I’ve been focussing my blogging attention on Linz this week as it’s the only tournament in my timezone so I can actually watch some of the matches in the evening. However, the most attractive of the quarter-final line-ups is over in Hong Kong where the draw has really held up and holds much intrigue with Venus Williams and Angelique Kerber both trying to confirm their places in Singapore. Here’s a triple preview of the quarters and a poll at the end for the first quarter-final between Heather Watson and Sam Stosur.
1. Jelena Jankovic v Daria Gavrilova (Hong Kong, QF)
The prospect of a first ever match-up between Jelena Jankovic and Daria Gavrilova is filling my life with much joy. If both are on form (in the drama stakes) then this could be hysterical. On a tennis front, it should also be very interesting! Gavrilova has had a superb year and will be in contention to win the WTA newcomer of the year award. Her form has tailed off in the second half of the year but it doesn’t distract from the giant strides she has made in her game. Her first round win in Hong Kong over Miyu Kato, a hard fought 6-7(6) 7-5 6-3 victory in two hours and 46 minutes, was just Gavrilova’s second win since Cincinnati in August. She confirmed back-to-back wins for the first time since Toronto by beating Lara Arruabarrena in the second round, 7-6(4) 6-1.
Jankovic is set to finish in the top 30 for her 12th consecutive season. The Serb’s highlights this year have included a final in Indian Wells, a semi-final in Cincy, a remarkably improved grass court season and titles in Guangzhou and Nanchang. Her off-season last year was hampered by a back injury so hopefully she can fully prepare for the 2016 season. JJ has been more prone to the surprise loss this year but has avoided such fate in Hong Kong this week, defeating Ana Bogdan and Anastasia Rodionova, in straight sets.
As mentioned above, this will be a first career match-up between the pair. Gavrilova has bucket loads of belief, but still produces a few too many errors in the crucial moments of matches. She’s not yet become reliable in beating players ranked below her, but has shown she is capable of raising her level when she plays a higher ranked player. Jankovic has the tendency to float in and out of matches. Gavrilova’s more than capable of causing a minor upset in this one but i’d take Jankovic, with the better serve and slightly more solid groundstrokes, to come through in three.
Prediction: Jankovic d. Gavrilova in 3 sets
2. Venus Williams v Alizé Cornet (Hong Kong, QF)
Venus Williams needs to reach the final in Hong Kong to move into the top eight for the race and keep her hopes of qualifying for the WTA Finals in Singapore alive. The world number 14 struggled in her first round match against Yuliya Beygelzmier, coming from a set down to win, 2-6 6-4 6-4. The second round was plain sailing with Venus dropping just two games to Yafan Wang. Venus now plays Alizé Cornet in the quarter-finals who had a tough but ultimately rewarding three set victory over her doubles partner in Hong Kong, Yaroslava Shvedova. It’s been a rocky year for Cornet who was on a four match losing streak heading into Hong Kong. This is only the sixth time in 2015 that Cornet has won multiple matches at a tournament. It’s great to see Alizé winning matches because she is so much fun to have around.
The last time the pair played was in the final of Dubai where Venus won, 6-3 6-0. In fact, all of Venus’s wins over Cornet have been in straight sets with the Frenchwoman unable to muster more than four games in the eight sets they have previously played. Venus is on a mission this week but that can work both ways. This does seem a good match-up though for the American player…
Prediction: V.Williams d. Cornet in 2 sets
3. Angelique Kerber v Caroline Garcia (Hong Kong, QF)
Angelique Kerber can seal her place in Singapore if she wins Hong Kong this week. It certainly won’t be a straightforward task with all the seeded players reaching the last eight. Kerber now has to contend with Caroline Garcia in the quarter-finals. The Frenchwoman, who has been hit and miss for the last six months, has enjoyed two routine wins over Lauren Davis (6-1 6-3) and lucky loser, Anastasiya Komardina (6-0 6-2). Kerber faced a ding-dong battle in her opening match, edging Francesca Schiavone in three sets, but was never really troubled by Kurumi Nara in the second round. Kerber missed just one (!) first serve in the first set against Nara and will need to serve well again when playing Garcia.
It’s impossible to know which version of CarGar will show up. The pair played a super quality match at the start of the year in Brisbane with Kerber prevailing, 6-4 6-3. I’m swaying between two and three sets for this one. As regards to the result, in my opinion, there’s not enough positive data over the last few months to suggest Garcia is steady enough to outlast Kerber.
Prediction: Kerber d. Garcia in 2 sets