The quality of matches only increases now as we enter the second half of the week in Cincinnati. Some of the battles witnessed on Wednesday point to an excellent closing half of the tournament. Who will win on Thursday? Here are our thoughts.
WTA Cincinnati Day 4 Predictions
Aryna Sabalenka vs Maria Sakkari
No previous meetings
It’s beginning to feel now that Aryna Sabalenka is coming back to the sort of form that saw her catapult herself up the world rankings this time last year. She comes alive on the U.S. Hard Court swing and two routine straight-sets victories against Petra Martic and Saisai Zheng here in Cincinnati have brought the young Belorussian to this point.
Sakkari, though, has been equally impressive this week. She disposed of Camila Giorgi easily in the first round and then outlasted the returning Petra Kvitova in three sets to get here. Those two victories prove that the Greek star can cope well with players that hit with a lot of power. This will be tested against the powerful Sabalenka.
Sabalenka has now won 75% of her matches on hard courts in the last twelve months and is becoming a real threat to the very best on this surface. Sakkari, though very capable, is not in the top echelon, and it would be a surprise to me if she could live with Sabalenka through this match.
Prediction: Sabalenka in 2
Karolina Pliskova vs Rebecca Peterson
No previous meetings
For a player who can be quite maligned in the sport, having not yet won a Major title, Karolina Pliskova is racking up some seriously impressive numbers. She has three tournament wins this year and is quite consistent in reaching the latter stages of tournaments. She has won 76% of her hard court matches in the last year and has done that mainly through dominating on serve, holding her service 78% of the time.
Her Swedish opponent, Rebecca Peterson, has done well to qualify for Cincinnati. She has since kicked on and progressed past Johanna Konta and Veronica Kudermetova, but has had to battle to three sets in each of those victories. The extra tennis in her legs, considering the qualification as well, may come back to haunt her, especially against a much fresher opponent.
The strength of Pliskova’s serve and forehand may well be enough to dictate play in this match. Peterson will give a good account of herself, but ultimately I would expect the Czech to progress through to the quarter-finals once more.
Prediction: Pliskova in 2
Ashleigh Barty vs Anett Kontaveit
Head-to-Head Record: 1-1
This will be a clash of two 23-year-olds who came up through the junior ranks together and now both reside inside the top 20 tennis players on the WTA tour. Their first meeting was way back when they were teenagers, attempting to qualify for Wimbledon. It was Kontaveit that was successful that day but their more relevant match came earlier this year in Miami.
That day Ash Barty was in control, winning in straight sets and progressing to the final as a result. That match forms part of a formidable record on hard courts this calendar year for the Australian, currently 19 wins and only 4 defeats. After an early wobble against Maria Sharapova Barty found her form and was dominant in the second set and really started to show her prowess on the court.
Kontaveit herself was super-impressive in defeating young prospect Iga Swiatek on Wednesday, battling hard in the second set to tie up a straight-sets victory.
The Estonian will certainly need that extra energy saved against Swiatek to come out on top in this match-up. The main area of difference in the match may turn out to be the serve of Ash Barty. She holds serve more than 10% more often than Kontaveit, according to the one-year stats, and this may prove crucial in the context of the match.
Prediction: Barty in 2
Venus Williams vs Donna Vekic
Head-to-Head Record: 1-0
Even at the age of 39 and with literally thousands of tennis matches under her belt, Venus will be feeling a whole lot better about her game after beating a Top 10 player in Kiki Bertens in an epic second-round match. The worry is about how much that may have taken out of her for this match.
Vekic has been surprisingly comfortable in her two victories so far, not dropping a set against either Katerina Siniakova or Victoria Azarenka. Vekic has been having a sneaky good hard court swing, only being beaten by excellent players or excellent performances. Her powerful serve and attacking mentality suit the tournaments around this time of the year.
Venus now resides outside of the top 50, while Vekic has crept into the top 25, so I would hope that the young Croatian will look across the net without intimidation, despite what Venus has achieved in the game. If she accomplishes this then I believe that 2019 Vekic is a better all-round player than 2019 Venus Williams, though I think she’ll have to go the distance to prove it.
Prediction: Vekic in 3
Main Photo from Getty
Disagree with our WTA Cincinnati predictions? As always, feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments.