In third round action at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati, Angelique Kerber and Barbora Strycova played out a brutal match in the sun on Grandstand court. Kerber won the battle of Rio medallists, prevailing in two tight sets, 7-6(5) 6-4. Kerber wrapped up the first set on a crazy set point; she couldn’t get the job done at the net but sealed it with a sensational backhand crosscourt winner.
Huge credit to Strycova for hanging in the second set. It went mostly with the serve but there were three straight breaks towards the end of it; Strycova had two game points to go up 5-4, but Kerber has become a dab hand at winning the points that really matter. She made no mistake at serving out the match…
Kerber moves through to play Carla Suárez Navarro in the quarter-finals after the Spaniard defeated Roberta Vinci in straight sets, 6-1 7-5. Suárez Navarro led 6-1 3-0 at one stage before Vinci mounted a comeback and won five straight games. The 2015 US Open finalist had three set points, but Suárez Navarro battled back into the ascendancy, winning four games in a row and sealing the win on her fourth match point.
This will be Kerber and Suárez Navarro’s fourth clash in 2016; Kerber won the first two convincingly but Suárez Navarro nicked a three set win in Birmingham, surprisingly so, as grass is her weakest surface and arguably Kerber’s strongest. I’d always go Kerber in this match-up but it’s tough to say on this occasion how much Kerber has left in the tank. If she continues to find her best tennis in the key moments then she’s good enough to win in two but if it goes the distance, I think the barometer swings in favour of the Spaniard.
Svetlana Kuznetsova maintained her 100% record over Timea Bacsinszky but did drop her first set to the Swiss player, winning 6-2 3-6 6-2. Kuznetsova led 6-2 2-0 but you can never trust Sveta with a lead!
Bacsinszky had the momentum going into the third set but missed three break points in the first game. Bacsinszky then missed a sitter in the first point of her service game at *1-2 and promptly got broken to love. Bacsinszky had started to attack midway through the second set but backed off again after that ropey service game, allowing Kuznetsova to dictate and step in. Break point conversions in the third set was also a key stat…
Bacsinszky: 0/6 on break points
Kuznetsova: 2/4 on break points
A tough one for Timea but she’s earnt some rest after Rio. Sveta has now won 15 out of 19 three set matches in 2016. You’ll be hard pushed to find a better handshake all year… loved their embrace at the net!
Next up for Kuznetsova is Karolina Pliskova who enjoyed a good win over Misaki Doi, 7-5 6-3. Doi had won their last match at Wimbledon. Pliskova dug out of a hole at *4-5 *0-30 and didn’t drop a point behind her first serve in the first set, winning 18/18. Pliskova’s serve continued to dominate as she dropped just five points behind it in the second set.
Kuznetsova and Pliskova will play each other for the first time on tour! I’d definitely go three sets. As to a winner, i’m stumped…
Simona Halep’s looking good… very good. The Romanian player extended her winning streak to 12 matches with a superb performance against Daria Gavrilova, 6-1 6-2. Both of Halep’s matches in Cincy this week have taken less than an hour and she powers into the quarter-finals where she’ll take on Agnieszka Radwanska who came from a set down to defeat Johanna Konta.
Halep v Radwanska will be the highlight of the quarter-finals, contesting the night match at 7pm local time in Cincy. It will be their first encounter in 2016; the last time they played, Radwanska played a brilliant match to beat Halep in the round robin stage of the WTA Finals in Singapore. Halep is on a confidence high right now and I think she’s much more comfortable on this surface. I’d go for Halep in three sets.
The final Cincy quarter-final will feature Garbiñe Muguruza and Timea Babos. Muguruza had another good win, defeating Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, 7-5 6-1, while Babos came from a set down to beat Dominika Cibulkova, 4-6 6-3 6-1. I went to bed after the first set of Babos-Cibulkova where the Slovak player looked in control so i’m a tad surprised to see that final scoreline.
Muguruza leads Babos, 3-0 in their head-to-head and has won their two 2016 encounters in straight sets. I’ve had Garbiñe out every round in my predictions and she’s been proving me wrong each day! I think she does everything a bit better than Babos so going for Muguruza in this one.
I enjoyed this WTA Insider podcast with Belinda Bencic. Great to see BB back on tour :-).
And finally, this made me laugh!