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.