Tuesday was a busy day in Wuhan and a surprisingly successful day for the seeds with eight of the ten in action progressing to the third round. We’ve become used to upsets this year but actually, there’s been some stability among the world’s top ten during the second half of the season. The highest seed to fall so far in Wuhan was the number two seed, Garbiñe Muguruza who lost out to a peaking-in-Asia-again, Jelena Jankovic. The Serb failed to serve out the match but eased through the second set tiebreak, winning, 6-4 7-6(2).
I had genuine fears that JJ might retire after the Olympics and perhaps that may still be the case come the end of 2016; finally healthy, she’s proved these last two weeks that she can still be a force on the tour. Please stay with us, Jelena!
The only other seed to fall on day 3 of main draw action was Roberta Vinci… step forward, Yaroslava Shvedova who is always lethal when on song. Shvedova won, 7-5 6-2 and dropped just one point behind her first serve in the second set. Shvedova will play Simona Halep in the third round. Halep didn’t have the best of birthdays on court as she was forced to retire in doubles after taking a blow to the ear after just four games. Normally i’d go for Halep in that match-up but I think Shvedova, in decent form, has a good shot at the upset based on the circumstances.
Jankovic will play Barbora Strycova in the third match up on court 1 on Wednesday… now that sounds like fun. I’m salivating at the prospect of a three setter where they are both ranting. JJ, who has once again found her very best form in Asia, has the edge for me.
Wednesday’s line-up of matches is pretty awesome and is probably one of the best days of the entire year. Angelique Kerber, who received a floral surprise after her second round win over Kristina Mladenovic, faces off against Petra Kvitova in a KK blockbuster. Kerber dropped the opening set to Mladenovic on the tiebreak having twice led by a break but showed a sense of calm in coming back to win in three. She played a perfect final game with a plethora of first serves, closing out the match to love to win, 6-7(4) 6-1 6-4.
An error-strewn Kvitova opened proceedings against Elina Svitolina but she clicked into gear… there were Peak Petra vibes! Kvitova won 11 of the last 12 games as she thoroughly overwhelmed Svitolina, 6-3 6-1. It was Kvitova’s third straight sets win over Svitolina in the last two months. I’d guess that despite Svitolina’s consistency, she doesn’t change up the rhythm much which plays into Kvitova’s hands.
Kerber and Kvitova last played at the US Open where Kerber won, 6-3 7-5. Kvitova hasn’t won a title on the WTA tour since New Haven last year, which is her longest title drought since winning her first title in Hobart in 2009. While it’s been a torrid year at times for Kvitova there are definitely encouraging signs. Since Wimbledon, she’s won multiple matches at five of her last six tournaments.
Kerber has become a mental giant but I do think there comes a point when all the tennis she played over the summer will catch up with her. I’ll stick my neck out with this one… I think Petra wins this match.
In another battle of the K’s, Madison Keys and Daria Kasatkina will open up proceedings on court 1 on Wednesday. Both players had comfortable second round wins; Keys served 13 aces in a 6-3 6-4 victory over Caroline Garcia, while Kasatkina dropped just two games in a 6-1 6-1 rout of Louisa Chirico. Kasatkina came into Wuhan on a four match losing streak but has turned her fortunes around with four wins, coming through qualifying after forgetting to enter the main draw.
This is the classic match-up where Kasatkina has struggled – against a power player who can take the game away from her, she has struggled to come up with answers and tactics to turn it in her favour. Keys’s performance in the second round was ominous, particularly how the surface intensified her serve, I’ve got a real soft spot for Kasatkina, but I think Keys will take this in two. Prove me wrong, Dasha!
Venus Williams and Svetlana Kuznetsova will play each other for the first time since 2009 (!) with the winner set to take a lead in their head-to-head which is currently tied at 4-4. Venus won their last match in three sets at the WTA Finals in Doha, 6-2 6-7(4) 6-4. Venus exacted revenge on Yulia Putintseva for her Charleston loss earlier this year with a routine 6-3 6-2 win in Wuhan on Tuesday. Venus’s groundstrokes were sensationally sharp at times, forcing Putintseva back and into defensive mode. Venus’s serve was noticeably weak but Putintseva didn’t do anything with it, often returning short and allowing Venus to dictate.
It was a typically petulant display from Putintseva… the handshake was hilarious!
I expected Kuznetsova’s second round match against Madison Brengle to be one of those three set messes that the Russian player all too often gets herself entangled in… but no! Kuznetsova sailed past Brengle, 6-0 6-4. While she did lose her break in the second set, she quickly regained it and held onto it to serve out the match to 30.
I think Venus and Sveta will be a fascinating match and i’d fancy it to go the distance. Initially when I saw the match-up I was thinking Venus but after watching back her match this evening, I think her serve could be vulnerable if Kuznetsova can get on top of it. Tough but i’m leaning towards Sveta in 3.
Like London buses… Agnieszka Radwanska and Caroline Wozniacki will meet for the second time in a week in the late night match in Wuhan on Wednesday. Wozniacki’s in winning mode right now; she’s won 12 of her last 13 matches and is knocking on the door of the world’s top 20 again. Wozniacki survived a break-happy second set to overcome Katerina Siniakova in straight sets, 6-4 6-4.
Radwanska served for the match against Wozniacki in the semi-finals of Tokyo last week before the Dane came back to win in three. In her first match since that disappointing result, Radwanska cruised past a wild, Ekaterina Makarova, 6-4 6-1. Radwanska got so many balls back in the second set and served superbly in what could have been a tricky match.
As to a winner this time round? I’m totally on the fence with this one. Based on recent matches, Radwanska will be the much fresher but that’s not always everything. Wozniacki plays Radwanska well and is obviously brimming with confidence. I think it should be another great contest.
And the good matches just keep on coming… a repeat of the Eastbourne final from earlier this year will see the US Open finalist, Karolina Pliskova play Dominika Cibulkova. Pliskova won Monday’s late night match against Lucie Safarova, saving two set points in the second set to win in straights, while Cibulkova endured another three setter as she battled back from a set and a break down to beat Laura Siegemund, 2-6 6-3 6-4.
Cibulkova has won their two previous matches but i’m siding with Pliskova this time round. I think Cibulkova’s year has levelled off a tad due to the brutal first half of the year and Pliskova’s serve might win her through this one. I do hope that both players qualify for Singapore and in those regards, this will be a key match.
And finally… i’ve written a full preview for the match between Carla Suárez Navarro and Johanna Konta (see below). I wish I had more time to write some detailed previews but I haven’t watched enough tennis today to do them justice. I’m having a really busy week in my day job so this is the best I can do!