9-7 was a real treat. Watching Poots live is an experience that we should all have in our lives.
Pavlyuchenkova’s results have been significantly improved in the second half of the season compared to the first; she defeated Julia Goerges, 6-2 6-4, dropping serve just once in the 75 minute contest. It is worth noting that Goerges was treated for an injury in the first set.
In the final match of the day of the Moon Court, Svitolina will be searching for her first win over Pavlyuchenkova after the Russian player won their first encounter back in 2013 in Sofia, 6-2 6-4. This is a really tough one to call. I would say that Pavlyuchenkova’s best beats Svitolina’s best but Pavs is much more erratic. Svitolina has become a really solid competitor and you know what you are going to get. I changed my mind so many times in my Draw Challenge for this once and i’m doing it again, going against my original pick. I think Pavs has the cleaner ball striking and her recent form indicates she may be playing at a high enough level to net the win.
Prediction: Pavlyuchenkova d. Svitolina in 3 sets
2. Agnieszka Radwanska v Mona Barthel (Beijing, R2)
Playing CoCo Vandeweghe for the third time in her last four tournaments, Agnieszka Radwanska enjoyed another victory over the feisty American player. This time, she only had to play one set with Vandeweghe retiring after losing the first set, 6-3. There didn’t seem to be any signs of a problem for Vandeweghe other than she retired from her last match in Wuhan against Angelique Kerber. Vandeweghe recovered one of the early breaks in the first set but Radwanska, returning aggressively, never looked in trouble.
Radwanska plays Mona Barthel in the second round who recorded a third consecutive straight sets victory over Shuai Zhang. The world number 191 (!) Zhang, who cracked the top 30 last summer, is having a rotten year and has won just four matches on the main tour and thus explaining her drop in the rankings. Barthel hasn’t had a great year herself, dogged by injuries and illnesses, but she has done reasonably well to stay in the top 50. Barthel is currently sitting five places below her 2014 season ending ranking. I’ve always liked Barthel and she can play some beautifully clean tennis at times. However, her focus, consistency and brain have all come under question at times during this year and her whole career. I’m hoping she will have a drama-free off-season (last year she injured her ankle) and be able to start on a fresh page in 2016.
In their only previous match in 2012 in Canada, Radwanska edged Barthel in a third set tiebreak, 4-6 6-3 7-6(5). Barthel could easily win a set but I question whether she has the belief that she could win a match like this. Radwanska will most likely be too solid and crafty but i’ll certainly be cheering for Mona…
Prediction: Radwanska d. Barthel in 2 sets
3. Madison Keys v Kateryna Bondarenko (Beijing, R2)
Last week, Kristina Mladenovic defeated Madison Keys in the second round of Wuhan, 7-5 1-6 6-2. This week in Beijing, Keys turned the tables and secured a 7-5 6-2 victory… Oh I do love tennis. In their Beijing clash, the first set was tight with Keys going up an early break, Mladenovic coming back to lead 5-4 on serve, before Keys won the final three games and edging a nervy final game.
Keys was actually the more solid player from the baseline and was able to relax a little in a much more convincing second set performance. Keys will now play Kateryna Bondarenko who had an impressive first round win over Barbora Strycova, 6-3 6-2. Comfortably inside the world’s top 100, Bondarenko is enjoying somewhat of a resurgence after taking time off from the tour to have her first child. She has won a match at her last eight tournaments including six top 100 wins.
Keys and Bondarenko last met on the green clay courts of Charleston where Keys won for the loss of just three games. Keys, who is with Lisa Raymond in Beijing, will always be a difficult player to judge with her ability to blow hot and cold. She has performed well at the Slams this year but hasn’t picked up the results elsewhere on a consistent basis. I’d go for Keys in this one but i’m expecting a bit of a walkabout and three sets against a very competent opponent.
Prediction: Keys d. Bondarenko in 3 sets