Malaysian Open R2: (6) Eugenie Bouchard vs Kurumi Nara
Eugenie Bouchard’s BMW Malaysian Open campaign will continue on Wednesday when she comes up against Kurumi Nara in the second round of the event. The Canadian got off to a solid start with a convincing opening round victory over Ling Zhang but is likely to face a tougher challenge against the Japanese number 1 on Wednesday.
Eugenie Bouchard is already playing her third International-level event of the year as she looks to build her ranking which has dropped to outside the top 50. Bouchard claimed a comfortable 6-3 6-1 win over Ling Zhang in her first round match on Monday evening and is a good chance to go deep in the draw this week.
Kurumi Nara’s progression into the second round was far less straightforward. Nara battled past Daniela Hantuchova to record a 6-4 6-7 7-6 victory in 3 hours and 12 minutes of play, the longest match of the WTA season thus far. Nara saved 3 match points in her first round win to continue Hantuchova’s winless season (in main draw matches).
The only previous meeting between the pair took place at the semi-final stage in Osaka back in 2013, Bouchard won that match comfortably 6-2 6-2. I expect a pretty similar scoreline on this occasion, this is a good match-up for Bouchard who can totally dictate play from the baseline and overpower her opponent. Genie should be too strong here.
Prediction: Eugenie Bouchard to defeat Kurumi Nara in 2 sets
Tokyo R2: Kurumi Nara vs (4) Karolina Pliskova
Karolina Pliskova will open her 2015 Toray Pan Pacific Open campaign with a second round clash against Kurumi Nara. Pliskova suffered a humiliating first round exit in New York and will be looking to rebound during the Asian swing as she attempts to reach the WTA Finals for the first time in her career.
Kurumi Nara advanced to the second round in Tokyo courtesy of a 7-6 6-1 victory over compatriot Misaki Doi. The Japanese number 1 has struggled in recent months, Nara hasn’t won back-to-back matches since Nuremburg and has won back-to-back matches on just three occasions in 2015. Nara is the only remaining Japanese player in the draw and will have the home crowd on her side for the rest of the week.
Karolina Pliskova’s North American summer started perfectly when she reached the final in Stanford, however it ultimately ended in disastrous fashion when she suffered a shock first round loss to Anna Tatishvili. Nevertheless, this has been the best season of Karolina’s career and she will be hoping to top it off with her first ever appearance at the WTA Finals. Karolina is currently ranked 9th on the Road to Singapore so she will need to perform well over the next couple of weeks if she is to qualify for Singapore.
The head-to-head record between Nara and Pliskova is level at one win apiece. It was Pliskova who emerged victorious in their most recent encounter, a 6-4 7-5 victory in Beijing in 2013. Pliskova should once again have the edge on Thursday, Pliskova’s big game has the ability to overwhelm Nara. The difference in height and power between these two is extreme, Pliskova will need to have a very bad day to lose this.
Prediction: Karolina Pliskova to defeat Kurumi Nara in 2 sets
U.S Open R1: (27) Alize Cornet vs Kurumi Nara
Alize Cornet’s season has been disappointing, failing to replicate the extraordinary highs of season 2014 where she famously defeated Serena Williams on three occasions. Alize will kick-start her U.S Open campaign on Tuesday with a very winnable first round match against Kurumi Nara.
Alize Cornet’s form during the U.S Open series was lacklustre, Alize hasn’t been playing with the immense energy we know she can bring to the court. Alize failed to progress past the third round at all four U.S Open series events she entered. Cornet suffered a couple of worrying defeats, including losses to Chirico and Begu. Alize’s run to the third round in Toronto was a highlight, picking up impressive victories over Carla Suarez Navarro and Dominika Cibulkova before succumbing to Agnieszka Radwanska in a tight one.
Kurumi Nara is also struggling at the moment, as a result her ranking has dropped significantly in the last couple of months. Nara was defeated by Yulia Putintseva in the first round in Washington and was forced to retire against the same opponent in the final round of qualifying in Cincinnati.
This will be the first career meeting between Cornet and Nara. Alize should see this as a big opportunity to gain some much needed momentum as she looks to reach the second week at Flushing Meadows for the very first time. This is a bad match-up for Nara, the two are similar in a lot of ways but Alize does everything better and should be too crafty for Nara.
Prediction: Alize Cornet to defeat Kurumi Nara in 2 sets
(2) Petra Kvitova vs Kurumi Nara
Petra Kvitova will continue her quest for a third Wimbledon title on Thursday when she comes up against Kurumi Nara for a place in the third round.
Petra Kvitova made a perfect start to her title defence at SW19, thumping Kiki Bertens 6-1 6-0 in just 35 minutes. Kvitova served extremely well, dropping just 1 point behind her serve, a double fault. Petra’s serve is an almighty weapon on the slick grass courts in London, if she serves well over the next fortnight she is going to be almost impossible to beat.
Petra seems much more comfortable defending her Wimbledon title this time around. The Czech admitted that she didn’t deal with the attention well after 2011 Wimbledon triumph, especially in her title defence where she was upset by Kirsten Flipkens in the quarter-finals. Petra seems much more relaxed this time and very comfortable with the situation.
Kurumi Nara advanced to the second round at Wimbledon for the third time in her career courtesy of Magda Linette retiring injured halfway through the deciding set in their first round encounter.
Nara is a quiet achiever, yet to really make any headlines. She has an opportunity to make a name for herself on Thursday when she comes up against Kvitova.
This will be the first career meeting between Petra and Kurumi. On paper, this is a big mismatch.
Nara will really struggle to deal with the Kvitova serve and Kvitova will be all over Nara’s very attackable serve. A one sided scoreline is to be expected.
Prediction: Petra Kvitova to defeat Kurumi Nara in 2 sets
(6) Agnieszka Radwanska vs Kurumi Nara
Sixth seed Agnieszka Radwanska will open her 2015 Australian Open campaign against Japanese number 1 Kurumi Nara. Aga has made it very clear that she is focusing on claiming an elusive Grand Slam title in 2015, it will be interesting to see how the Pole fares in Melbourne in her first Grand Slam under the guidance of Martina Navratilova.
Aga's results during the lead up to the Australian Open were overall quite positive. Aga guided Poland to victory at the Hopman Cup alongside Jerzy Janowicz. It was a historic occasion, the first time Poland have ever won the Hopman Cup. Aga won three of her four singles matches, including her first career victory over Serena Williams in the final.
Aga's only loss at the Hopman Cup was to Alize Cornet however she avenged that loss in Sydney just a couple of days later in her opening round match. The Pole's stay in Sydney was cut short by Garbine Muguruza in the second round.
Kurumi Nara has made a solid start to the season. Nara made a second round exit in Auckland, where she was totally outplayed by eventual champion Venus Williams. In Hobart Nara reached the Semi-Finals before falling to Madison Brengle in three sets. This is an extremely tough first round matchup for Nara but a good opportunity to play a top player on a big occasion.
Agnieszka Radwanska prevailed in the only previous meeting between the two, a comprehensive 6-2 6-2 in Cincinnati last season.
Kurumi Nara is a great mover and solid from the baseline however this is not a good matchup for her, Aga simply does everything better than her. I suspect Aga will get the job done in two relatively straightforward sets.
It's important that Aga makes light work of these early round matches. One of her biggest weaknesses at Grand Slams has been that she is forced to work much harder than her main competitors during her early round matches.
Prediction: Agnieszka Radwanska to defeat Kurumi Nara in straight sets