Malaysian Open Final: (6) Eugenie Bouchard vs (2) (wc) Elina Svitolina
Despite a relatively weak field in Kuala Lumpur for the BMW Malaysian Open, we are left with a high quality final between Eugenie Bouchard and Elina Svitolina. This promises to be an extremely close match between two young ladies desperate to claim their first title of the season and a valuable confidence boost before heading to North America for a couple of big premier mandatory events. Interestingly, Svitolina has won all three previous encounters between the pair and has also never lost in a WTA final, therefore the Ukrainian should rightfully enter this match as the slight favourite.
Eugenie Bouchard has shown great commitment and determination to improve her ranking which dropped dramatically after a horror 2015 season. This is Bouchard’s third International event of the season thus far, reaching the final in two of those events. Bouchard clearly recognising that she needs to commit to playing these lower events for her ranking to get back to where she wants it to be.
The Canadian has stormed through the draw this week in Kuala Lumpur without dropping a set or even looking like dropping a set. Genie has dropped more than 3 games in just 1 of her 8 sets this week, recording comfortable straight set victories over Ling Zhang, Kurumi Nara, Cagla Buyukakcay and Naomi Broady. Bouchard will be aiming to claim just her second WTA title on Sunday in Kuala Lumpur, her first title was a year and a half ago on the clay in Nurnberg. This is an important match for Bouchard given her record in finals currently stand at 1-5, another loss and that record could start weighing on her mind.
Elina Svitolina’s passage into the final in Kuala Lumpur has been a little less impressive than Bouchard's. Svitolina’s highest ranked opponent on route to the final was world number 133 Risa Ozaki. The Ukrainian started the week with a dominant straight win over Miyu Kato before being pushed to three sets by Risa Ozaki and Kristina Kucova. Svitolina will enter the final in good form after a comfortable 6-3 6-3 victory over Lin Zhu in the semi-finals on Saturday. Interestingly, Svitolina has a perfect 3-0 record in finals, however this will clearly be the toughest final of Svitolina’s career thus far. Can she maintain her perfect record?
Elina Svitolina holds a perfect 3-0 head-to-head record over Eugenie Bouchard, all three matches were played on a hard court. The first two matches between the pair required a third set whilst Svitolina recorded a 7-6 7-5 victory in their most recent clash in Cincinnati last year. Bouchard’s form has certainly improved since their clash in Cincinnati whilst Svitolina’s form has generally not been as impressive. Despite the head-to-head record, this is certainly a really tough match to call.
I thought Svitolina would win the title at the start of the week and I’m going to stick with my original prediction despite Bouchard admittedly having the better form leading into the final. I'm not sure the form of each play actually matters heading into this match given the low quality of opponents both have faced. Svitolina has won all of the previous matches between the pair for a reason, the Ukrainian is extremely solid from the baseline and Bouchard clearly finds it hard to consistently hit through Svitolina. The Ukrainian is the more stable, consistent player and seemingly has the mental edge in this match-up, I think she will get the job done in a really close match but it could really go either way.
Prediction: Elina Svitolina to defeat Eugenie Bouchard in 3 sets
Malaysian Open SF: (2) (wc) Elina Svitolina vs (Q) Lin Zhu
Elina Svitolina’s quest for a fourth career title will continue on Saturday evening when she comes up against Chinese qualifier Lin Zhu at the semi-final stage in Kuala Lumpur. Svitolina has had a dream draw at the BMW Malaysian Open, the Ukrainian will not need to face an opponent ranked better than 133 in the world on route to the final.
Elina Svitolina started the week in style with a commanding straight set win over Miyu Kato but was surprisingly pushed to a third set by Risa Ozaki and Kristina Kucova in her next two matches. Svitolina made a particularly poor start to her quarter-final clash with Kristina Kucova but ultimately rallied the storm and recorded a comfortable 1-6 6-1 6-1 win to advance to the semi-finals. Svitolina hasn’t played particularly well in her last couple of matches but she hasn’t needed to.
Lin Zhu arrived in Kuala Lumpur fresh off a couple of losses at 25K ITF events, meaning her run to the semi-final stage via qualifying this week has been quite surprising. Zhu hasn’t dropped a set in the main draw, picking up straight set wins over Alexandra Panova, Zarina Diyas and Qiang Wang. Zhu will be making her first appearance at the semi-final stage of a WTA event on Saturday.
This is will be the first career meeting between Svitolina and Zhu. Svitolina is clearly a class above her opponent and should be good enough to record a victory here. Zhu has hit some good form in Kuala Lumpur but she hasn’t played any opponents that have really taken her out of her comfort zone. Svitolina will return well, extend the rallies and will ultimately be too strong in this match-up. This is great opportunity for Svitolina to reach another final and continue to build momentum after a relatively poor start to the season.
Prediction: Elina Svitolina to defeat Lin Zhu in 2 sets
Malaysian Open QF: (6) Eugenie Bouchard vs Cagla Buyukakcay
Eugenie Bouchard’s Malaysian Open campaign will continue on Friday when the Canadian comes up against Cagla Buyukakcay at the quarter-final stage in Kuala Lumpur. Bouchard is building some nice momentum with Indian Wells and Miami just around the corner and will look to build on that momentum with another victory here.
Eugenie Bouchard has stormed through her first two matches in Kuala Lumpur without being troubled. The Canadian recorded a 6-3 6-1 victory over Ling Zhang in her opening round match before breezing past Kurumi Nara with a 6-1 6-2 triumph. Bouchard desperately needs all the points she can get right now or she risks entering all the major events in the coming months unseeded.
Cagla Buyukakcay is having a good couple of weeks. Buyukakcay recorded an impressive victory over Lucie Safarova in Doha last week on route to the third round and is now into a rare WTA level quarter-final courtesy of straight set victories over Laura Siegemund and Kai-Chen Chang. Buyukakcay will enter her quarter-final match with nothing to lose and will be confident she can compete well given her form.
This will be the first ever meeting between Bouchard and Buyukakcay. This is likely to be Bouchard’s biggest test of the tournament thus far but she is still clearly a class above her opponent and should be too good here. Bouchard is building towards her best tennis and I don’t see any reason why she would take a big step backwards here.
Prediction: Eugenie Bouchard to defeat Cagla Buyukakcay in 2 sets
Malaysian Open QF: (3) (wc) Sabine Lisicki vs Naomi Broady
An interesting quarter-final match-up in Kuala Lumpur sees 2 of the biggest servers go head-to-head when Sabine Lisicki comes up against Naomi Broady. This will be the first career meeting between the pair.
Sabine Lisicki has made a really poor start to the season but has a chance to gain some much needed momentum in Kuala Lumpur. The German advanced through to the quarter-finals courtesy of tight straight set victories over Magda Linette and Barbora Krejcikova. Kuala Lumpur is the first event in 2016 that Sabine has managed to record back-to-back victories, a couple more victories for Sabine would be the perfect preparation heading into Indian Wells and Miami where the German has a significant amount of points to defend.
Unlike Sabine Lisicki, Naomi Broady does having winning momentum on her side after a positive start to the season. However, the majority of Naomi’s victories have been at the lower level including a title run at the 100k ITF event in Midland a couple of weeks ago. Broady started the week in Kuala Lumpur with a three set win over Klara Koukalova before beating Zhaoxuan Yang in straight sets to reach the quarter-finals.
On paper, this looks like a bit of a danger match for Sabine but I actually expect her to do well in this match-up. Obviously both players are fantastic servers but Sabine is far more competent and versatile from the baseline and is also a better returner and has far greater movement and defensive skills. Sabine should win this match.
Prediction: Sabine Lisicki to defeat Naomi Broady in 2 sets
Malaysian Open R2: (2) Elina Svitolina vs (Q) Risa Ozaki
Elina Svitolina is the highest seed left in the draw in Kuala Lumpur after Roberta Vinci suffered a shock first round exit on Tuesday night. The Ukrainian has a wonderful opportunity to claim her fourth career title this week and her first under the guidance of new coach Justine Henin. The 21-year-old will face Japanese qualifier Risa Ozaki in the second round on Thursday, a match she will start as the heavy favourite.
Svitolina’s start to the season has generally been quite disappointing. The Ukrainian suffered an early round exit at the Australian Open and has only won back-to-back matches at one event. The Malaysian Open is a great chance to Svitolina to gain much needed winning momentum heading into the big premier mandatory events at Indian Wells and Miami. Elina cruised through her opening round match in Kuala Lumper, recording a crushing 6-1 6-1 victory over Miyo Kato. Svitolina seems very focused this week and well positioned to contend for the title.
Risa Ozaki is having a great week in Kuala Lumpur. Ozaki won a couple of close matches to advance through the qualifying draw before recording a surprising easy 6-0 6-2 victory over Elizaveta Kulichkova, one of the best victories of the 21-year-old's career. Ozaki will face the toughest challenge of her career thus far when she comes up against Svitolina in the second round on Thursday.
This is a big mismatch of paper; Svitolina is clearly the more accomplished player. Svitolina rarely loses to players that she should beat and I can’t see this match breaking that trend. Ozaki is not used to playing opponents of Svitolina’s calibre and is likely to struggle in this match-up. Svitolina should win this comfortably.
Prediction: Elina Svitolina to defeat Risa Ozaki in 2 sets