Agnieszka Radwanska has made the perfect start to season 2016, claiming her 18th WTA singles title at the Shenzhen Open courtesy of a 6-3 6-2 victory over Alison Riske in Saturday’s final. It has been a wonderful week for the Pole who cruised through the draw and has shown signs of improvement which could be very valuable moving forward as she continues to fight for a maiden Grand Slam title.
Aga saved her best performance of the week for the final, totally outclassing her American opponents with a perfect mix of aggressive and defensive tennis. The first set was close, one service break was all that separated the pair. It was in the second set that Aga really stepped up her game and comfortably ran way with the match. Aga served 9 aces and was not broken throughout the whole match, a great serving performance.
Radwanska was barely challenged in Shenzhen, claiming victory in straight sets in all 5 of her matches. The Pole has now won 3 titles in her last 3 events, having claimed back-to-back titles in Tianjin and Singapore to end 2016. It means Radwanska is one of the form players heading into the Australian Open, perhaps a maiden Grand Slam title is just around the corner?
Radwanska has clearly worked on a number of aspects of her game during the off-season but one key area that seems to have improved is her serve. Aga was broken on just 3 occasions throughout her 5 matches in Shenzhen. Aga’s first serve statistics were particularly encouraging, maintaining an average first serve percentage of 68% throughout the week and winning 80% of points behind her first serve. Of course, Aga’s second serve statistics weren’t great, but they weren’t bad either. Aga will never have a wonderful second serve but if she maintains a high first serve percentage and is able to win a good amount of those points then she will be well positioned, which was proven this week.
It seems like Radwanska is now in the best position she has ever been in to win a Grand Slam title. Aga seems to have finally found the right balance between aggressive and defensive tennis, something that has always held her back. Winning the WTA Finals at the end of 2015 should give Aga a new-found confidence, knowing that she can win back-to-back matches against the best players in the world at such a big event. With so many high profile players withdrawing from week 1 events due to injury concerns, Aga has to like her chances of achieving great results at the Australian Open, perhaps this is Aga’s time to shine!
Can Radwanska win a Grand Slam in 2016? let me know what you think in the comments sections 🙂
Shenzhen Final: (1) Agnieszka Radwanska vs Alison Riske
Agnieszka Radwanska is just 1 win away from making the perfect start her to the 2016 season. The Pole will come up against Alison Riske in the final of the Shenzhen Open on Saturday where she looks to claim her 18th WTA title. Aga won the only previous meeting between the pair quite convincingly, it will be interesting to see if the American can put up more of a fight on this occasion.
Courtesy of reaching the final in Shenzhen, Aga will move up to number 4 in the world on Monday and will therefore be the 4th seed at the upcoming Australian Open. Aga cannot face Serena Williams until the semi-final stage in Melbourne. Radwanska has cruised through to the final in Shenzhen without dropping a set, collecting convincing victories over Aleksandra Krunic, Shuai Zhang, Qiang Wang and Anna-Lena Friedsam. Aga’s service numbers have been encouraging this week, maintaining a very high first serve percentage and she has not been broken on more than 2 occasions in any of her matches.
Alison Riske has had forgettable couple seasons of late, however the American has made a really promising start to the season by reaching the final in Shenzhen. Riske’s progression through to the final has been far less cruisy than Aga’s. Riske’s first three matches went the distance, twice coming for a set down. Notably, Alison came from 3-6 0-4 down to defeat Su-Wei Hsieh in the second round. Riske confirmed her place in Saturday’s final with an impressive 6-2 6-4 victory over Timea Babos.
In the only previous encounter between the pair, Radwanska recorded a comfortable 6-3 6-1 victory at Indian Wells last year. This is a really tough match-up for Riske, the American doesn’t really have the power or the variety to really challenge Radwanska. Furthermore, Aga is far more experienced in finals and will likely handle this occasion much better than her inexperienced opponent. I expect Aga to win this pretty easily.
Prediction: Agnieszka Radwanska to defeat Alison Riske in 2 sets
Shenzhen R2: (6) Eugenie Bouchard vs (Q) Nicole Gibbs
The pick of the second round clashes at the Shenzhen Open on Wednesday sees the sixth seeded Eugenie Bouchard come up against in form American Nicole Gibbs. Bouchard just edged past Donna Vekic in her opening match of the season and will need to raise her level on Wednesday if she is to get past Nicole Gibbs who stormed through the qualifying draw and her first round match.
Eugenie Bouchard held her nerve to claim a crucial 6-4 1-6 7-5 victory over Donna Vekic in her first completed match since the U.S Open. After claiming the first set Bouchard’s level dropped and she found herself trailing 2-4 in the deciding set. Bouchard did well to maintain her composure and raise her level towards the end of the set to fight her way into the next round. Bouchard will need to be much more consistent on Wednesday afternoon, otherwise she is likely to struggle against an opponent who has been in great form.
Nicole Gibbs ended 2015 in style and seems to have carried that form into season 2016. The American easily came through the qualifying draw, dropping just 7 games in her 2 matches. Nicole continued to dominate in her opening round match in the main draw, thumping Tereza Smitkova 6-0 6-2 to set up a clash with Eugenie Bouchard.
This will be the first clash between the pair, it should be an entertaining one. Nicole Gibbs has been in great form however Bouchard will be a big step up in terms of quality of opponent. Bouchard will be relieved to have navigated her way through a tough opening round match and should feel a lot freer in this match. Gibbs will not be given as much time to dictate in this match-up and could struggle to adjust. I suspect Bouchard will raise her level in this match and claim an important victory.
Prediction: Eugenie Bouchard to defeat Nicole Gibbs in 3 sets
Shenzhen R1: (6) Eugenie Bouchard vs Donna Vekic
The most exciting first round match-up at the Shenzhen Open sees Eugenie Bouchard and Donna Vekic go head-to-head for the very first time. Both Eugenie and Donna were in the news for the wrong reason in 2015 and will be keen to make the headlines due to improved results in 2016. This is an important match for both ladies, especially Bouchard who will desperately want to avoid a disappointing first round loss to start the season.
Eugenie Bouchard is yet to complete a match since she sustained a head injury prior to her fourth round clash at the U.S Open. That injury came at a terrible time for Eugenie, just as she was seemingly starting to find some form after a terrible string of results prior to the event. I expect 2016 to be a much better year for Eugenie, she is undoubtedly much more talented than her current ranking of 49 suggests. It is important for Bouchard to gather some winning momentum over the next couple of weeks where she will play back-to-back international events in Shenzhen and Hobart before the Australian Open.
Donna Vekic had a reasonable year in 2015 but she is still ranked just outside the top 100 and will be looking to rapidly improve her ranking in season 2016. This is a big year for Vekic, she now has enough experience under her belt and should be making a push towards the top 50. Vekic was a late entrant into the Shenzhen main draw courtesy of some late withdrawals. The Croatian should see this match as a real opportunity to claim a big scalp early in the season.
This will be an interesting first encounter between the pair. Both love to take the ball early and dictate play.Ultimately, Bouchard should be too strong in this match-up. The Canadian has had a couple of hits in Shenzhen to get used to the conditions and is seemingly fit and ready to go. It would be pretty disastrous for Bouchard to start the year with another first round loss, I expect a focused and determined Bouchard to get the job done here.
Prediction: Eugenie Bouchard to defeat Donna Vekic in 2 sets