US Open, 🇺🇸🍎🗽🚕 R1 Preview + Prediction
(3) 🇪🇸 Garbine Muguruza vs 🇺🇸 Varvara Lepchenko
Reigning Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza will kick-start proceedings on Arthur Ashe Stadium at the 2017 U.S Open on Monday morning. Muguruza will come up against Varvara Lepchenko, an opponent who’s best can be a challenge to most players. Muguruza is the form player heading into this year’s U.S Open and the rightful favourite to win the title. It will be interesting to see how the Spaniard handles the expectations in New York, this should be a fairly straightforward start for the 3rd seed.
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Australian Open R3: Varvara Lepchenko vs (Q) Shuai Zhang
Shuai Zhang has been the biggest giant-killer at this year’s Australian Open. The Chinese qualifier has advanced to the third round courtesy of two stunning upsets over Simona Halep and Alize Cornet. Zhang’s Australian Open campaign continues on Saturday night when she takes on the experienced American Varvara Lepchenko in a third round clash.
Varvara Lepchenko has made a reasonable start to the season, showing good form in Brisbane where she reached the quarter-finals and is now into the third round at Melbourne Park for the second year in a row. Lepchenko advanced through to the third round courtesy of a three set victory over Lesia Tsurenko and a straight set victory over Lara Arruabarrena. Lepchenko now has a wonderful chance to reach the fourth round at Melbourne Park for the first time in her career when she comes up against a Chinese qualifier on Saturday night.
This has been the best week of Shuai Zhang’s career. Prior to this week the Zhang had a 0-14 record in Grand Slam main draws, she has certainly exceeded all expectations this week to come through qualifying and reach the third round. Zhang started the week by producing the biggest upset of the tournament thus far with a 6-4 6-2 victory over Simona Halep before backing up that victory impressively well to upset Alize Cornet 6-3 6-3. It must be said that Cornet played very poorly in that match.
Lepchenko won the only previous encounter between the pair, 5-7 6-4 6-1 victory in Eastbourne back in 2014. I suspect Lepchenko will again be too good for Zhang and finally end her miracle run in Melbourne. This will be a very different match for Zhang, she will not be allowed to dictate play like she was in her first two matches this week, I highly doubt she is going to be able to produce another upset here. Lepchenko is very experienced and will see this as a massive opportunity, I doubt she will waste it.
Prediction: Varvara Lepchenko to defeat Shuai Zhang in 2 sets
Brisbane R2: (2) Garbine Muguruza vs Varvara Lepchenko
Garbine Muguruza will begin her 2016 season on Wednesday when she comes up against American Varvara Lepchenko in the second round of the Brisbane International. This is a potentially dangerous opening match for Muguruza, it will be interesting to see how the Spaniard deals with the situation.
Garbine Muguruza had an outstanding season in 2015, reaching her first WTA Finals campaign, her first career Grand Slam final and reaching a career high ranking of number 3 in the world. The Spaniard will want to maintain a similarly high level in 2016 and avoid a big letdown which can often happen after such an amazing year. Muguruza had started off her year very well in Australia over the last 2 years and will be hoping for similarly strong results this summer, starting in Brisbane.
Varvara Lepchenko kick-started her 2016 campaign with a stunning 6-2 6-1 victory over Anna Karolina Schmiedlova on Sunday. The American served very well in her opening match, winning over 80 percent of points behind her first serve and was also lethal from the baseline against a very competent opponent. Varvara seems to enjoy the quick conditions in Brisbane, the American made a surprise run to the semi-final stage of the event in 2015.
Garbine won the only previous encounter between the pair, a 6-4 6-1 victory at Wimbledon last year. Muguruza has an extremely good record against left-handed opponents in recent times, winning her last 6 matches against lefties including victories over Angelique Kerber, Petra Kvitova and Lucie Safarova.
This will not be easy for Garbine, Lepchenko is a difficult opponent to play first up. It will be difficult for Garbine to find her range early but ultimately I think she will be good enough to fight her way past the American who often struggles to close out matches against top quality opponents.
Prediction: Garbine Muguruza to defeat Varvara Lepchenko in 3 sets
U.S Open R4: Varvara Lepchenko vs (20) Victoria Azarenka
Victoria Azarenka has a wonderful opportunity to reach the quarter-final stage at Flushing for the fourth consecutive year on Monday when she comes up against American Varvara Lepchenko. Conversely, Varvara Lepchenko will be aiming to reach her first career Grand Slam quarter-final.
Varvara Lepchenko is into the fourth round at Flushing Meadows for the very first time in her career. The American has made the most of a relatively favourable draw, beginning her week with straight set victories over Kirsten Flipkens and Lesia Tsurenko. Varvara advanced to the fourth round with a typically gutsy three set victory over Mona Barthel. Lepchenko made a terrible start but recovered to record a 1-6 6-3 6-4 victory.
Victoria Azarenka is in fine form this week, continuing to build momentum in New York. The Belarussian picked up routine straight set victories over Lucie Hradecka and Yanina Wickmayer in her first two matches before recording a stunning three set victory over Angelique Kerber to advance to the fourth round. Vika’s 7-5 2-6 6-4 victory over Angelique Kerber was particularly impressive. In one of the best matches of the tournament thus far Azarenka blasted 51 winners past the German whilst committing just 33 unforced errors in a high quality performance.
Azarenka holds a 3-0 head to head record over Lepchenko. In their most recent encounter, the Belarussian recorded a 7-6 6-4 victory in Birmingham earlier this year. Azarenka has suffered some poor losses after big victories this year and will need to be extremely focused on Monday against an opponent capable of causing an upset. Azarenka is on a mission this week and doesn’t look like slipping up in a match like this.
Prediction: Victoria Azarenka to defeat Varvara Lepchenko in 2 sets
Stanford SF #1 Varvara Lepchenko vs (4) Karolina Pliskova
The first semi-final at the 2015 Bank of the West Classic in Stanford sees the unseeded American: Varvara Lepchenko take on the fourth seeded Karolina Pliskova. Varvara and Karolina have had contrasting seasons, this will be Lepchenko’s second semi-final of the year, whilst Pliskova will be competing in her sixth semi-final of the year.
Varvara Lepchenko reached her second consecutive semi-final in Stanford with an impressive 6-7 6-2 6-3 victory over Mona Barthel. Lepchenko looked to be struggling physically and it seemed doubtful that she would be able to come back from a set down. However the American dug deep, producing some inspiring tennis to get the better of a determined Mona Barthel in a tick under two and half hours.
Karolina Pliskova’s route to the semi-finals has been far more straightforward. Pliskova moved relatively comfortably through to the final four with straight set victories over Kimiko Date-Krumm and Ajla Tomljanovic. Pliskova’s serve has unsurprisingly been her biggest weapon, the Czech hasn’t been broken yet this week, saving all nine break points she has faced.
Pliskova will enter this match full of confidence. Karolina has a perfect 2-0 head to head record over Lepchenko. Their most recent encounter came in the Seoul Final last year, Pliskova prevailed in a tight one, 6-3 6-7 6-2.
All signs point to a Pliskova victory on Saturday. Karolina will be the fresher of the two, having only played two matches this week (both ending in straight sets). Whilst Lepchenko has already played 2 gruelling three setters and looked to be struggling physically throughout her quarter-final victory. Pliskova is more consistent and more reliable and should come through this one.
Prediction: Karolina Pliskova to defeat Varvara Lepchenko, 2 sets