Category Archives: Draw Predictions

2015 Bank of the West Classic Stanford, Tournament Preview

2015 Bank of the West Classic, Stanford - Tournament Preview

After three weeks of random international events around the globe, the tour heats right back up with the beginning of the 2015 U.S Open Series. The Bank of the West Classic in Stanford is the first of four premier level events in the lead up to the final Grand Slam of the year in New York. This is always one of the most exciting periods of the season.

The Bank of the West Classic has once again attracted a reasonably strong field, 8 top 20 players will be in action in Stanford this week. However defending champion Serena Williams was forced to withdraw from the event with a right elbow injury, a major blow for the tournament. Late wild cards, Caroline Wozniacki and Agnieszka Radwanska will now enter the tournament as the top two seeds.

 

A new champion will be crowned this week in Stanford, there are no former champions in the draw. Agnieszka Radwanska and Angelique Kerber are the only two ladies to have reached the final.

The first quarter of the draw is headlined by the number one seed, Caroline Wozniacki. Surprisingly, this will be the Dane’s first ever appearance in Stanford. Caroline’s quarter of the draw is littered with dangerous opponents. The world number 5 will receive a bye into the second round where she will face either Mirjana Lucic-Baroni or Varvara Lepchenko, two potentially dangerous first up opponents.

Caroline is projected to meet Andrea Petkovic in the quarter-finals. The German faces a tough opening round challenge, coming up against compatriot Carina Witthoeft. A second round clash with Mona Barthel is likely to await the winner. The quarter-final clash between Caroline and Andrea seems likely.

 

Karolina Pliskova and Madison Keys are the two seeded players in the second quarter of the draw. Both ladies are right in the mix to reach the WTA Finals for the first time. Pliskova will receive a bye into the second round where she is likely to run into Sabine Lisicki in what would be an exciting second round match-up.

1st Half Prediction: Caroline Wozniacki def. Sabine Lisicki 

Madison Keys plays Aleksandra Krunic in the first round and could come up against Ajla Tomljanovic in the second round. A tricky draw for the American.

The third quarter of the draw features Carla Suarez Navarro and Elina Svitolina. Suarez Navarro has been one of the most consistent performers this year and is also on track to reach the WTA finals for the first time in her career. This is another great opportunity for Carla to pick up some more points, Carla receives a bye into the second round before facing either Alison Riske or Tatjana Maria for a spot the final 8.

 

Elina Svitolina is one to watch out for during the US Open series. Elina faces a qualifier in the opening round before a potential showdown with fellow rising start Caroline Garcia in the second round.

The final quarter of the draw is arguably the strongest as it features two of the tournament favourites, Agnieszka Radwanska and Angelique Kerber. Radwanska should cruise into the final 8, the Pole receives a bye into the second round where she will face either CiCi Bellis or a qualifier.

Angelique Kerber’s passage to the final 8 will be a little more difficult, the German faces Daria Gavrilova in a tough opening round matchup before a potential clash with Ana Konjuh in the second round. Aga and Angie are both quite experienced in Stanford and should set up a mouth-watering quarter-final match-up.

2nd Half Prediction: Aga Radwanska def. Carla Suarez Navarro

 

Caroline Wozniacki and Aga Radwanska aren't the strongest and most ruthless top seeds, but I fancy both to reach the final. Wozniacki’s biggest threat is likely to come in the semi-finals against either Madison Keys, Sabine Lisicki or Karolina Pliskova. The Dane has always performed well on the North American hard courts and things shouldn't be any different here. Whilst Aga’s biggest threat is clearly Angelique Kerber, I would give Aga the slight edge given her positive record over Angie.

Final Prediction: Aga Radwanska to defeat Caroline Wozniacki

Apia International Sydney Preview

The Apia Sydney International has once again attracted a stellar lineup as final preparations are made for next week's Australian Open. Six of the world's top 10 players will compete in Sydney this week (Simona Halep, Petra Kvitova, Agnieszka Radwanska, Caroline Wozniacki, Angelique Kerber and Ekaterina Makarova). Whilst some of week ones most in form players: Lucie Safarova, Alize Cornet and Elina Svitolina will be looking to continue their strong start to the season in Sydney.

Interestingly, and somewhat surprisingly, defending champion Tsvetana Pironkova has not been granted a MD WC and will instead need to navigate her way through qualifiers. Hopefully the Bulgarian will qualify for the main draw, it would be a shame if the shock 2014 champion doesn't get an opportunity to defend her title.

 

The draw has thrown up some extremely exciting first round matches including: CSN vs Sabine, Svitolina vs Makarova, Aga vs Cornet, Muguruza vs Errani, Safarova vs Stosur and Wozniacki vs Strycova.. wow. An incredible first round lineup.

At the top of the draw lies top seed Simona Halep who will receive a bye into the second round. After an impressive week in Shenzhen, the Romanian will open her Sydney campaign against either Karolina Pliskova or a qualifier.

 

The other seed in the first quarter is sixth seed Ekaterina Makarova who will open her 2015 season against Brisbane International semi-finalist Elina Svitolina. An extremely tough opening match for Makarova, Svitolina played incredibly well in Brisbane where she defeated Angelique Kerber on route to the Semi-Finals before falling to a red-hot Sharapova . The winner of that match will face either Sabine Lisicki or Carla Suarez Navarro. An extremely tough section of the draw..

1st Round Match Predictions: Sabine Lisicki to defeat CSN in 3 sets, Elina Svitolina to defeat Ekaterina Makarova in 3 sets

 

The second quarter is headlined by third seed and 2013 champion Agnieszka Radwanska. The Pole will face Alize Cornet in the biggest of the first round matches. The two met at the Hopman Cup this week and played out an epic three set match which Cornet eventually won 7-5. Aga will be looking to avenge that loss in Sydney, where she will be joined by Martina Navratilova for the first time in her coaching box.

 

The winner of the Aga-Cornet match will face either Garbine Muguruza or Sara Errani in the second round. Fifth seed Angelique Kerber faces a qualifier in the opening round before a potential match up with Belinda Bencic. Another extremely difficult section of the draw which is sure to produce some stunning matches.

1st Round Match Predictions: Agnieszka Radwanska to defeat Alize Cornet in 2 sets, Garbine Muguruza to defeat Sara Errani in 2 sets, Belinda Bencic to defeat Daria Gavrilova in 2 sets

The third quarter of the draw is headlined by fourth seed Caroline Wozniacki, after a great week in Auckland the Dane arrives in Sydney full of confidence, with her eyes fixed on a first GS title in Melbourne. Wozniacki will face Strycova in the first round, a repeat of their Auckland semi-final. The winner will face either Lucie Safarova or Sam Stosur in the second round. Safarova showed great signs in Perth, coming agonisingly close to her first career victory over Serena Williams. I expect Lucie to have a good week in Sydney.

 

Also in this section is eighth seed Flavia Pennetta, the Italian will face a qualifier in the opening round before a potential second round match with either Madison Keys or Svetlana Kuznetsova. Keys suffered a disappointing loss to Varvara Lepchenko in Brisbane and will need a couple of wins here if she is to be prepared for Melbourne.

1st Round Match Predictions: Madison Keys to defeat Svetlana Kuznetsova in 2 sets, Lucie Safarova to defeat Sam Stosur in 3 sets, Caroline Wozniacki to defeat Barbora Strycova in 2 sets

The final section of the draw is headlined by second seed Petra Kvitova. Kvitova suffered a disappointing semi-final loss to Timea Bacsinszky in Shenzhen and will look to rebound in Sydney. The Czech will receive a bye into the second round where she will meet either Peng Shuai or Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.

 

Former finalist and Seventh seed Dominika Cibulkova will desperately be seeking a couple of victories in Sydney after a tough first up loss to Madison Keys In Brisbane. Domi will face a qualifier in the opening round before a potential second round match Against Andrea Petkovic or Jarmila Gajdosova.

1st Round Match Predictions: Andrea Petkovic to defeat Jarmila Gajdosova in 3 sets, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova to defeat Peng Shuai in 3 sets

Champion Prediction: Petra Kvitova

It's extremely hard to predict an eventual champion in this stacked field however Petra does stand out as the favourite. Despite a disappointing loss to Timea Bacsinszky in Shenzhen, Petra showed good signs in previous matches and will have extra time to prepare for Sydney. The extra time she will have compared to Halep, Wozniacki and Radwanska could be vital. Plus she obviously has the ability to dominate any one of her main rivals in Sydney

Who do you think will reign supreme in Sydney? Favourite first round match? Leave a comment a below 🙂

2014 WTA Finals Singapore Preview and Predictions

An incredibly talented field featuring 4 Grand Slam champions and 4 Grand Slam finalists has landed in Singapore for the inaugural BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SCglobal. This years season finale promises to be one of the best yet, Two time defending champion Serena Williams will of course start as favourite, however the world number 1 has certainly not been at her dominant best throughout 2014 and enters this event under an injury. Come Sunday, all seven of the remaining competitors have a legitimate chance to hoist the Billie Jean King Trophy.

 

The groups for this year’s season finale are delightfully even; I don't believe there is a strong group (in contrast to previous years).

Red Group:
(1) Serena Williams
(4) Simona Halep
(5) Eugenie Bouchard
(7) Ana Ivanovic

All four members of the red group arrive in Singapore on the back of walkover losses; it’s fair to say that this group can be considered the out of form group. Injury concerns are always a common theme at this time of the year; this group is full of injury concerns!

The red group is spearheaded by world number 1 and two-time defending champion Serena Williams. Serena has had a slightly disappointing season by her incredibly high standards. Serena’s Grand Slam results were particularly disappointing, failing to reach the quarter-finals at the first three Slams. During the North American hard court season, Serena managed to turn things around, claiming three titles including the U.S Open, Stanford and Cincinnati. We all know that if Serena is fully fit she is unbeatable in events like this, however at it is highly likely that Serena will be compromised by injury this week. Serena enters this tournament under an injury cloud; the American was forced to Retire in Wuhan and withdrew from Beijing prior to her quarter-final meeting with Ana Ivanovic sighting a left knee injury. We all know that if Serena is fully fit she is unbeatable in events like this, however at it is highly likely that Serena will be compromised by injury this week.

 

Serena will face both Eugenie Boucahrd and Simona Halep for the first time in season 2014.

Simona also enters Singapore under an injury cloud. Simona suffered an uncharacteristic loss to Garbine Muguruza in Wuhan before handing a walkover victory to Ana Ivanovic in Beijing. After reaching her first Grand Slam final in Paris and backing it up with a solid run to the semi-finals at Wimbledon, Simona has struggled. Disappointing losses to Mirjana Lucic-Baroni and Magdalena Rybarikova during the North American swing, the low points in the Romanian season. If Simona can find some of her early season form, she is certainly a strong contender to come through this group.

 

Eugenie Bouchard is the third member of the red group, the third member of the group to enter the tournament with injury concerns. Bouchard’s successes this season have been well documented, a stunning run to the final at Wimbledon and semi-final appearances at the Australian Open and Roland Garros the highlights of the Canadian season. Genie’s North American hard court season didn't pan out as the Canadian would have liked, a left leg injury has hindered Genie’s performances, condemning her to several disappointing losses, most notably a three set opening round loss to Shelby Rogers at her home in Montreal. Genie turned things around in Wuhan where she reached the final of the inaugural event. Genie has nothing to lose this week and if reasonably fit she is capable of anything.

 

The final member of the red group is Serbian Ana Ivanovic. Ana has been more consistent than any other member of the red group this season. Ivanovic has won an incredible 57 matches this season, including four titles, one on each surface. However Ana’s Grand Slam results have been comparatively disappointing, reaching just one Quarter-final (at the Australian Open). Perhaps her most disappointing result came at the US Open where she was knocked out in the second round by Karolina Pliskova. Given her poor performances at the biggest events this season, Ana will be extra motivated to perform well this week in Singapore.

 

Predictions: 1. Serena Williams 2. Eugene Boucahrd 3. Simona Halep 4. Ana Ivanovic

I’m hesitantly going for Serena to top the group. I wouldn't be surprised to see her struggle this week but equally I wouldn't be surprised to see her at her dominant best. Second place is totally up for grabs. At this stage, my early prediction is for Eugenie Bouchard to grab second spot. Boucahrd has consistently performed well at the big events in 2014 and matches up well against Ana and Simona.

White Group:
(2) Maria Sharapova
(3) Petra Kvitova
(6) Agnieszka Radwanska
(8) Caroline Wozniacki

The white group features the most in from players on tour heading into Singapore. Both Petra Kvitova and Maria Sharapova were in brilliant form at recent events in China. Petra claimed the inaugural Wuhan Open title whilst Maria reigned supreme in Beijing. Add a resurgent Caroline Wozniacki and the ever so capable Agnieszka Radwanska to the group and we have a group to get very excited about!

Maria Sharapova arrives in Singapore full of confidence after claiming her fourth title of the season in Beijing just a couple of weeks ago. Maria has had an extremely impressive season; the highlight of her year came in Paris where she won her second Roland Garros title, defeating Simona Halep in a thriller. The majority of Maria’s finest results this year came during the clay court season, winning titles in Stuttgart and Madrid alongside her Roland Garros title. Unlike many of her competitors this week, Maria seems to be fresh and fully fit, ready for a real a shot at the title in Singapore. Maria has positive head-to-head record against her three fellow competitors in the white group, and will therefore be considered the favourite to top the group.

 

Petra Kvitova also arrives in Singapore full of confidence on the back of impressive results during the Asian swing. Petra won in the inaugural Wuhan Open in the midst of a 9 match-winning streak in China. Her run finally came to an end when she lost out to Maria Sharapova in the final of the Beijing Open. Petra’s season was highlighted by a stunning Wimbledon campaign, dropping just one set on route to her second Wimbledon crown. The manner in which she dominated the final against Eugenie Bouchard put an exclamation mark on the title. A year that started out disastrously poorly at the Australian Open may well end in glory for the Czech number 1.

 

Agnieszka Radwanska will compete in her 6th WTA Championships this week in Singapore, however the Pole arrives in Singapore deprived of confidence, given her extremely disappointing results at the US Open and during the Asian Swing. Aga’s season started of so well, reaching her first ever Australian Open semi-final but since then her season has been filled with frustration and disappointment. Her first and only title of the year in Montréal was a rare highlight in what has been an uncharacteristic season for the Pole. Out of all the competitors this week, Aga probably has the most to play for given her horrendous defeats at all four of the Grand Slams this year. The Pole has had a couple of weeks off to prepare for this event and is certainly capable of turning her form around in Singapore.

 

The fourth and final member of the white group is Caroline Wozniacki. The former number had an extremely poor start to the season. A first round exit at Roland Garros coupled with a shock break up with partner Rory Mcilroy the low point of the Danes year. At the commencement of the grass court season, Wozniacki was able to turn things around at Eastbourne where she reached the semi-finals. Wozniacki then went on to win her first title of the year in Istanbul before going on an extremely impressive run during the North American swing. The Dane reached the pointy end at Stanford and Cincinnati but was twice defeated by Serena Williams in a close three set match. The highlight of Wozniacki’s season came in New York where she reached her second Grand Slam final but again she fell short against Serena. Wozniacki continued her impressive form in Asia, reaching semi-finals in Tokyo and Wuhan. Caroline will be a dangerous opponent this week.

 

Predictions: 1. Maria Sharapova 2. Agnieszka Radwanska 3. Petra Kvitova 4. Caroline Wozniacki

On paper, Maria and Petra should come through this group. However Caroline and Aga are always tricky opponents and are well and truly capable of progressing. It’s imposable for me to pick who will come though this group at this stage; I will probably change my mind at some stage. At the moment I think Maria will claim top spot in this group whilst a resurgent Agnieszka Radwanska will claim second spot. Petra has been playing extremely well, however she seemed to hit a wall in Beijing and therefore I believe she could potentially be vulnerable this week.

Champion Prediction: Maria Sharapova def. Serena Williams (CRAZY, I KNOW)

At this stage, I’m backing Maria Sharapova to claim the title this week. I’m not convinced about Serena at the moment, and yes she owns Maria but if there were ever a good time for Maria to run into Serena I think it would be in the final here. Maria arrives in Singapore with momentum and seemingly injury free, a very important combination at this time of the year. The title is completely up for grabs this week; any one of the eight ladies could win it! I can’t wait for the action to begin; I hope the event lives up to my high expectations ☺

2014 US Open Preview

The WTA tour is in an exciting state heading into the final Grand Slam of the year in New York. There are numerous legitimate potential champions, an exciting mix of past Grand Slam champions (Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova, Petra Kvitova, Venus Williams and Victoria Azarenka) and those gunning for a maiden major title (Agnieszka Radwanska, Angelique Kerber, Eugenie Boucahrd, Simona Halep and Caroline Wozniacki).

Two time defending champion Serena Williams sits at the top of the draw, Serena will be desperate to claim her sixth U.S Open title to avoid going through 2014 without a Grand Slam title to her name. The number 1 seed will face compatriot Taylor Townsend in the opening round. The match between Serena and Taylor is arguably the most fascinating first round match in New York. Serena has a relatively comfortable draw through the opening week. The world number 1’s first projected seeded opponent is Shuai Zhang in the third round. Serena could potentially run into Sam Stosur in the fourth round, in a rematch of the 2011 final. After an impressive week in New Haven, Stosur will arrive in New York with some real momentum, desperate to make a mends for her shock first round loss in New York last year. Stosur would not be without a chance against Serena. Stosur faces Lauren Davies in the opening round, a potential banana skin for the inconsistent Aussie. Coco Vandeweghe is probably the most likely to spoil a Serena vs Stosur fourth round encounter. Vandeweghe could meet Stosur in the third round.

Ana Ivanovic finds herself in Serena’s section of the draw once again. Ivanovic has had a really consistent season and will be looking for another solid run in New York. Ana arrives in New York full of confidence after a terrific run in Cincinnati where she reached the final. Ana’s epic semi-final victory over Maria Sharapova was arguably the match of the season, a massive victory for the former world number 1. Ivanovic faces Alison Riske in the opening round; the American will be no pushover. The Serb is then likely to meet Karolina Pliskova in the second round before facing Casey Dellacqua in the third round. Overall Ana has a pretty favorable draw in the opening week, she is projected to meet Flavia Pennetta in the fourth round. 23rd Seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova also sits in this section of the draw; the Russian is always dangerous at big events. Anastasia hasn't had the greatest of seasons but her recent results suggest she is turning things around.

Quarter-Final Prediction: (1) Serena Williams vs (23) Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova

Petra Kvitova sits at the top of the second quarter. The Wimbledon champion has been dealt a fairly tricky draw. The U.S Open is Petra’s least successful Slam; the Czech has never progressed past the fourth round at Flushing Meadows. Petra arrives in New York with some confidence after a great week in New Haven. Petra will need to be close to her best right from the first round where she will face the dangerous Kristina Mladenovic. Petra faces a potential blockbuster third round clash with Madison Keys. If Petra reaches the fourth round she may set up another blockbuster clash, this time against two-time finalist Victoria Azarenka. Azarenka arrives in New York deprived of confidence; the Belarusian suffered a lopsided loss to Agnieszka Radwanska in Montreal before withdrawing from Cincinnati. Vika’s ranking continues to drop and could suffer a major blow if she suffers an early exit in New York. Vika faces Misaki Doi in the opening round and could potentially meet an in form Svetlana Kuznetsova in the third round. It’s really hard to predict how things will unfold in this section of the draw; it could end up being a complete mess.

Eugenie Bouchard arrives in New York, deprived of confidence having lost 3 of her 4 matches during the U.S Open series. Once again Genie has been dealt another relatively favorable draw at a Grand Slam. The seventh seed faces Olga Govortsova in the opening round before a second round match against either Heather Watson or Sorana Cirstea who will do battle in an interesting first round matchup. Bouchard is then projected to meet Barbora Zahlavova Strycova in the third round. Twelfth seed Dominika Cibulkova also features in this section of the draw. The Slovakian should cruise through her opening two matches before a potentially tricky third round match against Ekaterina Makarova. Cibulkova has a perfect 3-0 record over Makarova, however Domi arrives in New York on the back of three straight losses. Markarova has a good record in New York, I fancy the Russian to come through this section.

 

Quarter-Final 2 Prediction: (27) Madison Keys vs (17) Ekaterina Makarova

Angelique Kerber and Agnieszka Radwanska are the headline acts in the third quarter. Both ladies arrive in New York full of confidence, both desperate to claim a maiden Gland Slam title. Kerber will face a qualifier in the first and second rounds before a projected third round match against Kurumi Nara. It doesn't get much better than that for the German. Kerber’s fourth round assignment will be a much tougher test. Kerber is likely to face the winner of Sloane Stephens and Jelena Jankovic who seem likely to meet for the third time in a month. Kerber would have the edge against either opponent and seems pretty likely to reach at least the quarter-finals.

Agnieszka Radwanska also seems likely to reach the final eight, like Kvitova Aga is yet to reach the final eight at the U.S Open. Radwanska arrives in New York full of confidence on the back of winning one of the biggest titles of her career in Montréal. Radwanska faces Sharon Fichman in the opening round before facing either Shuai Peng or Jie Zheng in the second round. Aga is then projected to meet Roberta Vinci in the third round. The fourth seed is then likely to face either Lucie Safarova or Alize Cornet who look set to meet in the third round. Both Safarova and Cornet have had some great results this season, both will be dangerous opponents for Aga. Nevertheless I expect Aga to come through this section to set up a meeting with Angelique Kerber in the quarter-finals.

 

Quarter-Final 3 Prediction: (6) Angelique Kerber vs (4) Agnieszka Radwanska

The fourth quarter is perhaps the most intriguing section of the draw as it features three serious contenders: Maria Sharapova, Simona Halep and Caroline Wozniacki as well as a resurgent Venus Williams. Fifth seed Maria Sharapova faces compatriot Maria Kirilenko in a fascinating first round encounter. Kirilenko hasn't played a match since Wimbledon and will surely not pose a threat to Maria. Maria’s first real test is likely to come in the third round where she could come up against Sabine Lisicki. Caroline Wozniacki has really turned things around in the last couple of months and arrives in New York full of confidence after a solid U.S Open series. Wozniacki faces a tricky opening round match against Magdalena Rybarikova. Wozniacki seems destined to meet Andrea Petkovic in the third round in what would be fascinating contest. I think/hope we will see Maria take on Caro in the fourth round, in what would be their first meeting since Miami last year.

Second seed Simona Halep rounds out the draw. The Romanian arrives in New York on the back of a shock first up loss to Magdalena Rybarikova in New Haven. Halep has a seemingly straightforward passage through to the third round where she is projected to meet 25th seed Garbine Muguruza. Muguruza certainly has the game to trouble Halep and I wouldn't be surprised to see her come through this section. Venus Williams and Sara Errani are the other seeded payers in this section. Venus had a wonderful week in Montreal, defeating Serena on route to the final where she eventually ran out of gas and was no match for Aga Radwanska. Venus is projected to meet Sara Errani in the third round, however Venus may well find herself up against Camila Giorgi, which would be some spectacle. Venus has a great chance to reach the second week in New York.

 

Quarter-Final 4 Prediction: (5) Maria Sharapova vs (19) Venus Williams

I truly believe this years U.S Open is wide out, there are so many legitimate potential winners, it really is hard to pick a winner at this stage. Of course Serena will be the favourite, the two time defending champion will be desperate to avoid going through 2014 without a major. Serena has a pretty comfortable opening week, so she should avoid an early round wobble. Once Serena get’s into the business end of a Slam she is almost unbeatable. It is for this reason that I am going to pick Serena to win her sixth U.S Open title. Serena finished first in the U.S open series after claiming titles in Stanford and Cincinnati.

It’s going to be fascinating to see who comes through the bottom half. Caroline Wozniacki, Agnieszka Radwanska, Angelique Kerber and Simona Halep are all gunning for a maiden Grand Slam title; perhaps this is the time for one of them to step up? Former champion Maria Sharapova is the clear second favourite heading into New York. Despite not having the best U.S Open series, Maria is always a contender at any Slam, her best this year has been very good. However, I think either Agnieszka Radwanska or Angelique Kerber will go on to reach the final. Both come into this event full of confidence and both have a seemingly comfortable pathway into the quarter-finals and therefore should be fresh and able to play there best tennis at the business end of the event.

Final Prediction: Serena Williams def. Angelique Kerber

2014 Western & Southern Open Draw Preview & Predictions

The U.S Open series is moving along, Serena reigned supreme in Stanford while Aga overcame her recent form slum to conquer Montreal. Preparations for the final Grand Slam of the season are well underway, with the U.S Open just over two weeks away. The WTA tour heads to the third installment of the Emirates U.S Open series, the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati. 19 of the world’s top 20 players will be competing in Cincinnati, for many this will be their last stop before the final Grand Slam of the year in New York.

2013 finalist Serena Williams sits at the top of the draw. The world number 1 enters this event on the back of a shock semi-final loss to older sister Venus in Montreal. Serena has played a lot of tennis in the past couple of weeks, more than any other player in the top 20. Serena will have just a couple of days to regroup for this event; therefore I don't believe she should be considered the raging favourite heading into this event as she usually would be. Just like in Montreal, Serena could potentially face Sam Stosur in the second round. 13th seed, Flavia Pennetta is Serena’s projected third round opponent. Flavia suffered a surprise loss in her opening round match in Montreal, defeated by qualifier Yulia Putintseva. Flavia will be desperate to get a couple of wins on the board here; her draw is quite favorable so I suspect she will progress to the third round

Defending champion Victoria Azarenka and Jelana Jankovic are the other seeded players in this quarter. Vika is a shadow of the player that came from a set down to defeat Serena in last year’s epic final. I expected Vika to take a couple of steps forward in Montreal however that certainly didn't happen. Vika is clearly still struggling with injury; I wouldn't be surprised to see her pull out of this event at some stage. Vika is scheduled to play Barbora Zahlavova Strycova in the opening round. The bottom section of this quarter is stacked; Andrea Petkovic will face Sloane Stephens in the opening round while Garbine Muguruza faces Annika Beck. Andrea Petkovic pulled out of Montreal due to illness, so there are question marks surrounding her fitness heading into this event. I think Sloane will defeat Andrea for a third straight time and go on to have a solid week in Cincinnati. Sloane is my pick to come through this section of the draw.

First Round Match Predictions: Samantha Stosur to defeat Varvara Lepchenko in three sets, (Q) Taylor Townsend to defeat Klara Koukalova in straight sets, (13) Flavia Pennetta to defeat Chanelle Scheepers in straight sets, (10) Victoria Azarenka to defeat Barbora Zahlavova-Strycova in three sets, Sloane Stephens to defeat Andrea Petkovic in straight sets, Garbine Muguruza to defeat Annika Beck in straight sets

Quarter-Final 1 Prediction: (1) Serena Williams vs Sloane Stephens

Montreal champion Agnieszka Radwanska and Angelique Kerber are the top seeds in the second quarter. Aga will have a very limited amount of time to prepare for the Western & Southern Open, however her draw is quite favorable so i'm not going to rule her out. After a first round bye, Aga will face either Kurumi Nara or Romina Oprandi before potentially meeting Sabine Lisicki in the third round for the second week in a row. Sabine faces Roberta Vinci in the opening round before a potential rematch against Sara Errani who she defeated last week in Montreal. I think Aga will defeat Sabine in third round for a second week in a row to come through this section to reach the quarter-finals.

Caroline Wozniacki and Angelique Kerber look destined for a third round showdown. After a bye through to the second round, Angie will face either Makarova or Hantuchova in the second round. Makarova is playing quite well at the moment, the Russian reached the semi-finals in both Washington D.C and Montreal. Makarova is certainly capable of troubling Angie. Wozniacki is in the best form she has been in for quite some time; ever since Eastbourne the Dane has really raised her level. Wozniacki pushed Serena all the way in their quarter-final encounter last week in Montreal, just falling short in a tight third set. Wozniacki will play Magdalena Rybarikova in the opening round before playing either Zhang or Watson in the second. On current form the Dane should have no trouble winning her first two matches. I’m picking Wozniacki to come through this section, defeating either Kerber or Makarova in the third round to set up an intriguing clash with Agnieszka Radwanska.

First Round Match Predictions: Kurumi Nara to defeat Romina Oprandi in straight sets, Sabine Lisicki to defeat Roberta Vinci in straight sets, (14) Sara Errani to defeat Yanina Wickmayer in straight sets, (Q) Heather Watson to defeat Shuai Zhang in three sets, Ekaterina Makarova to defeat Daniela Hantuchova in straight sets

Quarter-Final 2 Prediction: (4) Agnieszka Radwanska vs (12) Caroline Wozniacki

Eugenie Bouchard and Petra Kvitova could collide in the quarter-finals in a rematch of this years Wimbledon final. Shelby Rogers upset Genie in her opening round match in Montreal last week. There was so much hype around Genie playing in her home event after her breakthrough results this season. I expect Genie to rebound in Cincinnati. The Canadian receives a bye into the second round where she will face either Camila Giorgi or Svetlana Kuznetsova. Either opponent will be tough but I can’t see Genie losing two in a row. Genie could potentially face 9th seed Ana Ivanovic in the third round. The Serb seems to be struggling with a hip injury so it is not clear how she will go this week. Ana faces good friend Sorana Cirstea in the opening round. With her opening round loss in Montréal, Sorana dropped outside the top 50. Sorana is bound to turn things around eventually.. perhaps this is her chance? Genie will come through this section.

Petra's first tournament since her Wimbledon triumph didn't go to plan for the Czech. Petra was defeated by Makaraova in the third round, losing in three tight sets. Petra Kvitova has a pretty reasonable draw. After her opening round bye she will meet either Lauren Davis or Elina Svitolina in the second round, in the third round she is projected to face Carla Suarez Navarro. Carla produced the upset of the tournament in the Montreal, shocking Maria Sharapova in three sets. Earlier this season Carla defeated Petra in Dubai; Petra would be desperate to avenge that loss if they were to meet in Cincinnati. Petra should come through this section to set up blockbuster quarter-final encounter with Eugenie Bouchard.

First Round Match Predictions: Camila Giorgi to defeat Svetlana Kuznetsova in three sets, (WC) Christina McHale to defeat (Q) Nicole Gibbs in straight sets, Sorana Cirstea to defeat (9) Ana Ivanovic in straight sets, (15) Carla Suarez Navarro to defeat Tsvetana Pironkova in three sets, Casey Dellacqua to defeat Pauline Parmentier in straight sets, Lauren Davis to defeat Elina Svitolina in straight sets

Quarter-Final 3 Prediction: (7) Eugenie Bouchard vs (3) Petra Kvitova

We could see yet another 2014 Grand Slam final rematch as Maria Sharapova and Simona Halep are on track for a quarter-final showdown. Maria Sharapova will be looking for a big week in Cincinnati after a disappointing showing in Montreal. Maria will face a tricky opening match, after receiving a bye through to the second round Maria will face either Alize Cornet or Madison Keys. In the third round Maria is projected to meet Dominika Cibulkova, the Slovakian defeated Maria in their most recent encounter at this year’s Australian open. Dominika Cibulkova faces Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the opening round, a very difficult match to call. Maria was a little rusty in Montréal, which was excusable considering it was her first tournament since Wimbledon. She should be primed and ready for a big week in Cincinnati.

Simona Halep begins her U.S Open series in Cincinnati after deciding to skip Montreal last week. Simona may be a little off her game to begin with, however she should still be able to make her way through a comfortable little section of the draw. After receiving a first round bye the newly crowned world number 2 will play either Polona Hercog or Kirsten Flipkens before a potential meeting with either Lucie Safarova or Venus Williams in the third round. Venus had a stunning week in Montréal winning four three set matches highlighted by her victory over younger sister Serena in the semi-finals. Venus ran out of steam in the final, unable to compete with a determined Agnieszka Radwanska. Venus faces Lucie Safarova in the opening round; I doubt she will have enough time to recover for the match. I’m going for Simona to edge past Lucie in the third round.

First Round Match Predictions: Madison Keys to defeat Alize Cornet in three sets, (WC) Belinda Bencic to defeat (Q) Karin Knapp in three sets, (11) Dominika Cibulkova to defeat Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in straight sets, (16) Lucie Safarova to defeat Venus Williams in straight sets, (Q) Polona Hercog to defeat Kirsten Klipkens in three setS

Quarter-Final 4 prediction: (5) Maria Sharapova vs (2) Simona Halep

Final Prediction: (2) Maria Sharapova def. (4) Agnieszka Radwanska

Maria Sharapova seems best placed to win the title in Cincinnati. After a disappointing loss to CSN in Montreal, Maria will be desperate for some success in her final tournament before the U.S Open. It is tough to predict who is going to come out of the top half. I don't think Serena will be a threat this week, she has played a lot of tennis in last two weeks and she wont want to risk any complications before her last shot at a Grand Slam in 2014. Aga and Wozniacki are both in good form and are on track for a quarter-final meeting, for me, the winner of that match will make the final.