Ubha: Cincinnati Expert Predictions
Published August 10, 2014 12:14
Things didn't go as planned for most of the top seeds at the Rogers Cup in Montréal last week: Five of the top seven were knocked out ahead of the quarterfinals.
Will order be restored at this week's Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati?
Here's a peek at the draw.
First Quarter: How Will Serena Hold Up?
Winning in Stanford and reaching the semifinals in Montréal wasn't the worst start to the US Open Series for Serena Williams after those early, unexpected defeats at Wimbledon and the French Open.
The lone negative? The World No.1 will probably be tired heading into Cincinnati and thus, even with a bye, could be vulnerable.
For the second consecutive week, Williams is expected to meet Samantha Stosur in her opener, and having crushed the Aussie in under an hour in Montréal, another rout in Williams' favor couldn't happen, could it?
Flavia Pennetta is the first seed Williams could encounter; Pennetta sure needs victories, winning back-to-back matches once since claiming the title in Indian Wells in March.
The road back from a foot injury was always going to be difficult for defending Cincinnati champion Victoria Azarenka. The foot now better, Azarenka struggled with a knee injury in her loss to eventual champion Agnieszka Radwanska in Montréal.
Bad luck? Maybe. But the injury likely has more to do with Azarenka's body adjusting to once again playing matches. Barbora Zahlavova Strycova makes for a difficult first round match for Azarenka.
Sloane Stephens' tilt with the back-from-injury Andrea Petkovic is arguably the top first round match of the tournament.
Jelena Jankovic is the dark horse. Jankovic won the title in 2009, made the final in 2011 and advanced to the semifinals last year.
Second Quarter: Return Of The Woz
Did you know National Cheesecake Day existed? If you answered, 'No,' you weren't the only one.
But someone bound to know was Radwanska, a cheesecake connoisseur who, of course, is sponsored by The Cheesecake Factory.
Still on the subject of desserts, Radwanska's BFF, Caroline Wozniacki, said in Montréal she was looking forward to the Pole treating her to an ice cream.
Montréal turned out to be sweet for the pair, with Radwanska the last woman standing to reverse a worrying skid and Wozniacki nearly upsetting another of her good friends in Williams.
This is promising stuff from the more focused Wozniacki.
When she dropped six games in her first three matches, it was reminiscent of her No.1 form. She subsequently led Williams by a set and break in the quarterfinals.
Returning to the Top 10 by early September is within reach for Wozniacki, who figures to cruise to the third round in Cincinnati - where yet another friend, Angelique Kerber, could await.
Like in Montréal, Radwanska could play Sabine Lisicki (a further player with ties to Poland in this quarter). If, however, Lisicki loses in the first round to Roberta Vinci, Vinci and doubles partner Sara Errani will probably tangle in the second.
Third Quarter: Rematch Of The Wimbledon Final?
There was no sign of Eugenie Bouchard getting tight this year. It didn't happen at the Australian Open, French Open or Wimbledon. In the latter, Bouchard was simply out-powered in the final by an opponent, Petra Kvitova, who wasn't going to lose to many that day.
But playing at home proved to be overwhelming for even the feisty 20-year-old. Exiting to Shelby Rogers in her opener was surprising enough - though the American was in form - but 6-0? Twice?
The spotlight lessens in Cincinnati, yet Bouchard could face Grand Slam winners Svetlana Kuznetsova - she's the Washington champ, too - and Ana Ivanovic in her opening two matches. Note that Ivanovic begins against her slumping buddy, Sorana Cirstea, whose ranking plummets to around No.80 this week.
Who might Bouchard confront in the quarterfinals? Kvitova.
How Kvitova's fans would have loved an extended stay for the Czech in Montréal, a sign, perhaps, that she'd go on a tear this summer. Instead, she was bettered by Ekaterina Makarova.
Fourth Quarter: Rematch Of... The French Open Final?
Even though she's the reigning French Open champion, Maria Sharapova losing to Carla Suárez Navarro on clay would be understandable. Suárez Navarro thrives on the dirt.
But who would have predicted Suárez Navarro topping Sharapova in Montréal - especially after Sharapova forced a third set in their third round tussle?
All of a sudden, Sharapova is 1-2 in her last three matches that have gone to three sets, having won 11 in a row entering Wimbledon.
A third set for Sharapova in the second round in Cincinnati wouldn't be unusual if she lands Alizé Cornet, given the French No.1's penchant for taking part in marathon matches.
Cornet's clash with Madison Keys, along with Venus Williams' battle against Lucie Safarova, make for enticing first rounders in this quarter. Safarova must be the slight favorite versus Venus after the latter's deep run in Stanford and Montréal - she contested four third sets in Québec, including one against Serena in the sisters' 25th meeting (which was a classic).
With all the upsets in Montréal, maybe sitting out the tournament wasn't such a bad idea for Simona Halep.
She returns as the second seed and has a potential quarterfinal showdown against Sharapova.
If Halep and Sharapova get there, we'd take a repeat of their dramatic rendez-vous at the French Open.
Winner: Sharapova (def. Wozniacki)