WTA Rogers Cup Montreal 2016: Preview of First Round Matches

This post previews three of the first round matches from the Rogers Cup main draw in Montreal, which begins on Monday. Apologies for the muted coverage over the past few days. Two of my best friends got married this weekend and I was on photography duties… it was a wonderful day :-). I’m feeling a bit more recharged now after Wimbledon and am planning regular coverage for Montreal here on Moo’s Tennis Blog.

Lucie Safarova v Eugenie Bouchard (Montreal, R1)

Safarova

As the tour heads to Canada for the week, all eyes will once again be on Eugenie Bouchard. This tournament hasn’t been a happy hunting ground for Bouchard who has lost her first match at the Rogers Cup in the past two years. In 2014 in Montreal, Bouchard suffered a 0-6 6-2 0-6 loss to Shelby Rogers. Last year she opened against Belinda Bencic, dropping another bagel in a three set loss, 0-6 7-5 2-6. It’s another tough draw for Bouchard who will play Lucie Safarova in the first round of Montreal.

Bouchard began 2016 with two finals in Hobart and Kuala Lumpur. Since then, there have been a few bright sparks, but nothing sustained. Bouchard hasn’t won more than two matches in a row at a tournament since Kuala Lumpur in February. Her first outing since Wimbledon was a disappointing 5-7 4-6 loss to Camila Giorgi in Washington where she showed some fighting spirit to overcome deficits in both sets before eventually succumbing on serve.

Safarova seems to be back on track after an illness-affected first couple of months of the season. The ranking took a nose dive after the French Open where she was defending final points but recent results have been solid; Safarova reached the third round of both the French Open and Wimbledon.

Head-to-head record: Safarova won their only previous encounter which also took place in Canada in Quebec City, 3-6 6-3 6-2 back in 2013.

Interesting stat: Safarova hasn’t won a match on hard courts in 2016; after returning in Doha following  a spell on the sidelines due to rheumatic fever, the Czech player opened the year with five consecutive losses. She sprung into action on the clay courts of Prague, winning her first match of the year against Mariana Duque-Mariño and four more to claim the title.

Final thoughts: Safarova is with her coach, Rob Steckley in Montreal for the first time in four months which must be a big boost! Bouchard didn’t play a secure match against Giorgi in Washington and spoke in press about the madness in Montreal where she last faced a mountain of media pressure having reached the Wimbledon final. It will be another challenging week.

This feels like a 50-50 match…

Madison Keys (10) v Elena Vesnina (Montreal, R1)

Keys

Two players who enjoyed superb grass court seasons will meet in a lights-out first rounder in Montreal. The cut-off for the main draw in Canada  was so high that Vesnina was one of the last players to get into the main draw, benefiting from a withdrawal. Since committing to Montreal, Vesnina’s ranking has jumped up significantly from 53 to 24 by virtue of reaching her first Slam semi-final at Wimbledon.

Keys will have no doubt been disappointed with a fourth round showing at Wimbledon, losing out to Simona Halep in three sets. The American player seemed to be bothered by an injury, later admitting to suffering from a mixture of exhaustion and nerves which may have caused her to cramp. It was still a solid month in England as she claimed her 3rd WTA title and second on grass at the Aegon Classic in Birmingham.

Head-to-head record: In their only previous match, Keys defeated Vesnina on the grass courts of Eastbourne in 2014, 7-5 7-6(9).

Interesting stat: Keys has reached the last 16 at five of her last six Slams. For Vesnina, she is just three places off her career best ranking set all the way back in July of 2013.

Final thoughts: With the nature of her flat and aggressive game, there’s always going to be a sense of unpredictability for Key; in spite of the injuries, she has kept things solid in 2016, having lost the first match at just two of her nine tournaments in 2016. Vesnina is playing arguably the best tennis of her career and has a potent game, particularly if she can come forward effectively and utilise her superior net game. Vesnina is more than capable of mopping up if Keys has one of those off days but otherwise, I’d go for the American player to serve her way out of any trouble.

Monica Niculescu v Jelena Ostapenko (Montreal, R1)

Niculescu

This match-up feels me with joy… and it’s a first time match-up which always add an element of intrigue! Ostapenko broke into the world’s top 40 this year following a run to the final at the Premier tournament in Doha. She’s stabilised since then with a couple of solid results such as semi-finals in Katowice, 3rd round in Rome and quarter-finals in Birmingham. Ostapenko is yet to master the consistency though and her mental focus has tended to waver. Ostapenko lost to CiCi Bellis in Stanford last week, 4-6 4-6. Watching Jelena live on the grass was certainly eventful… she likes to argue line calls!

Niculescu is always there or thereabouts, ready to bamboozle anyone on the tour with her unique game. The Romanian player has struggled though since Stuttgart in April where she lost out to Petra Kvitova having had match points. A back injury also forced Niculescu out of the pre-Wimbledon tune-ups. In her most recent outing on the tour, Niculescu lost in straight sets to Christina McHale in Washington, 3-6 4-6.

Interesting stat: Neither player is in great form right now; for Niculescu, she has won just two of her last nine matches, while Ostapenko has lost her last three matches on tour.

Final thoughts: Please let this match be streamed… pretty please with a cherry on top? Being able to handle Niculescu’s game has a knack to it and requires patience, an attribute that Ostapenko hasn’t demonstrated in abundance! Power may not be enough on this occasion, particularly if Niculescu can unleash her bag of tricks…

Andddd a poll for who you think will win Montreal!

Photos in this post by mootennis.com

16 thoughts on “WTA Rogers Cup Montreal 2016: Preview of First Round Matches

  1. I think I’m leaning towards Aga for this. Cibulkova would probably be my top choice had she not played Stanford but she must be feeling it by now… Kerber, Muguruza and Keys are definitely contenders too.

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  2. Bouchard will defeat Lucie. Lucie is not who she was at the moment.

    Keys for the title…not sure because of her consistency.

    Some potential first round upsets: Sara Errani, Petkovic and Safarova.

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    • bouchard is garbage my man. doesn’t have an ounce of care…no other way to put it to be honest. good luck with her beating lucie, i just don’t see it.

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      • Safarova is even worst based on her recent performance. Bouchard is unpredictable but I believe she will go through at home.

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      • Lol..garbage, but she is trying to clear out some of the mess and cleaning up her game again. Home(Montreal ) could end up being the place to find that good form again.
        Frank is/was spot on.

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      • I wasn’t convinced about Bouchard in Montreal after her comments in press in DC and what happened two years ago. She’s proved me wrong, looking great so far this week! Pleased for Genie 🙂

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  3. Despite having to withdraw from Montreal with shoulder inflammation, it was a wise, safe, mature decision that Serena Williams made so that she could recover for the Olympics. Even though she has only participated in six tournaments this year (Australia, Indian Wells, Miami, Rome, Paris, & Wimbledon), she has made herself committed to being 100% healthy. When she withdrew from Dubai, Doha, Madrid, and now Montreal, I knew that she was going to not take chances with her health. I have no doubt that she will win the gold medal in Rio without dropping a set and surpass Steffi Graf’s record in New York with the same result too. However, I’m extremely concerned with Kerber taking part in Toronto after getting injured in Bastad. I don’t think she’ll be 100% healthy playing Bastad and Toronto back-to-back. Anytime Serena withdraws from a tournament, I’ve noticed that the rest of WTA’s top 10 struggle. This is a clear cut case of where Serena is far away from any drama that goes on in a tournament. Nobody can snatch the #1 ranking from Serena anytime soon. I’m predicting Aga Radwanska will be favorite to win the title here.

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    • I don’t think WTA ranking means anything. JJ and Wozniacki also used to be #1 without winning any slam. What is the point? Serena has more enough points to lose, I don’t think she cares.

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      • Timi Bacs said something about that recently, i.e. that there is pretty much no difference between a #100 player and a #20 player (I hope I got that right), and she definitely had a point though you’d expect the #20 player to beat the #100 player more often than not even if not all the time. (As an example, whom would you bet on if the Radwanska sisters played each other?)

        BTW, you could also have mentioned Dinara Safina (as someone who was #1 without winning a slam, but that was at a time when both Serena and Maria were in the doldrums of their respective careers for health and injury-related reasons. JJ was #1 by a considerable margin of points as well.

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  4. I have no clue who will win this, nevertheless I am going with the top two seeds in Muguruza and Kerber to reach the finals and Muguruza to win the title!

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  5. On another note happy that Errani and Vinci are playing doubles together, it always felt odd them playing with other people!

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    • Sadly, it feels to me like a national duty callup for the Olympic and not some rekindling of an old relationship. Likely all professional and little passion. But it is a tried and tested team that you can count on in such a tournament. It seems you have more men missing the Olympic than women who are directly affected in a sense by the Zika issues. Speaking of which, l hope the ITF allows the russian tennis women to play seeing as they are tested globally yearly on the tour. Vesnina and Makarova ought to be there. Maria can watch if she wants to(tsk ).

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      • From what I gather, the Zika outbreak is priomarily in a remote part of the country well away from Rio so people like Simona would be at less risk than they fear they would be (it’s a big shame that she’s withdrawn IMO).

        http://www.vox.com/2016/5/25/11760228/zika-virus-risk-rio-olympics-2016

        what seems to me to be much more of a problem is the very low water quality for water sports events, especially things such as the open water swimming; even one of the Austrian yachtsmen got sick from training in the bay, never mind the swimmers. Why they haven’t moved the water sports down to Florianopolis (which has safer open water), I don’t know.

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