Cincinnati 2019: Previews & Polls

Sunday Final Preview

A preview of the Keys-Kuznetsova final can be found in Saturday’s Set Points post here.

Sunday Final Poll

Saturday SF Previews

Ash Barty vs. Svetlana Kuznetsova: I still feel Barty’s year is a bit underrated. Yes, she won the French, but her consistency from Australia to now has been extraordinary. Barty is 42-7 for the year and has only once lost two matches in a row, most recently in Wimby and Toronto. The Aussie has come from a set down in her last two matches in Cincy against Kontaveit and Sakkari. In the latter, Barty was resilient to overcome five straight dropped games in the first set. Barty’s serve was very strong as she dropped just two points behind it for the final two sets!

Kuznetsova’s resurgence has continued and then some this week. This run has included three top 15 scalps, two comeback wins from the brink and one Stephens beatdown. Kuznetsova saved match points earlier in the week against Yastremska and on Friday, broke Pliskova for the first time when the Czech player served for the match. The Russian player then carried that momentum into the decider, valiantly holding onto her service break.

Ring the bells for a first meeting! I think this could be a fun match with both players having plenty of variety in their games. I think Kuznetsova’s versatility could cause Barty some problems. Kuznetsova keeps fighting through these epic clashes but I do wonder what she has left in the tank for an improving, Barty. I’m going for Ash.

Madison Keys vs. Sofia Kenin: The bottom half of the draw has produced an all-American semi-final, a first in Cincy since 2004, with both Keys and Kenin going for their first ever Cincy final. Keys came into Cincy with no match wins since Wimbledon. With wins over Muguruza, Kasatkina, Halep and Venus, Keys has dramatically changed her fortunes! The serve has been key to her game this week. I still feel she is producing quite a lot of cheap errors in her game but they aren’t defining her game and she’s competed brilliantly this week.

Perhaps still slightly under-the-radar, Kenin is having a sensational year. The 20-year-old has won two WTA titles, reached the last 16 of Slam for the first time including a win over Serena and now reached back-to-back Premier semi-finals including two wins over world number ones. I think Kenin is going to be a standard top ten player for many years to come.

The pair have played just once before with Kenin winning in Rome earlier this year, 6-7(2) 6-3 6-4. Tough one to call, as  practically all WTA matches are these days. I think Keys has been serving superbly but Kenin has been returning well and has been a touch more consistent. My instinct is with Kenin 🤔.

Saturday SF Poll

Friday QF Polls

Thursday R3 Previews

Ash Barty vs. Anett Kontaveit: Barty and Kontaveit will play each other for the second time this year after meeting in the semi-finals of Miami earlier this year. Barty played a great match to beat Maria Sharapova, 6-4 6-1 in her first match in Cincy. Her backhand slice is just mesmerising and she did such a good job at changing the tempo of the match. Kontaveit has made it back-to-back third rounds in Toronto and Cincy as she came from 3-5 down in the second set to beat Iga Swiatek in straights on Wednesday. Barty beat Kontaveit in a rain-affected match in Miami, 6-3 6-3, and i’d back another straight sets win for the Aussie. I just think the match-up favours Barty as Kontaveit enjoys rhythm and Barty likely won’t give her any with the slice.

Aryna Sabalenka vs. Maria Sakkari: A nice clash of styles in what will be a first ever clash between the pair. Sabalenka has yet to drop a set this week with straight set victories over Petra Martic and Zheng Saisai, the latter a reversal from the San Jose final. I watched Sabalenka’s first round win and I thought it was one of her most impressive displays of the year. Sakkari enjoyed a fourth top 10 win on Tuesday night, beating the returning, Petra Kvitova in three sets. I think Sakkari has the type of game that can unsettle a big hitter with how she varies the pace and height of her groundstrokes. I think this will be a close match. I’d probably give an edge to Sabalenka after what I saw on Monday as something seemed different about her demeanour compared to her struggles so far this year.

Karolina Pliskova vs. Rebecca Peterson: Another first time meeting! Karolina Pliskova cruised through her opening match in Cincy, dropping just four points behind her first serve to beat Wang Yafan, 6-1 6-3. Peterson is enjoying a good week in Cincy with three set wins over Johanna Konta and Veronika Kudermetova. I think that Peterson has an impressive game and is a much better player than her current ranking of 74 suggests. I’d say she could be top 40 if she can build some momentum. Tough ask against Pliskova, particularly if the Czech player continues to serve like she did on Wednesday…

Donna Vekic vs. Venus Williams: It’s been a tough year for Venus but she’s still managed to bag some big wins along the way. The 39-year-old played a bold match to topple the defending champion, Kiki Bertens, in a third set tiebreak. It was Venus’s second top five win of 2019 having beaten Kvitova at Indian Wells. Vekic has yet to drop a set this week as she beat Katerina Siniakova for the first time (previously 0-3 H2H record) and then notched back-to-back wins over Victoria Azarenka having beaten the Belarusian in San Jose two weeks ago. Venus has played some super stuff this week but I think i’d take Vekic in this match with how well she has been serving and returning this week.

Simona Halep vs. Madison Keys: Halep and Keys met each other four times in the space of four months during the 2016 season but this will be their first meeting since the WTA Finals of that year. Halep survived a scare in her opening match, just one game away from the defeat against Alexandrova. The Russian player sadly folded at the ends of the second and third sets as Halep played super solid when it counted and won in three sets. Keys delivered a much improved second round display, continuing her 100% H2H record over Kasatkina with a 6-4 6-1 victory. Keys beat Halep in their very first meeting in 2014 but since then, it’s been one way traffic with Halep winning their last five meetings and their last three in straights. I’d listen to the H2H on this one. Really happy to see Keys notch up a pair of wins in Cincy, but it will take a blinding performance to get past Halep (presuming she’s healthy to play). I think Halep will just be too steady for Keys.

Naomi Osaka vs. Hsieh Su-Wei: For the fourth time this year, Osaka and Hsieh will play each other… and i’m not complaining because I really like this match-up and their difference in styles. Osaka won her opener against Aliaksandra Sasnovich. It wasn’t the most convincing of displays but a win is a win! Hsieh continues to rack up wins and she saved set points in the first set of her second rounder against Jennifer Brady, en route to a straight sets win. Osaka leads Hsieh, 3-1 in their H2H but Hsieh did win their last match on hard courts in an exciting third round match in Miami. I can’t BELIEVE this is out on Court 10… the world number one!!! I feel like this could be a fun one as Osaka smiled her way through much of her match with Sasnovich and Hsieh just being glorious Hsieh. Of all the matches on Thursday, this is the one I most want to watch. I’ll enjoy my position sat on the fence for this one!

Thursday R3 Polls

Wednesday R2 Previews

Ash Barty vs. Maria Sharapova: The pair played at the Australian Open earlier this year where Barty squeaked out an entertaining three setter. That match makes me think how far Barty has come since the start of the year as she advanced to her first Slam QF when she beat Sharapova. The Aussie suffered an opening loss in Toronto to Sofia Kenin. I didn’t think it was a concerning loss as it was Barty’s first appearance since Wimbledon and Kenin is a top competitor. Sharapova enjoyed an excellent opening round win in Cincy, beating the in-form, Alison Riske in straight sets. This will be a good test for Sharapova and i’m certainly intrigued. I’d go for Barty who I think will have found some rhythm going deep in the doubles with Vika in Toronto.

Anett Kontaveit vs. Iga Swiatek: Exciting match-up and rare for Kontaveit to go in as the veteran! The Estonian player has enjoyed two excellent wins over the past week against Maria Sharapova (Toronto) and Angelique Kerber (Cincy). It’s nice to see Kontaveit playing well again after a subdued spell post-Stuttgart final. Swiatek is taking the tour by storm and has beaten Caroline Wozniacki (Toronto) and Caroline Garcia (Cincy) in the past week. I love Swiatek’s game and I have no doubt she’s going to be in the top 10 in years to come. Unsurprisingly, it is a first career meeting between the pair. I think Kontaveit might have the power to overwhelm Swiatek but she’ll also need to play smart. You just never know!

Naomi Osaka vs. Aliaksandra Sasnovich: After a challenging period since the French, Osaka seems to be enjoying her tennis again. She posted a poignant post on social media about her feelings and was smiling on the court in Toronto where she reached the quarter-finals, losing out to Serena. Sasnovich snapped an eight-match losing streak (!) in the first round of Cincy, beating the qualifier, Astra Sharma in three sets. This is a tough match-up for Sasnovich as she’s never won a set off Osaka in three previous meetings. There was even a double bagel at the US Open last year! I’m going for Osaka in straights.

Madison Keys vs. Daria Kasatkina: Keys won her first match since Wimbledon, toughing out a three set win over Muguruza on Tuesday in Cincy. Keys was two points from defeat but battled through some error-strewn patches and served well in the decider. I read on Twitter that Kasatkina was struggling with her serve in a straight sets win over Strycova but in the same manner for Keys, a win is a win. Keys dominates the head-to-head, 4-0, and has dropped just the one set against Kasatkina. I’m not entirely convinced by Keys’s level right now but I think the win over Muguruza was huge. I’m going for Keys.

Sloane Stephens vs. Yulia Putintseva: Stephens and Putintseva have only ever played three setter so this should be fun! Putintseva won her first match of the week against Jelena Ostapenko. Stephens has lost her two matches post-Wimbledon against Rebecca Peterson and Marie Bouzkova without winning a set. Putintseva leads the head-to-head, 2-1, and won their last match at the start of the year in Sydney, 3-6 7-6(4) 6-0. I’m thinking Sloane should be motivated after that loss in Sydney and to get at least a win before the US Open but confidence is clearly low.

Wednesday R2 Polls

Tuesday R2 Preview

Kiki Bertens vs. Venus Williams: Blockbuster clash for day 2! Venus snapped a four match losing streak with a first win since Birmingham as she beat Lauren Davis in straights on Monday. Venus was clutch as she saved seven of eight break points and was strong behind her first serve. Bertens, who had a bye in the first round, lost in the third round of Toronto to Bianca Andreescu. Taking a step back, I think Bertens has had a super solid year and her serve is winning her so many free points. However, I do think she has become increasingly passive since winning Madrid. I do wonder how she is doing mentally as she has played so much tennis this year!

The pair have split their two previous meetings, both epics that took place last year. Venus won in Miami, 5-7 6-3 7-5 and then Kiki won at Wimbledon in an extra-time finish, 6-2 6-7(5) 8-6. I think it would take an ultra-aggressive AND accurate display from Venus to topple Bertens’s steadiness so I am going for the defending champ in this one.

Tuesday R1 Previews

Angelique Kerber vs. Anett Kontaveit: An all top 20 clash in the first round of Cincy! Not sure what to think about Kerber right now. She lost her opener in Toronto to Daria Kasatkina and suffered a shock second round exit at Wimby, but she was in good form during the grass court season up till then. Kontaveit went very quiet after reaching the final in Stuttgart. I think that win over Sharapova in Toronto was a huge mental win for her. Kontaveit leads the head-to-head, 2-1 with their last match taking place in Doha at the start of this year. Kerber won, 6-1 7-6(3). I’d tentatively go with Kerber on the hard courts but mostly on the fence.

Katerina Siniakova vs. Donna Vekic: Interestingly, Siniakova leads Vekic in this head-to-head, 3-0. The pair haven’t played since last year in St. Petersburg where Siniakova won 6-4 in the third. Vekic continues to make steady and consistent improvements with the top 20 now in sight. The consistency from tournament-to-tournament is still a work in progress. Siniakova’s breakthrough at the French Open was unfortunately, it seems, a flash in the pan, as she’s lost seven of her last nine matches in singles. Despite the head-to-head, I’d go for Vekic in this clash. Both can lose their way but I think Vekic has shown a commitment to try and be more positive on court this year.

Belinda Bencic vs. Victoria Azarenka: Jeepers, these first round matches! Again, a tough draw for Azarenka, but there are very few favourable openings in this draw so it could have been worse. Bencic reached the last 16 in Toronto, while Azarenka made the last 32. I thought this was going to be Azarenka’s time to shine but it’s not happened for her yet during this summer hard court season. The pair will play for the first time since Wimbledon 2015 when Azarenka beat Bencic in the fourth round, 6-2 6-3. On the fence with this one…

Madison Keys vs. Garbiñe Muguruza: Again, this is a first round match…. Muguruza hasn’t played since Wimbledon and splitting with coach, Sam Sumyk. Unless I missed it, I haven’t seen an announcement about coaching so I am fascinated to see how Muguruza gets on this week. The Spaniard pulled out of both San Jose and Toronto with injury. Keys lost both her openers in D.C. and Toronto – the former to 17-year-old, Hailey Baptiste and the latter from match point up to Donna Vekic. Keys has generally dominated this head-to-head but Muguruza did win their last meeting which was at Cincy in 2017. Muguruza saved match points to win, 6-4 3-6 7-6(3). Not expecting a high standard in this one but I am super intrigued. I’m going for Keys.

Sofia Kenin vs. Julia Goerges: Kenin beat Goerges in Wuhan last year, a match I do not remember happening in the slightest! If she’s not feeling it too much from her run in Toronto, I’d take Kenin here. Not entirely convinced by Goerges right now who has dealt with a lot of injuries this year.

Wang Qiang vs. Hsieh Su-Wei: This will be Wang Qiang’s first match back since Wimbledon. I do wonder how she’s doing mentally after the death of her former coach, Peter McNamara. The pair were a wonderful team and seemed to have a special relationship. I still feel Hsieh’s story has gone a bit under-the-radar. She’s been mostly top 30 for the past year and continues to trouble the best players on tour with her unique game. I’m going for Hsieh.

Tuesday R1 Polls

Monday R1 Previews

Maria Sharapova vs. Alison Riske: This match-up brings back memories. I went for Riske to beat Sharapova at Wimbledon in 2014 which remains one of my most bizarre predictions ever 😂. Despite a first-round loss in Toronto to Anett Kontaveit, there were plenty of positives for Sharapova who managed to get through a gruelling match without any injury niggles.

Riske is arguably in the form of her life right now after reaching the quarter-finals of Wimbledon. She has brought that momentum to the hard courts where she saved match points to beat Maria Sakkari in the first round of Toronto. A key stat for Riske, a player who had some nervy moments during her career, is that she has won 10 of her last 13 three set matches. Riske also got married after Wimby so life must be good right now!

Sharapova leads Riske, 3-0 in their head-to-head and won their last match in Shenzhen at the start of 2018 in three sets. I’m generally torn. I’ve gone for Riske in my Draw Chal as I feel she’s super confident right now. I still have concerns over Sharapova’s health/fitness and if this were to go deep, I’d kind of favour Riske as she’s been a machine in three setters of late.

Aryna Sabalenka vs. Petra Martic: Ring the bells for a first time match-up! Sabalenka enjoyed her best result of the year in San Jose where she reached the final with wins over Carla Suárez Navarro and Donna Vekic. I watched the win over CSN and to be honest, I still wasn’t entirely convinced by Sabalenka. The Belarusian then lost her opener in Toronto to Pavs although it was a quick turnaround. A step forward for Sabalenka but I still feel belief is lacking.

Martic suffered a surprising first round loss in Toronto to Francesca Di Lorenzo but not sure if I’ve read too much into it as it was her first match back since Wimby. I do wonder if Martic may be feeling it physically as she’s played a heck of a lot of tennis over the past few months. Interesting match and not expecting a classic! I’ll go for Martic as I think her variety will unsettle Sabalenka.

Maria Sakkari vs. Camila Giorgi: It’s good to see Giorgi back having missed much of the first half of the season with a wrist injury. Giorgi reached the final in D.C. and seems to be healthy again. Sakkari had a tough loss in Toronto from match points up against Alison Riske but has generally been playing well of late. It will be interesting to see if there’s any hangovers from that Riske loss. I’m tending towards no and I think her variety of groundstrokes will be enough to absorb and negate Giorgi’s pace.

Caroline Wozniacki vs. Dayana Yastremska: Another first-time meeting! Wozniacki gets another talented teen in Cincy after her campaign in Toronto was ended by the 18-year-old, Iga Swiatek. Yastremska had a solid run in Toronto with straight set wins over Johanna Konta and Victoria Azarenka. After winning her first two WTA titles at the end of 2018, I think she has progressed very well in 2019 and is making a name for herself at the higher calibre events. I’m leaning towards Yastremska in this one as I think her aggressive game and brutal returning will put Woz on the defensive. All depends on whether she can execute.

Jelena Ostapenko vs. Yulia Putintseva: Oh the draw gods have been kind! I remember their clash in Beijing where Putintseva celebrated the win like she’d won the Career Slam and then Ostapenko gave her a drive-by handshake. Ostapenko’s had a rough year but she has won a few more matches of late and did secure decent back-to-back wins over Caroline Garcia and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in Toronto. Putintseva is having a solid year and is higher ranked than this time last year. I don’t trust either player to be honest but I’d probably go for Putintseva with her variety.

Elise Mertens vs. Catherine McNally: I got my first glimpse of McNally in D.C. and I was so, so impressed. I loved her aggressive game and how comfortable she was coming forward and volleying at the net. It’s rare to see for up-and-comers and with courts generally getting slower. Mertens has had an odd year. She’s kept her ranking up by playing well at the Slams with R3, R3 and R4 appearances. Other than winning Doha, it’s been a quiet year. Mertens the clear favourite on experience but I actually quite like McNally’s chances of springing an upset at home.

Monday R1 Polls

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